Tony Ricketts wrote these words for a Titirangi Folk Music Club Newsletter in May 2001, I've edited them slightly to bring them up to date.
Anyone familiar with Paul Howarth’s music, and a TFMC member cannot help but be, will be surprised to find that there is a rock‘n’roll dimension to the man, but he is known for unaccompanied English trad, or trad sounding newer material.
But playing in a Celtic pub-rock band I have noticed him at more gigs than almost anyone, except for relatives of the band. And as a high school student Paul remembers being roadie for Clive Gregson’s (of Gregson and Collister) rock band, even on one occasion singing backing vocals to an Edgar Broughton song.
However it was the folk clubs that drew the teenage Paul in Manchester in the sixties, revelling in the work of the folk stars of the era, Nic Jones, Jake Thackray, The Watersons. ‘Harry Boardman’s club was very participatory, I joined in the choruses’ recalls Paul, though it would be years and oceans away before he would sing from the stage. ‘When the Watersons put out For Pence & Spicy Ale I saw them three times in a fortnight’. Paul enjoyed the traditional material, but also grew particularly fond of the northern songwriters, notably Mike Harding (the Brown Ale Cowboy, not the one from Taranaki).
When Paul moved to NZ in 1979 he 'put England behind me' for about eighteen months. Then a poster for Bob Fox and Stu Luckley revived him. He was living in Dunedin, and recalls it must have been a disaster for the New Edinburgh Folk Club that only three dozen people turned up. Crucially Paul joined the club, feeling a need to share the music of northern England.
Eric McEachen and Sug Morley ran a performance workshop, stressed that it was less important to be a great musician than to have soul and expression, and not long after Paul sang Manchester Rambler in a floor spot. The die was cast. Not too long after that a workshop by Al Young cured him of using wordsheets.
1984 saw him living in Te Aroha and spending weekends in Auckland, at Poles Apart and Titirangi and after moving to Auckland full time he teamed up with Jennifer Howarth and Jim Lawless, then Ken Lee and Steve Barnett. The music they made together centred for a while on American material, but when Jim left the others seized the day, built up a repertoire of unaccompanied material and became Alderley Edge. They carried the unaccompanied banner around the North Island for several years, before pressures of the outside world meant not everyone had enough time to commit to sustaining the momentum.
Paul's spare time has over the years included TFMC and Auckland Folk Festival work, as well as non-musical activity, but all the while he has been adding diverse songs to his list. You can expect to hear English and NZ songs, including some humour; you should be thoroughly warned, however, that there will be a high ‘doom and gloom quotient’. If you have seen Paul’s recent floor spots you’ll know that whether doom, gloom or merriment there will be folk music of high order. There may not be any rock‘n’roll, though.
Tony Ricketts (May 2001)
I didn’t do alot of nautical material prior to joining the Crew (I am a landlubber at heart) but that’s now changing quite rapidly as I build up my Crew repertoire. I enjoy the opportunity to sing at such high energy and in concert with other voices and instruments, not to mention the conviviality of the practices (hic).
Paul Howarth (February 2007)