Tim Hughes is alternately calmed, energised and spurred into political action by Teesside's folksters with conscience, The Young'Uns

The Young’Uns

The North Wall, Oxford

October 8

IT takes something special for a folk act to stand out from the mass of talent in Britain’s revitalised folk scene. Yet The Young‘Uns emerge head and shoulders above the rest – mostly without any instruments, save their impressive voices.

The Teesside trio packed out Oxford’s North Wall attracting a crowd who, it quickly became apparent, were serious fans. Post-industrial Stockton-on-Tees is a very different world to Oxford, but there’s something in the threesome’s delicious a capella harmonies, gentle humour and deadly serious lyrics which suck the listener in.

There was a certain irony in hearing songs about unemployed iron workers, socialists and fishermen in the setting of one of the country’s most illustrious public schools. Yet the fact the audience engaged with the group is testament to their appeal.

Joined by Humberside-based The Hut People – the accordion and percussion duo of Sam Pirt and Gary Hammond - who delighted with a short set of world rhythms, with Brazilian, eastern European and Middle Eastern flavours enlivened by an Egyptian drum, Spanish cajon and French-Canadian foot percussion. They set the bar high, but Young’Uns David Eagle, Michael Hughes and Sean Cooney were more than up to the challenge.

The group, who met through Stockton Folk Club, have no formal musical training, finding their voices on the terraces supporting Middlesbrough FC. And that love of rabble-rousing communal singing lives on.

Politics loom large. Highlights include classic John Ironside – about a proud foundry worker thrown out of work; Benefit Street, about their hometown’s refusal to take part in the squalid TV show; and The Hartlepool Pedlar, the story of Jewish refugee Michael Marks, who sold fruit and vegetables before founding Marks & Spencer.

Most moving of all though, was Ghafoor’s Bus, about Stockton man Ghafoor Hussain, who serves food to refugees around Europe – a tune made all the more precious because Ghafoor himself was in the audience, earning a huge standing ovation. A heartwarming and life-affirming night of stunning, yet simple, folk music then, with a powerful message.