Something of a deviation for us so intrigued and excited in equal measure about this gig. I hadn't done much research on the band beforehand so went along with a completely open mind. On record they are one of those bands that sounds like there's loads of 'em so I was a little surprised to see just four on stage.

An interesting gig on many levels. As the lights went down the stage gave an impression of a theatrical performance in the offing rather than a high-energy gig, with a couch either side of the stage. one with a lamp beside it, the other with a small table and flower arrangement The keys player was a demure Alt-J look-a-like, and as he proceeded through his classical intro he was joined by the bass player from the shadows followed by forms appearing from the settees, being sax player and drummer in mock awakening mode. After a few moments of stretching they took their places and went into the opening number,

This is an extremely tight band, most songs having a jazz foundation. Sax was front and centre throughout the set but didn't dominate. They included a good selection of songs from late 2016 release ‘IV' but alongside this there was plenty of room for each of the band members to showcase their immense talent. And herein lies the reason this outfit are so enjoyable - there was so much variety in their sounds including almost prog-rock deviations including particularly impressive bass solo.

Maintaining a level of humour throughout, at moments when they weren’t included in a particular jam they lay centre stage with a duvet over themselves. Audience participation was requested through a ‘sea of hands’ onto which was launched a blow-up dolphin that had hitherto sat on the drummers PA stack

Whilst most of the songs were instrumental, occasional vocals were provided by the drummer and as the set entered it’s final few songs they had guest appearances from two different female vocalists, the first of which gave a touching rendition of 'Love is A Losing Game’. The second guest vocal, in the encore, was a harder-edged rapper

An excellent and diverse set. West End theatre, Back street jazz club, Festival , New York rap bar, Kentish Town Forum - BBNG Took us to all these places tonight.

Si

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There are several elements which need to come together to make a great and memorable gig; the quality of the musicians, the set list they select , the venue and the audience all contribute . Last October at the Derby Folk Festival in the cathedral, this Folk Award winning duo were the stand out performance of the weekend, so I was intrigued to see if their own brand of “....lugubrious bastards out in full lilting lachrymosity” (to quote from their own social media) would translate to a different venue . The Musician is located at the end of a street in one of the less glamorous parts of Leicester, the venue regularly puts on a great selection of live music in a single room with a low ceiling and couldn't provide a greater contrast to Derby Cathedral. Any doubts I had that Clarke & Walker wouldn't work as well here were quickly trashed.

After taking their allotted stage places, Ben seated and Josienne standing, Josienne starts with a perfect antidote to the often used “Let's Rock!”opening of some bands and a reminder of their “misery wagon ... spreading the melancholy” (see above), “Let's get miserable”. Opening with the bluesy 'The Birds' from her first album, followed by “.. and now another banging, dance floor filler” which is the beautiful 'Something Familiar' from most recent album 'Overnight', as is Gillian Welch's 'Dark Turn of Mind', which Josienne feels describes her and jokingly that on the writing of the song “..Gillian wrote it first, well I feel I would eventually have ...”.

“So we just lost a folk award”... referring to their best duo Folk Award nomination (winners 2015, nominees 2016) they play their cover of the traditional “The Banks of Sweet Primroses” as performed at the 2015 awards show.

There are a few new songs tonight, 'Seedlings All' is written about humans being the most overproduced organism on the planet and has a lovely waltz-time guitar part, another track possibly called 'Chicago' is the occasion on a US tour when they arrived at a show in that city to an audience of zero, as a reminder not to become a diva. Then in a shock move that may “.....put the final nail into our folk coffin...” they have two tracks featuring a drum machine (please no fainting now), one of which is a cover of Dolly Parton's 'Little Sparrow'... after which Josienne says “maybe we've had a couple of walk-outs, it's too dark to tell”.

The Musician is in its 'Folk club' set up tonight, chairs grouped around small round tables with a candle on each one, familiar to those who have seen the Coen Brothers 'Inside Llewyn Davis' based in 1960's Greenwich Village folk clubs, recalling this period they play covers of 'Reynardine' and 'Fotheringay' both well know from the 1960's version of Fairport Convention.

Josienne's self-deprecating sense of dark humour continues with her review of their version of Nick Drakes' 'Time Has Told Me', “...beautiful but rather pointless, much like the band playing as the Titanic sank.”. And of her own songwriting style “ I keep trying to write a euphoric, anthemic number but they eventually descend into melancholy” before playing 'Silverline' which features the line “And somehow my view is always imbued with melancholy hues” just to prove the point.

Those of you who are already aware of this duo will know that Josienne's stunning, melancholic (yes, that word again) vocals and Ben's beautiful guitar playing, which is subtle and supportive of Josienne's vocals when it needs to be and is also strong enough to drive the tracks in a variety of different styles when required, together make a perfect combination. Maybe you cannot dance to these “lugubrious bastards”, but you cannot fail to be totally engrossed by their beautiful, mesmerising performance.

Alisdair Whyte

Website

 

There is a pub halfway up the Rathmines Road that has changed name many times over the years. It has now become a live music venue. I first became aware of this when I noticed that none other than Lee Scratch Perry was due to play a stone's throw from my flat. The Upsetter proved to be too popular and his show was moved to a bigger venue, but on Thursday I got to check the venue out.

On the bill were Liam O Maonlaí, musical genius best known as the singer of the Hothouse Flowers, and Rónán Ó Snodaigh, founder member of Kíla. These descriptions do not at all do them full justice. Both men also work as solo artists and collaborators in numerous musical projects. Rónán teaches the bodhran and has recently started a Tuesday night trad session with Eoin Dillon at Whelans (see 'Call The Dancers'). I first became aware of Liam when the wonderful video for 'Don't Go' was shown at the 1988 Eurovision, and I have recently seen him play churches, either solo on a church organ or with his other band Ré.

Both men were active in the Grafton Street busking scene in the 80's alongside Glen Hansard and Mic Christopher amongst others. They are Gaeilgeoirs (Irish speakers) and the advert for the show described them as musical shamans, druids even! I did not know what to expect of the collaboration but was sure it would be fascinating.

The show took place on Holy Thursday and the venue was packed and lively. On Good Friday the pubs would stay closed, so folks seemed bent on living it up. Support came from David Keenan, a young singer/songwriter from Dundalk. I was struck by his confidence. David has a strong voice, not unlike Liam, sometimes sounding like Damien Dempsey. The songs he sang were all his own and I particularly liked one about James Dean. Though he was unknown to me he had a fan base in attendance that was seated near me.

Liam O Maonlaí is a multi-instrumentalist, but for this show he concentrated on the piano, besides a short stint on the bodhran and some frantic African-style dancing (impressive for a man the far side of 50). Rónán stuck to the bodhran, of which he is a master, plus one song on a tiny guitar. The varied set included some Hothouse Flowers songs ('Movies', 'Feel Like Living') and some Kíla ones ('Dúisigí' and 'Cathain'). Both men have recorded 'Cathain' and they sang this together in breakneck speed Irish, which sounds very exotic to my ears.

An early highlight was a highly original cover version of Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime'. Many of the songs turned into long jams, with tribal percussion and improvised singing. There were some traditionals too – 'Carrickfergus' and 'Bean Pháidín'. Rónán sang a song in English for a fallen friend. I very much like his unique voice, but I do somehow think he sounds better singing in Irish, perhaps because I am more used to hearing him sing that way.

The atmosphere in the packed pub was fantastic, as the beer kept flowing and the crowd kept calling for more. The show ended with Liam leading the crowd; something he is so good at and which I have seen him do on a number of very different occasions (at the Festival of World Cultures, at Glen Hansard's traditional Christmas Eve busk in Grafton Street). He manages to get everyone on board, not just the trad cognoscenti. And it was not an easy song we sang either. He got the entire pub to sing several verses of the 'Lakes Of Pontchartrain'. It was a truly magical moment.

If you ever get the chance to see these druids collaborate, do not miss it!

Helen.

A quick view of the gig 

 

 

The projection screen above the stage glowing with images similar to the opening shots from an episode of Twin Peaks illuminates tonight's audience: check shirts = plenty; beards= of course; audience members under the age of 30 years = not many ; bald/ balding heads some covered by baseball caps = inevitably. After a hiatus of 10 years Ladies and Gentleman welcome back, Grandaddy.

The past seventeen years vanish during the intro to the first track tonight which is 'Hewlett's Daughter' from their breakthrough album 'The Sophtware Slump', frontman Jason Lytle's characteristic vocals and the tinkling piano riff wiping the years away. The projection screen changes to shots of huge expanses of deserts a perfect fit for the epic opening, power chords of ' “Yeah” Is What We Had' from 'Sumday', the chorus of “In this life, will I ever see you again?” being a question many of the audience had presumably asked of the band.

At the end of the song Jason proves that he's done some research into the local dialect “ Ay Up Mi Ducks, is that how it goes?”, (I can provide a satisfactory translation of “Hello Everyone” for those of you not from the East Midlands).

A sound similar to a fanfare from a child's trumpet and Aaron Burtch's (supporting fine Billy Gibbons style facial hair) metronomic drumming start the first track from this year's superb new album ' Last Place', with it's lovely melody over the lyric “Damned if we do. Dumb if we don't”. Single 'Evermore' pulls a very similar trick and proves that this new set of songs is as strong as anything from their back catalogue.

The projection screen of vast Mid-Western American landscapes of deserts, railroads and trucks which rolls along throughout the set is so bright we mostly see the band in shadow and silhouette so that it almost feels as if we are listening to the soundtrack to a road movie. Jason breaks out of the soundtrack mood during 'Lost on Yer Merry Way' by laughing at himself as he stumbles over the words.

One of the most instantly recognisable song intros of the past 20 years has to be the wonky keyboard of 'A.M. 180', so it deservedly gets the warm reaction of instant recognition when it kicks in, as does 'The Crystal Lake' a single from 2000.

The main set finishes with an extended version of ' He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot' which is a perfect choice , it's simple harpsichord /vocals start which then builds with layers of swelling keyboards through “Are you giving in 2000 man? ( Did you love this world and did this world not love you ?)” for an appropriate finish to tonight's show.

A two track encore follows “ We got one new one, and one old one”; the new one being 'The Boat Is In Barn', which is the best track from the new album and the old one is a complete mood change with the guitar- heavy dash through 'Summer Here Kids', with an added “ Thank you for coming, Good Night” as the final chords fade away.

A tremendous evening highlighting the best moments of their career; Grandaddy welcome back, a worthwhile return.

Alisdair Whyte

A sold out Junction 1 and everyone is seated for this gig. A strange set up for what is traditionally a standing venue, not sure if this was the choice of the artist or the venue?

Being seated there was a healthy queue outside the venue an hour before the doors opened. Amusing to see (much like myself) so many grey haired people in line for a gig. Fabulous!

Very much a Cambridge Folk festival crowd saw the support Jordan Mackampa play a sweet set. Just solo with acoustic guitar, an upcoming singer/songwriter to look out for.

This tour is about promoting Rhiannon’s solo album ‘Freedom Highway’ which was co-produced with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, studio. Dirk is also part of an impressive band that takes the stage at 9pm.

90 minutes later we are left in awe I think it’s safe to say, Rhiannon has the most amazing voice, gentle and powerful enough to shatter a crystal chandelier ., indeed a voice that is sharp, clear and envelops the listener that you are just concentrated on the music (perhaps being seated is just perfect after all, no one chatting, heading for the bar or toilets).

Not only is Rhiannon’s voice amazing she is a mean banjo and fiddle player. A wonderful personality keeps everyone engaged whatever the style of music in front of you.

The songs from ‘Freedom Highway” look back at pre civil war America and Rhiannon sings songs about and through the eyes of those souls alive at the time.

‘At The Purchasers Option’ a song about the sale of a woman and her child. ‘The Angels laid him away”, ‘Julie” (as the army approach the plantation mistress begs the slaves to protect the family gold, to which she is told the gold “is what you got from my children’s soul").

‘Birmingham Sunday’ is perhaps the poignant and heartbreaking part of the set. A song that describes what occurred at the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday, September 15, 1963, As Rhiannon pointed out before singing, it’s so sad that the topic of the song still has so much relevance today.

The album songs are sprinkled throughout the set which includes, magnificent covers of, Patsy Cline, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Odetta and more; jigs, waltzes, jazz and soul. (no chance to dance though because we are seated ha ha)

The band is exceptional and there seems a real kinship amongst those on stage. More UK dates are expected in the autumn, don’t miss out!

Pete

Website

I have been with them from the beginning. In the summer of 2011 I was at a gathering at a friend's house on the outskirts of Dublin. I felt out of place and was not enjoying myself. Suddenly it dawned on me that I could jump on my bike, cycle very fast across the city and be at the National Concert Hall in time to try and see the Gloaming. I had seen the listing; I was a fan of Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill and I knew Iarla Ó Lionáird from the Afro Celt Sound System. My plan worked out. Although the concert was officially sold out, the box office were able to sell me a single seat near the back of the stalls.

The Gloaming were a new supergroup and that show at the National Concert Hall in 2011 was their live debut. It was great, but over the years they have only gotten better. I saw them once more at the Concert Hall, on one of the nights when their fan Michael D Higgins was in attendance, and once at Womad, probably my favourite time I have seen them.

The quintet have released two albums on Real World and they have been returning annually to the Concert Hall in Dublin, which they call their spiritual home. This year they sold out an unprecedented seven shows. I was at night six.

The Gloaming are Martin Hayes on fiddle, his longtime accompanist Dennis Cahill on guitar, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger fiddle, Iarla Ó Lionáird on vocals and pump organ and Thomas Bartlett on piano. All musicians except Thomas come from a trad background, but the music they produce together is much bigger than trad. It is hard to describe. There are trad parts, particularly played by Martin, but they are woven into larges pieces of music, sometimes jazzy, sometimes classical, often up to ten minutes long.

The tunes start off softly and slowly, but gradually gather pace until all musicians are in full flow. The result is hypnotic and spellbinding. I read some reviews online and Jim Carroll said it best in the Irish Times: “Breathtaking, groundbreaking, grandstanding and any other accolade you want to apply from your big bag of superlatives.”

The band members take turns addressing the audience in between songs. Larla gives us background on the songs, Caoimhín mentions that Philip King is in the house, Martin makes us laugh with his droll sense of humour. Thomas mentions that he is nervous as his best friend Joanie is at the show. Only later does it become clear that this is none other than Joan As Police Woman, who will play Dublin two days later. Dennis is the quiet man, but then he is their backbone musically.
They play for over an hour and a half in a set that includes all the best pieces from their two albums. The audience is totally quiet while they play, but erupt in loud and elongated applause when the songs end. The sound is perfect; sometimes barely more than a scratchy whisper (Caoimhín's fiddle), at other times thunderously loud (Thomas' piano). The lighting is pretty and underlines what a beautiful place the Concert Hall is for witnessing live music. At the same time the music makes you forget where you are. We are in a large room in the city centre, yet the sounds are such that you feel yourself out in nature, confronted by rolling waves, noisy waterfalls, moon and stars above. I found myself wishing that the night would not end.

The band members are incredibly talented and involved in many individual projects. I can only hope that they will continue reconvening as a group periodically and treat us to such magical performances.

For those unfamiliar with the Gloaming we have some recommendations:

Iarla Ó Lionáird's radio documentary series about singing, available as podcasts.

Documentary about Martin Hayes, 'Natural Grace' (2012), directed by Art Ó Briain - Trailer

'The Gloaming – Moment to Moment' (2016), documentary directed by Philip King, available on the RTE Player.

Band Website

Helen

The Workman's Club is an atmospheric small venue on the Southside of the Liffey on Dublin's Quays. The building, next door to the U2-owned Clarence Hotel, is over 160 years old and was home to an actual working mens club from 1888 to 2003. It has been a live music venue since 2010 and has won the Hot Press/IMRO Live Music Venue of the Year Award.

It was the opportunity to see Tonstartssbandht live that had me heading into the place and I found myself thinking how nice it was and that I should go there more often. Storm Doris had been causing havoc and the start of the show had been pushed back by an hour as the band had been delayed on the ferry coming over.

Support was by Elliott Vincent Jones, who sang along to a laptop and danced with flailing arms. He sounded vaguely like Talking Heads and some girls were dancing enthusiastically. He performed his own music, but it was nonetheless too karaoke for me.

What little I knew about Tonstartssbandht I had found online. They are a duo consisting of brothers Edwin Mathis White and Andy White, originally from Florida, now based in Brooklyn. They started in 2007 and have released an unusual large volume of music since then. They are also members of Mac Demarco's band Their curious name is pronounced tahn-starts-bandit and was the result of Edwin randomly stringing letters and words together. I cringe at band names with deliberate misspellings, so the strange name did not endear them to me. After the support act it was a relief however to see a drum kit and a guitar set up on stage: Proper instruments, always a plus.

It is difficult to describe the music and that seems to be the guys' intention. At times the vibe was 60-ish, a bit reminiscent of the Doors. The songs were very long, built up out of very different sounding parts. There was no verse/chorus structure. The guitar was sometimes nice and jangly; the drums were powerful, with plenty of echo. It all sounded like long jams rather than actual songs. The brothers sang in falsetto voices at times; the vocals were on the thin side, buried in the otherwise fairly heavy music. For only two musicians they produced a big sound.

The band said that it was their first time playing in Ireland and they were appreciative of the turnout. Edwin told us about his ferry experience and his bout of seasickness. He had been staggering around like a drunk and once he sat down he saw the horizon go up and down through a window for the remainder of the journey (tip from an experienced ferry traveller: Go outside next time).

As a live act Tonstartssbandht are entertaining. It would not be the kind of music I would listen to at home. I do not really see the point of constructing pieces of music out of many disjointed parts. There is no accounting for taste of course.   

Helen.

Website

Tonstartssbandht. 'Sorcerer' comes out on 24th March 2017 via Mexican Summer.

 

Well, Monday nights don’t get much better than this. A new venue for us, and what a great venue (apart from the usual O2 fare of Tubourg and Heineken) the Institute in Birmingham is. Capacity of 1,500 this is an intimate place and a host of fine bands regularly tread these boards. Great views of the stage, this really is the, 'seeing a big band, in a small venue' gig.

Great to see Israel Nash back on stage and hopefully there is a new album soon. Just with a pedal steel guitarist tonight, the duo unleash a firestorm of acoustic music for half an hour or so, finishing up with a gritty version of The Band’s ‘I Shall Be Released’

Band of Horses, last seen at the Shepherds Bush Empire in 2016, where songs from the new album ‘Why Are You Ok’ got a live airing in the UK. Now a few months on and the band are back in the road groove and the tightness is clear. A set around 1 hour 45 mins, has a liberal sprinkling of better known songs throughout . It’s a nice trip through the band’s history as they enter their second decade.

Formed in Seattle in 2004 their full length debut was the 2005 release of ‘Everything All the Time’ which remains their touchstone however, the four albums since and various band member changes has not diluted the superb songwriting or live sound.

This is a cracking show, loud, raw and rocking, this 5 piece turn a Monday night into a Friday night with ease!

Pete

Set List

Dull Times/The Moon
The Great Salt Lake
Solemn Oath
Casual Party
Marry Song
Laredo
St. Augustine
Country Teen
Throw My Mess
Blue Beard
Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
Compliments
In a Drawer
Dilly
Older
No One's Gonna Love You
Islands on the Coast
NW Apt.
Is There a Ghost
The General Specific

Encore:

The Funeral

American Football have become regular visitors to the UK over the past couple of years and with the release of LP2 in 2016 they have returned for a show at “their favourite venue” The Shepherds Bush Empire.

The gig is a real winter warmer. Support comes from New Jersey native/Chicago inhabitant Evan Thomas Weiss AKA; Into It. Over It.

Before he plays bass for American Football, Evan gets an extensive solo set, suffering from ‘Man flu’ like symptoms his singing voice remains intact and with three albums of material, he delivers a fine solo set.

American Football sound as dreamy live as they do on record. LP2 is played front to back and in order for the first half of the gig. Perhaps playing the songs in order is a bit uninspiring (unless it’s a 20th anniversary tour) but,, it really does suit this particular band. The music is intense, relationships, ups .. mainly downs ... so when listening to LP2, you listen to the whole album again and again, so for the live show, you can experience the same emotions.

The band formed in1997, with LP1 disbanded in 2000 and then reunited in 2014, with LP2 as already mentioned being released ilast year. There is a certain mystique about the band so, when Mike Kinsella say’s something like “You’ve had your money’s worth”, you wonder if the gig is coming to a premature close. Thankfully it’s just a break (not sure why they would need one) and after fifteen minutes they are back for songs from LP1 and the ninety minutes of the show are effectively sublime.

Pete

Set List

Where Are We Now?

My Instincts Are the Enemy 


Home Is Where the Haunt Is 


Born to Lose


I've Been So Lost for So Long

Give Me the Gun

I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)


Desire Gets in the Way


Everyone Is Dressed Up 



Break

The One With the Tambourine

Stay Home 
Honestly? 


For Sure


I'll See You When We're Both Not So Emotional 


The Summer Ends 


Never Meant

New dates added for more shows in the summer:

1 Sep 
- Brigton Concorde 2
2 Sep 
- Albert Hall

 Manchester
3 Sep - 
Summerhall

 Edinburgh
4 Sep -  Button Factory

 Dublin, Ireland

It's 27th May 1967 the first line-up of Fairport Convention play their first ever gig at St. Michael's Church Hall in Golders Green. Some 25 members later and Simon Nichol (who is the one remaining original member though he went for a mid 1970's wander), Dave Pegg, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie and Gerry Conway who have been the band since 1998 celebrate Fairport's 50th year. The celebratory year starts with the traditional Winter tour criss-crossing the country during February and March.

Fiddle player Ric Sanders introduces tonight's support Sally Barker, who you may know from a recent series of The Voice, but for many years she has been a member of The Poozies and sings with the re-formed Sandy Denny's Fotheringay, which provides a neat link to an early Fairport Convention line-up. Sally plays folky-country-blues songs from her most recent solo album 'Ghost Girl' along with tracks from earlier in her varied career.

There's a beautiful country song possibly called “Two Hearts”, which she's considering giving to Dolly Parton to record. 'Talk About The Money' gets a good rapport with the audience tonight. The tradition is that before starting their set, Fairport accompany the final track of the support's set which tonight is an excellent track called 'I'm Not Whole' which was written by Sally's son.

Fairport Convention start their first set with a new track 'Our Bus Rolls On' from the new album 50:50 @50, which acts as a bio for the current band members echoing the themes of 1971's 'Angel Delight'. Whilst Chris Leslie has been the band's main songwriter since 1996, the band always recognise their significant earlier authors. 'Genesis Hall' is introduced as written by Richard Thompson when he was “ .. just out of nappies ....which he'll be going back into shortly ... well it happens to all of us” a Swarbrick/ Thompson track “Now Be Thankful” (one of my personal favourites) is sensitively and beautifully played with Chris taking lead vocals.

There's a preamble to explain the origin of the next track which is a new arrangement of the instrumental 'Danny Jack's Reward', which goes something like this ; Ric “ I phoned Peggy and told him I wanted to make a new arrangement of Danny Jack's Reward for us to play at Cropredy with some additional musicians”, Peggy replied “How many additional musicians do you want ? “, “I replied 43!”. What follows is the arrangement which Joe Broughton's Conservatoire Folk Ensemble (all 43 of them) played at Fairport's 2014 Cropredy festival and is now known as the expensive version, although tonight we get the cheap version played by the five piece it's still a great new arrangement.

The second half of the show begins with a couple tracks from the back catalogue, the traditional track 'Sir Patrick Spens' and Sandy Denny's composition 'Fotheringay'. Sally Barker returns to take Sandy's vocals on 'Rising For The Moon'. There's 'Farewell, Farewell ' from the multi-award winning 'Liege and Lief' album really brings out the beautiful twin fiddle playing of Ric Sanders and Chris Leslie.

The opening track from the new album is 'Eleanor's Dream' which is a rockier number in the style of 'Myths and Heroes'. Final track with the now familiar banjo intro from Chris is of course 'Matty Groves' ,which tells the story of doomed love between a lady of the manor bored with her husband and the handsome man she sees in the church (the years and the venues may change but the theme remains). Sally Barker returns (place a bet on her appearing at Cropredy this year) to sing a verse of 'Meet on the Ledge' as we bid farewell to old friends and promise to see them them again because as the song finishes “if you really mean it, it all comes round again”.

The Winter Tour continues until 5th March, there's a special 50 years celebration of the first show at the Union Chapel in London, and Fairport's Cropredy Convention is 10th -12th August in a field in Oxfordshire.

Website

Alisdair Whyte

 

Martin Simpson is listed in Gibson Guitars' Top 30 Acoustic Guitarists of all time, and Acoustic Guitar readers voted him number 12 guitarist in the world”- thus read the blurb advertising this concert. Undoubtedly Martin is that, and in addition he is a songwriter, a fine singer, storyteller and a kind of music historian, who could keep an audience enraptured even if he did not play anything at all.

I have been a fan of Martin's since first coming across him at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2007, at the time of his 'Prodigal Son' album. I have followed him since, seen him many times over, mainly at Cambridge, and bought every subsequent release, yet he never seemed to come to Ireland - unless I missed it of course, but I do watch gig listings rigorously.

The Hot Spot Music Club in Greystones, a venue above a pub/restaurant, was sold out for this rare performance. I arrived really early as I very much wanted a front row seat. This was partly a muso audience. Men around me were discussing technical guitar stuff that I have no understanding of. I take it from friends knowledgeable in these matters that Martin is an absolute master on the guitar.

Support came from a sympathetic singing fisherman from Wexford. Then some local musicians played, and the audience readied themselves - drinks, rest room, everything out of the way so as to not miss a minute of the gig. Martin himself was sitting on the edge of the stage, looking down and seemingly getting himself mentally ready, in the way I have seen musicians do this at house gigs, where there is also no dressing room to provide privacy. Martin was flexing his fingers and I noticed he was wearing one leather glove, on his right hand. He looked up and shot me a smile. Then an audience member walked over and they talked animatedly for a bit. After that Martin stood up and the gig started, without fanfare.

What followed was a dream of a show. It was a joy and a privilege to be there. Martin played the entire set on one guitar, tuning in between songs in his unique way. His tuning is like short instrumental intermezzos. He played three songs before addressing the audience, but from then on he talked at length about the songs. His introductions are an integral part of the gig and to me he is like a favourite teacher. I could listen for hours. And so it seemed to be for everybody present. If only audiences could be so quiet and appreciative at all gigs!

'Dark Swift and Bright Swallow' from the Simpson Cutting Kerr album was an early highlight. 'The Plains of Waterloo' from the same album was played as well. Martin had no setlist and did not pause at all, only to tune. He just kept playing. There were no requests, we did not have to sing. Everybody simply listened intently.

Martin talked about his father and his family and played what he described as his hit, 'Never Any Good'. He also talked about his time in the U.S. and played, 'Delta Dreams' and one of my favourites, 'An Englishman Abroad'. He spoke about Leonard Cohen and the wonder of his late career renaissance, followed by a beautiful cover of 'Stranger Song'.

As the gig went on I was aware that we would be missing the last train back to Dublin, but leaving was out of the question. In the end my partner and I were rescued by a kind American who let us share his ride. This man was over in Dublin on business and presumed that Martin plays here regularly. Not so.. I asked Martin afterwards why he does not come over to Ireland more often, to which he replied, "I should really. People don't seem to be opposed to me being here". An understatement if ever there was one.

Martin has a new album coming out this year and it seems he will once again be back at my favourite festival.

Helen

Website

A truly life affirming gig. Three hours, fifteen musicians on stage most of the time and a real musical camaraderie amongst the troupe.

Transatlantic Sessions revisits shared roots between Celtic and Americana musicians, so it say’s on the tin and indeed that is the blend of the evening. The project’s founding musical directors are Dobro maestro, Jerry Douglas, and Shetland fiddler and all-round legend, Aly Bain who lead a band that includes John Doyle, Danny Thompson, Michael McGoldrick, Russ Barenberg, John McCusker, Donald Shaw and James Mackintosh.

Then comes the guests, ex-Civil Wars man, John Paul White, Singer/Songwriter, Tift Merritt, multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, legendary singer, Jim Lauderdale, the lovely Irish folk singer Karan Casey and from Scotland the ever wonderful Eddi Reader.

The two part show either sees the main band in full instrumentation jig flow or one of the guest artists up front with the band playing along. Most people on the stage seem to have new albums out (this is a running joke all night, even if someone has not got a new album out, they say they have!) so, there is plenty of new music to hear.

Throughout the night most people get four songs each and it’s a real contrast is styles between them all, there is never a moment where the enjoyment dips.

Tributes to Guy Clark and some other lost souls of 2016 are handled beautifully. The key to the night is the humour, stories and banter between everyone on stage.

This was the first visit to Cambridge for this annual tour so, let’s hope they are back next year. A truly wonderful show.

credit: Murdo Macleod

 

 

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