Short of going back a couple of generations to Tennessee, then perhaps one of the most authentic bluegrass sounds you will hear is the trio from the North West known as Jaywalkers.
|Michael Giverin, Lucy Williams and Jay Bradbury |
at the Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford
With Michael Giverin on mandolin and guitar, Jay Bradbury on vocals, fiddle and guitar, and Lucy Williams on double bass and harmonies they create old time, boot stomping, barn shaking and rowdy music which gets the toes tapping, the hands clapping and the blood pumping.
They opened with a real jugband sound, Big Sciota and straight away you are taken by Bradbury's incredible fiddle playing which is matched perfectly by her deep rich voice that sounds like it comes straight out of a moonshine jug.
She showed her versatility and skill managing to be both raw and sophisticated in her sound which gives her a real mesmerising quality as she took the trio into Road to Columbus.
As lively and entertaining as those were, they were merely a warm up. With one of their own songs Cool My Body Down they soon got into full swing coming in with Giverin's subtle and playful mandolin followed by Bradbury's torch style singing which was then joined by Williams slapping the bass like she was exorcising a demon.
Bradbury's voice has a real raucous edge to it and is filled with serious passion and soul.
Up until now Giverin had only hinted at his mandolin skills but with Brilliancy from Sam Bush he made the whole place dance with his agile picking.
His clear and crisp mandolin sound skitted around the club crackling with life.
They slowed things down with the long instrumental intro to Jack Go Sell Your Fiddle which gave Bradbury another chance to make the strings of her fiddle wail gracefully and mournfully with a few key changes thrown in before she picked up the pace to growl out the final half of the tune.
Without doubt one of the highlights of the night was He'll Drag you Down; Bradbury sounding a little like Sam Brown. She then kicked in the now familiar rasp of her fiddle and with Williams adding the rhythm of her precise slapping bringing in a stone jug type of boom boom.
|Jaywalkers. Picture copyright of Black Cherry Photography|
To finish the first half of the set they went out with the well-known Wayfaring Stranger and The Battle of Aughrim. There are umpteen versions of the first song but none of them were sexed up like Bradbury's version with her breathy singing which led into Giverin laying down a European jazz feel by letting loose on the mandolin. It was Giverin who led them into the Irish part of the two tunes, his precise and incredibly dexterous picking on the tiny instrument was enthralling to watch. He started off pretty quick and then went ballistic in a way that was reminiscent of Ray Barron from Two Time Polka.
Bradbury opened up the second half with the staccato scratch of the fiddle before Williams came into her own banging out the rhythm like a steam hammer on her bass, all the more remarkable when you consider her slender build belies the fact that she can wield her massive instrument as easily as her co-musicians handle their fiddle and mandolin.
In complete contrast they moved straight to a hoedown-style jig which defied everyone to keep their hands and feet still. Their playing is just so lively and infectious they could play the funeral march and you would still feel uplifted.
They are one of the bands that is you heard their sound coming from a venue you just couldn't walk past without finding out who was making the fantastic racket.
There have been many versions of Moonshiner but Bradbury's country mountain slant on the familiar tune was something special it's also a track that can only be fully appreciated live. They pulled of another master stroke with the equally well-known Shady Grove. Bradbury picking staccato again on her fiddle started off the song at about 100mph and then with her fellow band members floored the instruments. As Williams slapped at the strings of her bass she looked like she was in the world speed challenge for plucking chickens and was winning, their whole interpretation was impressive.
|Jaywalkers current album|
The Mountain Chicken, which is actually a frog, according to Giverin, inspired him to write an instrumental which has all the attributes of a hillbilly get together and once again it was Bradbury who made the piece sing with her incredible skill on the "catgut".
Sleep With One Eye open had more a of a bluesy rockabilly sound to it, a sound they have got spot on. It sounded like someone had turned on a radio and tuned into a 1950s radio show just as the birth of Rock 'n' Roll was about to happen, they have this knack of making the sound of nostalgia cutting edge.
Towards the end they played the closing track of their current album Early For A Thursday and Giverin showed his incredible versatility with the extended intro on the mandolin with the extremely European sounding Dark Eyes which originates from Russia but the way they played it was like a musical map of the continent that wouldn't have been out of place in films such as The Godfather, The Third Man, Zorba The Greek and so many more.
They went out to a tune which seems to be doing the rounds of the folk circuit Sitting On Top Of The World and once again Bradbury's strong voice gave the old song new life making it sound like something used in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
Jaywalkers know their craft to perfection and their passion and joy of playing bluegrass comes across in every track they perform. They are a fantastic live band and while buying their CDs will give you a flavour nothing will ever capture the energy they project on stage.
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