FOR Cheshire-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Joe Broughton, next month’s gig at Chester’s Raven Folk Club will be an emotional step back in time.

As well as his own internationally renowned band The Urban Folk Quartet, Joe has played with everyone from Joss Stone to Fairport Convention, and his compositions have been performed at The Royal Albert Hall, but it was at the city’s Bear and Billet pub where he cut his teeth as a callow nine-year-old.

“We wanted to purposely play the place I first played my first ever gigs,” says Joe, who will visit the club on February 3 with guitarist and vocalist Kevin Dempsey. “I’ve been back a few times to Chester and played different places but for the 20th anniversary of Dempsey Broughton we want to go back to the Raven Folk Club.

“I was nine-years-old when I first played there and it was brilliant. The guys there have always encouraged young people to play and 30 years ago there weren’t as many opportunities as there are today.

“They heard I played the fiddle and offered me a spot and for many years that was where I honed my craft and learned to play. It will be fantastic to go back there.”

Something of a child prodigy, Joe, 42, quickly went through his classical exams, gaining one of the highest ever marks in his Grade 8.

He took up the mandolin, guitar and piano before reaching his 10th birthday and also became a circus performer, playing his violin while riding a unicycle, juggling with fire and becoming a magician’s apprentice.

After touring up and down the country either doing street theatre or in big tops, Joe decided to focus on music and in 1994, he went to Birmingham Conservatoire to study composition where he still plays in the famous Conservatoire Folk Ensemble.

Soon after, Ashley Hutchings, founder member of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span invited Joe to join the legendary Albion Band in 1997, which he then played in until 2003, releasing four studio albums and one live album as well as touring the world.

“I’ve been so busy with all kinds of things,” he says. “When I started playing with Kevin in 1999 it was purely for the reason that we liked each other’s music.

“He’s a real legend and if anyone has seen him play the guitar they’ll know he’s really something else - he’s played with legends on the folk scene like Whippersnapper and Dando Shaft but also with people like Alice Coltrane and Percy Sledge. He’s a bit of a monster in all types of music to be honest!

“When we get to play together it’s because we want to play music that we really like - it’s not a commercial venture and is all about music. We might play versions of traditional songs but then we’ll also have Latin jazz improv and old soul songs. We’re not just churning out the same tunes.

“It really doesn’t seem 20 years since myself and Kevin first began playing together. Time really flies when we’re on stage and off stage too it seems,” laughs Joe, who was a pupil at Upton High School. “I always look forward to our annual reunions - Kevin is one of the UK’s best acoustic guitarists and the shows are a joy to play.”

Following the Dempsey Broughton show, Joe will return to Chester in April with the Urban Folk Quartet, who mix everything from funk grooves to Middle-Eastern melodies and afrobeat to north Indian rhythms in their live sound.

“The Urban Folk Quartet is my day job,” he says. “We’re celebrating 10 years together and we always have a raucous night at Alexander’s, so it will be a great gig.

“The whole purpose of a UFQ show is we send people home a little happier than when they arrived, so it’s very upbeat and it’s the one where you’re more likely to have a beer and get up and dance!”

Dempsey Broughton play the Raven Folk Club, The Bear and Billet, 94 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RU on Sunday February 3, 2019 at 8.30pm. for more information.

Urban Folk Quartet play Alexander’s, Chester on Wednesday, April 25, 2019. for more information.