Sunday 26 January 2014


Live Review

Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

There is a rich and deep seam of folk talent in the Midlands and that's not hyperbole it was proven when Faye Katherine Brookes had the vision to scratch the surface and to set up what can only be hoped is the first of the Folk Lounges in Wolverhampton.

Rob Fellows
from Wolverhampton
The night at the arts centre, Dunkley Street showed not only the quality of the talent out there but also the depth and breadth of sound and song which is right on the doorstep, all you need is to find somewhere to show it and bingo!
When you are on a bill full of artists it can be the poison chalice to be first up, this challenge fell to Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Rob Fellows, who like several of the artists on the night had to contend with sound problems, accompanied by Sandy Dhillon on percussion
Acoustic guitar player and singer Fellows wasn't great, he is obviously well practised and there were only a few flaws with his performance but his simple tunes and chords didn't really stand out and his voice isn't the strongest, there were times when he over reached himself. This wasn't helped by the problems with the sound which blurred some of the performance. So perhaps on a different night with a different set, who knows?

David Fisher
David Fisher, another singer/songwriter and busker was next up and opened well on the gobiron with There's No Reason to be Sad. His distinct voice launched straight into the quick-fire tune and lyrics which had a Western feel to them. With a good rhythm he built the sound nicely in what was a really good arm waving song, the sort that would get festival crowds swaying.
He used his harmonica really well throughout his set including on his next song Zachariah which was a lovely smooth ballad showing off his precise guitar picking and this same style followed through into Wild Mountain
Fisher does also have a talent for song writing shown in his ballad So Long Ago which was a traditional and upbeat tune.
He finished his set with the much covered Galway Girl which, unusually he started pretty slow, but then cranked it up to normal tempo after the first verse. He threw in an impressive harmonica solo and kept ramping up the beat which got the crowd going and he made a big impression.

He gave up the stage to another Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Daniel Kirk who plays a four string guitar to accompany his distinctive and extremely likeable voice, but he does lose brownie points for singing with a faux American accent but this didn't really detract from his performance.
Daniel Kirk also
from Wolverhampton
Again probably down to the sound issues his guitar was a little overpowering but his voice was strong enough to come over the top of it and when he's in full flight he does sound like a male version of Tracy Chapman with a hint of Cat Stevens thrown in.
His voice has a great deal of emotion and his songs show a maturity beyond his years.
Without doubt the highlight of his set was a his rendition of Richard Thompson's Bee's Wing. It's a fantastic song and Kirk did it justice and held it up with some excellent guitar picking.
For some reason, like so many artists, Kirk chooses to sing traditional English folk songs with that faux accent as he did with House Carpenter which he opened A Cappella but then brought in his precise guitar picking which complemented his voice perfectly. Kirk turned the tables for his last song converting a dance tune into a folk song with Avicii's wake Me Up and it has to be said he did a great job.

Jenny Bulcraig
The first of the bands took over from this point with Jenny Went Away from Birmingham. The group is made up of Rhiannon Davies on percussion, ukelele and just about anything else she feels like doing, Jenny Bulcraig on guitar and vocals and Jen Waghorn on fiddle and vocals
They came out with all guns blazing and never really let up for the whole of their set and one of their liveliest was Dancing Tree. They have a great and infectious stage act which is like a more modern and folk infused version of Fascinating Aida.
They give the impression they are there to enjoy the act as much as they hope the audience will while not taking themselves too seriously. Marie Antoinette from their EP is a great song which has myriad elements to it. Waghorn opened with a Yiddish/gypsy style on the fiddle and their voices blended beautifully to produce an eclectic sound which was bordering on a torch song.
Rhiannon Davies
Jen Waghorn
Their voices blended superbly on I Know You Of Old with Waghorn's pizzicato fiddle playing bringing in the song with Bulcraig on main vocals and Davies adding harmonies.They followed this with Cabin In The Woods which was a wonderfully irreverent song which has the feel of a true nursery rhyme which has a sinister undertone and it was performed with real gusto and great fun by the trio.
The band went out with Making Sense which was a really powerful ballad and was full of life. It gave them a chance the fill the studio with a swathe of sound giving Davies a real chance to shine on the Ukelele.

Ellie Chambers
Che Cartwright
The second of the trio of trios was Driftwood Store with Katharine Griffiths on fiddle and vocals, Che Cartwright on guitar, harmonica and lead vocals and Ellie Chambers who has one of the most gorgeous voices.They opened with the traditional and much covered Blacksmith and straight away it was clear they blend together with such harmony and this was also apparent with Darling I'm Cold with Cartwright's voice, harmonica and guitar, Chambers's heavenly tones and Griffiths fiddle playing all clear and strong without overpowering or competing with each other.
It all meshed together to make a glorious combination of sound.
Katharine Griffiths
Chambers' incredibly ethereal voice was given a great showcase with The Sea Captain which was more than matched by the evocative fiddle playing which came so sweet underneath the voices. They went out with Pockets Full of Dust a country/bluegrass sound which again utilised the fiddle talents of Griffiths and once more showed off how well their voices blended.

Adam Heath
The last of the trios was High Horses who, not least because of their mandolin player Adam Heath, have a distinctive look and style. They are a family affair with Simon on acoustic guitar being the younger brother of Adam and Matt Povey on electric guitar being their cousin.
In style they remind of Jethro Tull in the sound they are reminiscent in many ways of McGuinness Flint, now there's one to look up on Google, but they do have their own sound and while it would be easy to dismiss them as folk rock they actually fall somewhere in between. They haven't really integrated the full hard rock sound and haven't left behind the traditional folk sound either.
Matt Povey
The animated and dreadlocked A Heath provided the focal point on stage and while not quiet a contender for Ade Edmondson's self-appointed thrash mandolin title he certainly has an interesting stage presence in between sneaking upstage for another swig of Red Stripe. With tracks like Take the Bait  and Don't Be Scared they produced a really good blend of rock and folk which even the most traditional of the finger in the ear brigade would find acceptable. They even threw in a cover version of Adele's Someone Like You and closed the night with Povey singing the strong ballad 10-Mile Love.
Simon Heath
As a showcase for new Midlands folk talent and as a first effort in organising the event, Faye Brookes should be justly proud but of course now at the very least it should become an annual event and even more that the level of talent must be surpassed no mean feat as the bar has been started pretty high, but there is little doubt the Midlands is up to it.

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