Sunday 13 October 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton

One of the first things you notice about Black Country lass Kim Lowings is that behind the crystal clear tone and glass smoothness of her voice there is a lot more power waiting to be unleashed.

Kim Lowings with her Appalachian mountain dulcimer 
She uses her range effortlessly and never struggles on any of the notes as she goes through her set with The Greenwood, which is a musical collective based in Stourbridge, Dudley in the West Midlands.
The concert in the upper room of the Newhampton Inn, Riches Street, Wolverhampton was really a set of two halves because, through no fault of their own, the band had to resolve the problem of a missing sound engineer.
And while Tim Rogers, the percussionist with The Greenwood, did his best, what happened was that for the first part the instruments were a little overpowering and the dulcimer which was centre stage with Kim came over a little strong.
Fortunately Kim has the kind of voice that could take on a jet engine and still hold her own, so it managed to soar over the big sound that the small band of musicians created.
She started the gig with The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood bringing in the first part A Capella before the precise guitar playing of Andrew Lowings, the luxurious fiddle of Ami Oprenova and the deep resonance of Roger's percussion kicked in.
With Phoenix, from her album This Life, Kim gave her Appalachian mountain dulcimer its first outing which added to the full sound the band created and was picked up by the deep back beat and her voice came clear as ever over the top of the music.
With Deepest, Darkest Night, the title track of their new EP, the four musicians produced a really full sound with a rolling melody over the top of which Kim's voice leaped. This moved into This Life which was a light and jaunty song which somehow conjured up the 1970s.
There is a lightness about both Kim's singing and the band's playing which is uplifting, even the more "serious" songs still didn't have that heavy feel to them such as Off to Sea which was essentially a war song which had the dulcimer clipping along to Kim's voice as she sang the soft ballad.
The Wonderful Mr Clark is a real toe-tapper which has an echoing back beat to it and brings to mind the sounds of a carnival.
It almost seemed the band were dipping their toes into the blues lake for The Flounder with the up and down style of music almost mimicking the movements of the eponymous fish. Although the first offerings were obviously folk the band moved towards the more traditional end with The Allotment.
This was almost a marching rhythm but like many a good traditional folk it was a story of everyday events from ordinary people which ended with a pretty slick instrumental which had a May Day dance feel to it.
One of the songs which really showed off Kim's crystal clear tones was Worcester City, a song of jealousy with an A Capella opening accented wonderfully by the simple percussion of the bodhran
Her next offering was a fast-paced ballad with a 60s hippy feel to it, but showing more versatility Kim came through with a real undertone of soul in her voice.
Kim Lowings and The Greenwood's latest EP
Keeping the gig upbeat with The Littlest Birds, which is a bluegrass song they played in a real jaunty style which was close to having a reggae rhythm underneath and Kim's voice coming over with more than a hint of Eddie Reader of Fairground Attraction.
As the night went on the songs got progressively more traditional with offerings such as The Bonny Labouring Boy, which tells the story of love across the class divide. It started off with a racing beat gradually building into a wall of sound throughout the refrains.
The gig ended with Shady Grove, which Fairport Convention fans would have recognised immediately and which moved into the Sheep Shearing song which painted a musical picture of the bucolic and finally ending with The Begging Song which has been covered by bands such as Bellowhead, but Kim's was a much softer version and evoked images of medieval minstrels, markets and fairs.
Kim came back on for a solo encore letting her porcelain voice ring out with a gorgeous version of The Parting Glass which was a million miles away from the wonderful recording from The Dubliners legend Ronnie Drew but no less enjoyable for that.

Michelle Reynold's second album
Worthy of mention is support act Michelle "Mitch" Reynolds whose unadorned and organic voice was a delight to listen to as it brought to life in the simplest of ways sea shanties and traditional songs which carry with them the history of this country.
Check out her second album The Long Lonely Road, it's well worth a listen.

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