Fresh from the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards on Wednesday, Stockton's now two-time 'Best Group' winners The Young'uns arrived in Coventry at the (for them, at least) confusingly named Warwick Arts Centre, stopping off at Henley Green School for a sea shanty workshop along the way.

 

Solo support Irish Mythen opened with a raw, bluesy set, belying her small stature with a huge, powerful voice and presence. Original songs on the timeless subjects of love, whisky and Jesus were delivered with some deft guitar work. The last of these, though hardly holy, was apparently requested by a Swedish bishop on a visit to her then-local church – a fact which pretty much discounts any concerns about blasphemy (at least from regular priests and laymen).

 

With their sharp wit, bandmate banter and occasional eccentricity, Young'uns gigs often come close to being comedy shows, except for the serious songs and stirring a cappella harmonies in between the chatter. The set list combined some new material with a handful of old favourites, including requests gathered in the interval. Songs about Dr Kate Stone's battle against a cruel and invasive tabloid press and a Syrian refugee escaping by swimming across the sea were among the newer pieces, but there were plenty of traditional tunes as well, including the always-uplifting “John Ball”. 

 

Aside from their humour and distinctive singing style, among the things that makes the trio so irresistible is their genuine compassion and apparently endless capacity for optimism. However grim a turn their topical tales take, their overriding message is always positive and hopeful, from their stories of working class pride and small victories against the media to the hilarious “A Lovely Cup of Tea”, where a handful of EDL marchers have their minds opened by friendly Muslims bearing tea and biscuits. And of course, if at any point things the songs leave things in danger of getting a little too dark or over-earnest, David Eagle can always be relied upon to shift the mood by saying something strange. It's so bound to leave you feeling better about life that their gigs should probably be available on prescription. 

 

There probably aren't many bands who could legitimately leave an audience making farmyard animal noises at them as they exit the stage for the first time, and fewer still who could still be taken seriously after following this up with The Banana Boat Song as a second encore, but this is definitely a trio that's anything but ordinary. 

★★★★★

Heather Kincaid