Sunday, 27 October 2013

GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR

Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton

If you are going to make an impression with your opening number then one way is to knock the socks off your audience, this is the option award-winning duo Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar took. 

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar
Right from the off you could see why they were this year's winners of the Radio2 Young Folk Musicians award.
The hoe down style of The Clumsy Lover Set was hammered out by Algar on the fiddle and Russell on the guitar and straight away with Algar it was like watching a young Seth Lakeman, the skill, fluency and power with which he wields his instrument is astounding.
Their next track Hills of the West gave Russell his first chance to show off his singing skills. He doesn't have the strongest of voices and his range seems somewhat limited but he uses his ability well and considering how young they both are it's pretty certain he will find the type of songs which suit his voice better.
Russell changed instruments to the bouzouki for Roses Three which is a traditional storytelling song translated from the Swedish. This song suited Russell's voice more easily than the previous offering and there was a really slick gelling of instrumental play between the two.
What is always nice to hear is versatility in the sound of a voice and Russell does have this for the song Davy, which is another traditional ballad, his singing at times was not unlike that wonderful Scots troubadour Ewan McLennan possessing that soft, almost vulnerable tremble to it.
They moved across the sounds of blue grass, Celtic, Irish with Algar providing absolutely gorgeous tones to accompany Russell's guitar picking before finishing the first half on a high with an instrumental called Absent Friends.
Russell pulled out one of his own creations a really good storytelling song inspired from his history studies, in particular the Tudors. The Queen's Lover, which is the title track of their debut album, was a clever and modern offering with a distinctly traditional sound. This slid nicely into Greg's set which was a traditional Celtic offering which gathered pace as they played, and showed how fluently and magnificently Algar handles the fiddle and they both hammered out the tune to the finish.
Greg and Ciaran's debut album.
They opened the second half with Two Magicians using the guitar and bouzouki. Russell's voice was lost a bit behind the instruments but it was a lovely song of the intricacies and entanglements of love.
For two such young lads they show a great deal of maturity when dealing with "hecklers" and are very engaging characters who clearly enjoy the banter.
Whether Russell needs time for his voice to reach its optimum is not certain but Love is Life was a soft ballad which really gave the first real showing of the richness of his voice which he underpinned with some really clear and lovely acoustic guitar.
One of the unusual songs of the night was Icarus which was a modern take on the Greek legend and was very cleverly done by Russell. With This City, about the two Potters home turf, saw Russell's voice really find its balance and it was exquisitely picked up by Algar's fiddle playing.
Russell pulled out a squeeze box, or English concertina for the purists, they sang an evocatively smooth song You Are the Call which was just a joy to listen to.
They went for the big finish with again gorgeous fiddle playing building up to a crescendo with more Irish music until Algar's finish was easily on a par with Lakeman's signature ending Kitty Jay.
They did The New Railroad for their encore which was a Guthrie-style depression ballad but added their own twist at the end and went out as they had come in with a serious bang.
Russell and Algar are immensely talented for two so fresh-faced, energised and sickeningly young musicians and right now the wonderful thing is their future can be any way they want to write it. They are due to go into the studio in the not too distant future to record their second album.

The support act Elmore Row are a really interesting duo from the West Midlands and comprise Kris Collins and Nicola Morris. both on guitar and vocals. 

For the time being they are working with cover versions and are both extremely good guitarists and Nicola has a voice which it seems has yet to be unveiled fully.
There were times when you could hear the crispness and power of her singing but a lot of the time it seemed to be held back for whatever reason.
There were odd flashes of pure lightning when her tones were so clear and cutting it reminded me of the great Janice Joplin.
Sadly they did produce an appalling rendition of Eva Cassidy's cover of Sting's Fields of Gold and the ironic thing is that, and you could put good money on it, that if Morris had gone for her own version, instead of emulating Cassidy's, it would have been far better. They are definitely ones to watch and would be well worth hunting down an album of their own stuff when they decided to put one together.