There was something definitely relaxed, slightly dishevelled and almost unrehearsed about Andy Cutting, Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney's first gig of their first album tour.
|Andy Cutting, Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney, Leveret|
at the MAC Birmingham
They opened with Bagpipers, from the aforementioned debut album, a track which Sweeney, who is responsible for putting the trio together, admitted to learning in a pub.
They followed this with White Friars hornpipe and Purlongs which are of a 3:2 hornpipe variety many of which, along with the associated dances, have been lost in the mists of time.
None of them looked completely at ease being in the spotlight even though they are used to much bigger appearances Harbron and Sweeney are part of the The Full English, which will be doing its farewell tour this year and as for Cutting it would be quicker to list the artists he has not played with.
Cutting has also just finished recording an album with Martin Simpson and Nancy Kerr and he will also be touring with them, so it's going to be a busy time for the melodeon maestro.
With the intricate sounds they produced, this was probably as close as you could get to classical folk.
The music was evocative, thoughtful, beautifully layered and perfectly executed.
There were even times when you could see Cutting and Sweeney where in another place carried on the magic carpet of the notes they were producing.
It's fantastic there are musicians such as these three who are digging out, reviving and making the cultural past the musical present.
Cutting moved them into a wonderfully restful piece called Jenny Pluck Pears which, like most of the tracks on the night, was taken from their new album. He confessed to only learning three quarters of it and improvising the rest.
The title track of their debut album came up next followed by St Catherine which was also from the previously mentioned collection.
Sweeney fired up the jaunty New Anything keeping it dancing along with Cutting's finger work and Harbron weaving his way through the middle with his squeezebox. This gave way to the second part of the piece which had a much more staccato feel to it.
There were tunes from John of the Green - The Cheshire Way from 1750 and the blending of Cutting and Harbron's combined bellows and Sweeney's fiddle gave it almost a feel of chamber music. This was followed by Milford, a dance tune written by Cutting and inspired by the Derbyshire village near where the musician lives.
They ended the first half with Sylvia's Serenade and The Blewbell Hornpipe which comes from the 18th century. Continuing to draw from their album the set included Glorishears/Fowl Weather Call which starts off with a very regimented rhythm where you can imagine folks dancing and moving to it very precisely.
There was the jaunty tune Gallons of Cognac, written by Sweeney for his great uncle Henry to whom is attached a story of pharmacy, flavourings and fondant.
Then the trio took the night out with Namptwich Fair; a slightly medieval sounding tune in The Northern Lass, followed by Kings' Barrows.
It may sound contradictory but all in all it was quite a refined night of traditional folk music and the trio executed their roles as minstrels with the expertise with which individually they have become known for.
For those of you who love the process of seriously old, forgotten tunes being given a new life and our musical traditions and heritage being kept alive and vibrant then Leveret is the group to enjoy. They are not the only ones carrying out this great musical service by any means, but they certainly deserve to take their place among the best. Even more good news is that they have already pretty much formulated their second album.
|The Mike Harding Folk Show|