If the adage that there’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle is true, then it’s small wonder that folk duo Rule of Thumb makes the occasionally acceptable squeak or two.

Together, Rob Bartlett and Ed Hulse have been playing their blend of roots-oriented folk music at clubs, concerts and festivals since 2006.

Individually, their track records are much longer.

Rob Bartlett

For Rob, it started as a kid in London, “borrowing” an older brother’s guitar to bash out three chords during the skiffle days of the 1950s.

He progressed via folk bands to years on the road with Cornish singer Brenda Wootton.

In those far-off days of vinyl, Rob and Brenda made four LPs for labels in Britain, France and Germany. [See discography]

Later, came a move to Australia where Rob headed up folk-rock band Hobson’s Choice before going solo to record two albums, one of which won a traditional music award. [See discography]

Five years in S-E Asia from 2000 were spent playing mostly covers in bar bands and duos before Rob returned to England in 2006.

Along the way, he had added concertina, bouzouki, lap-steel, cittern and banjo to his guitar and vocal skills.

At his local folk club in Belper, he met Ed and the loose coalition that was to become Rule of Thumb began at a singers’ night - first over Lord Franklin and then a couple of shared Eagles songs.

Ed Hulse

It all started for Ed in the very early sixties with a tin Chad Valley “guitar” he was given to bash on.

Later, a saint with a real guitar and the patience to teach folksong chords to a nine-year-old helped to make acoustic guitar and voice appealing to Ed at a time when bands such as The Kinks were outraging his own and many other parents.

At the start of his university years in Manchester, a guitar became Ed’s permanent travelling companion - a going-away present to help offset the “cold turkey” of leaving behind the expensive keyboards he had been used to playing at his uncle’s music shop.

And in Manchester in the early 1970s, Britain’s folk music revival was at its height.

In the wake of transatlantic success by artists such as Simon and Garfunkel and with British performers such as Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Magna Carta, Pentangle and Ralph McTell packing Manchester’s city and student concert halls, Ed and some student friends formed a trio.

They set out for local folk clubs imbued with a passion to reproduce the music made by their folk heroes.

Ed still has some impressive recordings made of that line-up in which, among other things, he developed his harmony singing, learned to work as part of a musical unit and also how to fall on his feet in front of an audience.

By this time, Ed had progressed to ownership of an excellent Guild copy guitar which, as his college years came to an end, might have ended up in the attic - but the lure of the music was too strong.

Even as he developed an engineering career which took him to many parts of Britain, Ed continued to play floor spots at clubs and sessions before settling in Derbyshire.

He held that while his music was and is a matter of personal taste, there was also an imperative for it always to be enjoyable and at least good enough to bear realistic appraisal by others.

Rule of ThumbJoining the committee to help with the running of the Belper Folk Club nearly a decade ago was as far as that imperative led until, at a singers’ night in the summer of 2006, someone in the circle started to play along as Ed launched into his version of Lord Franklin.

That song heralded a partnership that was to become Rule of Thumb and lay claim to some (very) localised hero status.

It is built on mutual respect - firstly for the music, then for each other’s qualities as human beings and then for each other’s playing.

It may well be an ethos born out of another time and place but Ed and Rob are happy to be a part of that band of roots and folk enthusiasts content just to make the music that is their heritage and in so doing, pass it on to those who will come after us all.

With an impressive list of club, concert and festival credits, one album [see discography] completed and another two in the pipeline, Rule of Thumb are set for a busy year. Catch them if you can.