Tuesday, 22 September 2015


Live Review

MAC Birmingham

What’s not to like? Individually Andy Cutting, Nancy Kerr and Martin Simpson have proved themselves to be brilliant folk musicians, songwriters and performers.

Martin Simpson
copyright Danny Farragher
Together they have won just about every folk award and accolade you can shake a Morris stick at and it would be easier to list the musicians they haven’t played with rather than the other way round.
Now the trio are touring together on the back of their Murmurs album and they are quite simply awesome.
Their vast experience, chemistry, part of which has come from working together on The Full English, and ease of playing on stage were evident in the intimate studio of the MAC, in the Second City.
Simpson kicked off proceedings with his characteristic mellow and precise guitar picking which has made him one of the world’s most revered exponents of the instrument. With Dark Swift and Bright Swallow, which is also the opening track of the album, Kerr on the violin and Cutting on the accordion added a great deal of depth and colour to Simpson’s song.
Nancy Kerr
The trio stuck with the album for the next two tracks, with the faster-paced Richmond Cotillion followed by Kerr’s composition Not Even The Ground/Two Ladies, the second part of which is a waltz composed by Cutting.
These three not only perform but they write, study and preserve folk music and with the songs you get the traditional stories behind them, you get the inspiration, traditions and the history they carry with them.
Kerr has a quintessentially English voice which has a vibrato quality on the higher register and produces a very pure sound which blends wonderfully with Simpson’s more laconic tones.
Simpson and Kerr did all the singing as Cutting is not really a singer but he a master of the bellows switching between the accordion and melodeon as required.
The songs included themes of war, environmental destruction, coming out balls from a bygone age of finery, of railways, hobos and death. 
Simpson switched to his banjo for Ruben where he lashed out his blues side which he does so well, something which was helped by spending many years in the US.
Cutting then took centre stage with a waltz, Seven Years, his own work and was one of the few songs without a story to it. Also it was a perfect example of just how good he is at composing and how expert he is on the accordion.
Their individual mastery of such a wide range of folk songs is mesmerising and they kept their audience rapt with traditional murder ballads, bluegrass, blues, country as well their own modern takes on traditional themes. What’s incredible is with just six instruments they have the ability to sound like a folk orchestra.
From all of them you get a sense of the deep respect and admiration they have for the music they compose, adapt and perform and it’s that connection with what they do that makes them stand out as musicians.

Murmurs is available through Topic Records.