Monday, 11 November 2013

PILGRIMS' WAY

Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Newhampton Inn

The last time I encountered such an array of musical instruments in one place I was getting my banjo from Hobgoblin Music in Birmingham. For a four piece band Pilgrims' Way have the baggage of a travelling orchestra.

Pilgrims' Way and their first album
The great thing is they are not for show, the band is versatile and wonderfully talented and switch instruments ad infinitum including the hurdy gurdy, the kazoo, Jew's/jaw harp, squeezebox, accordion, various fiddles, guitars and mandolin.
There is also a fantastic energy and enthusiasm displayed when the band performs.
Elf-like Lucy Wright, who was mainly on vocals but also played second fiddle, a definite ironic misnomer, Jew's harp and even threw in a little dancing.
There was incredible fiddle playing from Tom Kitching who also doubled up with the mandolin. Edwin Beasant, who on this occasion mostly played accordion, also chipped in on squeezebox, harmonica and guitar.
The fourth and newest member was Jon Loomes who played the incredibly evocative hurdy gurdy but also moved over to squeezebox and guitar when required. Coming from Stockport they take their name from Rudyard Kipling's poem of the same name. In some ways they are like a miniature Bellowhead but with a much more traditional sound.
They opened with a really lively number which was full of rhythm and beat and set the tone for the rest of the night with Wright sprightly dancing about on the small stage of the cosy upper room of the Newhampton pub.
They followed this with the The Handweaver and the Factory Maid which was a lovely story of love across the classes. With a staccato opening it then blossomed to a fuller chorus before dropping back to the more clipped sound, it was a good vehicle for Wright's sharp voice which has a sound as traditional as the music they play.
It was the first time of the night Wright pulled out the Jew's harp, a much underused little instrument, which she used to fantastic effect to add colour to the other instruments.
Adieu Lovely Nancy, which like the previous track is also from their album Wayside Courtesies, is a soft ballad which is made crisp by Wright's sharp and clear tone.
The band went back to the catchy toe tapping with a hornpipe which was full of life and built up in layers of sound.
Tom Kitching, Lucy Wright and Jon Loomes at the
 Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton
There was a gentle guitar accompaniment from Beasant underneath Wright's voice as she sang the Wedding Song this moved over to Howden Town which gave Kitching a real chance to show his skill with the fiddle which, to say the least, is impressive. The song had the sound of a hunting clarion added to by Beasant on guitar who gave it a slightly bluesy rhythm.
This was followed by Wright singing a gorgeous love song, Maybe Then I Will Be A Rose which was penned by Les Barker and was performed very evocatively by the diminutive singer to the background of Beasant's guitar. She painted a wonderful picture with her words of the two lovers who were finally united, like so many characters in folk songs, in death.
Throughout the set there was a bewildering amount of instrument swapping going on as the band showed their enthusiasm for different sounds and their versatility.
Salisbury Plain was another fast-paced traditional tune with once again great fiddle work from Kitching, this was followed by Martinmas Time which is a real fun song with a real jaunty rhythm that gets under your skin and is accented by nonsense lyrics in the chorus which is so common in the older traditional songs.
With Alfaz del Pi there was again some fantastic fiddle playing which built up with the distinctive sound of Lomes on hurdy gurdy and which had an almost Russian/eastern European gypsy sound, this had nothing to do with Lomes wearing a Russian red army white winter hat all through the set.
Lucy Wright
Wright started the next song, The Maid With Bonny Brown Hair, pretty much with just her voice which was gently supported by Beasant's guitar the sound of which was then filled in by Kitching's fiddle. In contrast this was followed by the lively Tarry Trousers which was a real toe-tapper and is a great tune which is not bad considering that the subject is the dirty trousers of men renovating canal boats.
Another typically traditional folk song of errant male lovers came in True Lover John about a man who unsurprisingly breaks his promises to his sweetheart and was told through Wright's lovely voice.
Towards the end of the set they pulled out their signature Pilgrims' Way which featured some lovely harmonising on the vocals from the band.
They finished with Framus/Jig lolo which had a hornpipe feel to it and was a real foot-stomper led by Beasant's accordion and had Wright adding an incredible sound with not one but two Jew's harps.
They came back with an encore that was just as lively as the opener which had a full and fun sound and had elements which sounded like the Old Bamboo from the Mary Poppins film.
Pilgrims' Way is a fun band to watch and listen to, they obviously enjoy what they do and their enthusiasm comes through in both their stage presence and in the way they execute their songs, they are a delightful and immensely talented band.

Pete Shirley

The support act Pete Shirley, who opened the night, is well worth a mention. He has been well received at the Newhampton Folk Club a couple of times and is a lone balladeer with a passion for songwriting.

He opened with Working Day a traditional ballad of every day life which was accented really nicely with his precise guitar playing.
Shirley followed this with a softer song Sunset Katie in which he displayed an endearing, old fashioned quality to his voice which was nicely accented by his gentle picking on his guitar.
Rather appropriately for Remembrance weekend his next offering was Another Man's Sky which was a song about war and he cleverly fused it with the old spiritual Down by the Riverside (Study War No More).
Shirley finished with The Miner which had an undertone of mountain blues about it weaved among the strong rhythm.
The singer from Audley in Staffordshire is due to go into the studio soon and put an album together which is something to look forward to.