By Rick Stuart
Since the last time we spoke, I’ve travelled 750 miles to see four gigs. It really would be cheaper to stay local,
but sometimes the temptation is too great.
The first of these was the lovely Lucy Ward www.lucywardsings.com who was on tour in support of her new album Pretty Warnings. I first met Lucy when she came over from Derbyshire to the Roots & Fusion studio for a session back in May 2016 rootsandfusionsessions/lucy-ward-in-session-2016/) and I realised then that the political protest side of folk music was in safe hands. Listen to Bigger Than That for example.
So, when the Pretty Warnings tour was announced and she was lined up to play at The Globe in Glossop, courtesy of Jamie Knowles, I decided I wasn’t going to miss it. Glossop is only about 12 miles from home, so no excuse really…
Support was by local singer / songwriter Rosie Arnfield, www.rosiearnfield whose set was lovely.
Lucy has the ability to hold an audience rapt, while she tells stories, sometimes going off on a tangent, then treating us to some wonderful songs. A mixture of originals and traditional folk, and she doesn’t shy away from A Cappella either. To get a flavour of this, I recommend you give the R&F session a listen as the last track is an excellent A Cappella version of King Willie (traditionally known as Willie’s Lady).
Oh, and buy her album too…
The second gig was one of my bigger adventures – another trip to London. Having been twice already this year, it was going to have to be something a bit special to tempt me again. The launch of Mishaped Pearls www.mishapedpearls.org
new album Shivelight was indeed that special thing. If you like contemporary folk, I urge you to listen to Shivelight. There are four tracks available to stream via bandcamp mishapedpearls.bandcamp.com/album and if you like those, just buy the album.
If you want to listen to just the one track, then I recommend Jesus’ Crooked Shadow.
Mishaped Pearls are seven piece band who have that rare ability to be all playing at once whilst at the same time leaving enough space so that they can all be heard. I think that’s the key to their music. Space. It allows their music to breathe. They also confidently weave old, sometimes ancient, instrumentation in with the modern, in a way that makes perfect sense. Saz Baglama on the album wikipedia.org, Ruan moon guitar live..? (wikipedia.org/wiki/Yueqin Yes please…
The gig was at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, London and was worth every penny I spent on going.
As is the way of these things sometimes, the next gig was the following night, up in Sheffield, and a
welcome return to Café #9 to see Luke Jackson lukepauljackson.com
I first came across Luke back in 2011 thanks to one of Neil King’s Fatea Showcase session downloads www.fatea-showcase-sessions.co.uk and although we never got around to arranging a session for Roots & Fusion, I did put him on twice. The first time was solo as the final show in a run of half a dozen gigs I put on at Barista Café Bar in Stockport under the banner of
Roots & Fusion Playing Out, and the second at the British Legion in Poynton with his Trio.
Café #9 is tucked away in Nether Edge in Sheffield and a wonderful find. It is a vegetarian café that runs evening gigs
two or three times a week, capacity of about 45, run by the continually effervescent Jonny Dean.
I was talking with Luke after the gig and he told me how much he enjoyed playing at the café, in fact his quote was
“It’s the Green Note of the north.”
Luke was still a teenager when I first saw him, and incredible then. He has just turned 24 and is even better now. His voice, as well as his stage presence, has continued to improve. During his set he did a cover of Tom Petty’s Freefalling which had the majority of the sell-out audience beaming widely and a number with tears in their eyes. If you haven’t experienced Luke live, you need to. Simple as that.
The forth gig was another very special one, a trip up to see Steve Pledger www.stevepledger.co.uk and Anne Sumner www.annesumnermusic.com play as part of the Live In the North East www.liveinthenortheast.com series of gigs
in North Shields, as put together by Andy Logan & Joanne Down.
Regular listeners to Roots & Fusion will already know of my love of the voice & lyricism of Anne Sumner. She digs deep in every song, leaving both herself and her audience emotionally drained. To see Anne and Steve Pledger on the same bill was wonderful.
I was first introduced to the music of Steve after a good friend of mine, Andy Barnes, went down south to see Ange Hardy play, and Steve was supporting. I made the mistake of listening to his album in the car. I say mistake, because I had to pull over. It’s difficult to drive when you’re crying. Friends & Fathers. There’s a song.
Anne stepped up first. The first verse of her first song included the line “I've been spectacularly broken”. There was no turning back from that point. She left the audience with that mixture of smiles & tears which is fast becoming her hallmark. Job done, again.
I’d not seen Steve Pledger play live before, so I was really looking forward to it, and he did not disappoint. I mentioned earlier about Lucy Ward and the political protest side of Folk – Steve nails it. The anger at the injustice, the hope of a better life, it’s all here. Listen to Same Smile, his opening number for this gig, and you know exactly where he stands & why.
There was also obviously a lot of mutual respect for each other as musicians and people, which showed when Steve invited Anne onto stage near the end of his set for a shared A Cappella song. Just stunning.
Also at this point, a huge thanks to Andy Logan & Joanne Down, because there is a need for people like them who are not only prepared to do the work needed to put these small gigs on, but they are obviously good at it.
I hope you get to see some live music soon, and when you do, make sure you tell others about it. Spread the word. It’s what it’s all about.