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Derby Folk Festival – A Roundup – October 2017

Hi everyone. Quite a bit of time has passed since my last festival post and as the cold sets in to it’s fullest we have snow as far as the eye can see (well it is here). Before the hot rays return I wanted to bring you a roundup of some of the things that we saw at Derby Folk Festival a few months back (ESPECIALLY AS THE LINEUP FOR 2018 is looking pretty colossal!)

Derby is quite a central place and relatively easy to get to, so we do enjoy travelling down and seeing what is happening.

For those who have not managed to get there yet, it is a friendly festival wit  venues that aren’t too far from each other, and always a good and varied lineup across the range of Folk genres and popularity. We think in all ways it gets the balance good for an inner-city festival).  There is also ceilidh, often some dance workshop and plenty of public displays too that make it a fun few days.

Thinking about Derby Folk Festival, the first rather small (but important) point to note is the Main Marquee. Every year its a sight to see. It’s a big space sitting in the very heart of Derby’s art quarter which ends up weathering an potential weather storms at the quite late time of year. In 2016, the rain fell and got everywhere. Let us say the Marquee seemed to take a bit of a battering and the Gods seemed displeased. This year the Marquee is reinforced, looks a lot more solid like a great metal tree awaiting the harshest of elements. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the weather didn’t come so it wasn’t put to the test. It still looked great though.

Another thing about the festival is there is plenty to see, some cool food vans, many great bands and the lovely yearly addition of Adverse Camber (more on them later). Apologies if you or your band are not mentioned below, we have taken a chance to highlight some of the lesser-known artists this year. The rest of you, I will catch up with you shortly I am sure!

So.. lets get to the music! Rather than go day-by-day, let me point out some of the great stuff that springs to mind that I would recommend and makes the festival special.


Rusty Shackle

A young folk bicep of a group flexing their musical muscles, “Rusty Shackle” is an energetic start to the festival. From Wales, the groups comes across as a sometimes understated indie voice, sometimes a fine mirror to Billie Joe Armstrong; either way they have an incredibly broad range.  One minute it is the broad anthem of “King Creole”, a song of self worry and ruin, the next it is a surprising medley of numbers including the wonder of “Touch My Bum” (The Cheeky Girls) which got a few nods of recognition. They certainly have a sense of humour too, and it is this fresh-faced, joy and fun that make them a very good gateway to folk for a young crowd; they are a veritable folk aperitif. Other fast and melodic numbers include the quite sweet number “3AM” with a welcome bit of banjo riffing, the denser more urban and expansive “When the Morning Comes”, and a personal favourite “Down to the Valley” that reminds of the best of 80s pop in a direct collision with Show of Hands at the top of their game.

It is all a sweet sound indeed with electric guitar, fiddle, banjo and drums and trumpet laying down spritley, rocking and seriously entertaining set of tunes you should check out. They are also a pretty industrious bunch being on an extensive tour so see their website and perhaps check them out here.


The Rheingan Sisters

A duo of artists that spring to mind the Rheingan Sisters’. We see one of their sets (they actually have two different sets over the festival), and are on very good form,

Fantastic as always with excellent fiddle technicality and songs of evocative soundscapes, we caught them as they were trialling some new material much of which revolved around French bal music and other influences from the region. They did “Cuckoo” from their “Already Home” album as well and this was rich and deep as ever. This allows us to lose ourselves in the ballroom amongst the party of strings. One of their new numbers took us into the depths of forests, in a sweeping and glorious portrayal of environmental destruction, and this was our favourite. Epic and contained like a jack-in-the-box, the Rheingans continue to impress and make a mark. We are just a little dismayed we did not catch their full set (our fault, nowhere elses). Details of their projects can be found here.

Adverse Camber – Dreaming The Nightfield

Burning brightly from a number of past intriguing shows, Adverse Camber return to Derby Folk Festival with performance, story and song about the old book of tales written in Middle Welsh, the Mabinogi. We have seen them on more than one occasion and the fire is still there in their performances. It is quite a treat to see something drawing on old history and myths from our own isles, and I am saying this absolutely loving the older shows from Persia (the Shahnameh show the other year) and their more Nordic sagas.

It is a warming experience for Derby to let the Storytelling in, after all stories and myth aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Whichever side one falls on, here it certainly adds to the variety of what is on show and delivers a quieter (but not too much!), individual first night at the festival. It is quite a sensory, word-spinning reflection of a show and as such it brings a different kind of wonder to the corner of the Guildhall for a night.

Telling some stories of the fair and just lord of Gwnedd, Math fab Mathonwy, Pryderi the lord of Dyfed, a magician  (Gwydion), heroes (Lleu Llaw Gyffes) and a woman made of flowers (Blodeuwedd) there are lots of enchanting tales, and as with many stories from history; usually a moral involved (especially with Blodeuwedd). The wonders keep coming.Whether it is (literally) magic mushrooms transforming into golden shields, a plot involving the theft of especially tasty pigs or (my personal favourite) the part where the great lord transforms his son into a series of animals (and learns the creatures’ natures) there is a lot to digest, and like a fine stew more the better for it. The three storytellers Stacey Blythe, Lynne Denman, and Michael Harvey all have their time to shine as musicians and singers in turn with Michael Harvey taking the lead with recounting the stories. The music is stirring and the stage evolves alongside the story which is a pretty special thing to see.

What happens is that throughout the show the cast carry and assemble of series of sticks in what at first seems like a kind of sculpture maze, but it becomes apparent that it is forming the aspects of the stories so the sticks are representing either creatures, mountains or even dead soldiers. The movement of the sticks actually grounds the play and connects the artists to the environment, the touch of dynamism is welcome and it is intriguing to see how the sticks assemble together and actually balance. It is a pleasure to see the company’s continued creative use of set pieces in their shows.

Alongside Naomi Wilds (producer) they have put together a close to home, wondrous series of stories that will leave you wanting more of the magic and more of the myth from those rainy, misty Welsh valleys. We heartily recommend, as of the time of writing there are two more dates coming early 2018 for the show if you can make them, have a look here.

Robyn Johnson

Robyn Johnson joins a (growing) list of female acoustic musicians this year who are convincing me that you do not necessarily need a full band to create a good variety of songs and feelings. Admittedly and embarrassingly at time we at FP find solo guitar acoustic artists a little wanting and numbing. Of course there are always exceptions, and this is not knocking guitars of any shape or size, we just require more convincing. Let us say however that this year we have come to out senses a little bit more on this issue.

Under the banner of Village Folk (excellent hosts in and and out of the Derby Folk Festival, see here), Robyn emerges riding a midnight blues train that has a few folk-town stops along the way. Johnson played some delightfully understated and rhythmic entries such as “Say it with wine”, a lyrically break-dancing tune that wears a bit of a Country and Western hat. Sweet and vulnerable it probes modern living and anxieties in what is an essential piece of acoustic listening. There is also the exploratory, evocative “midnight ramble” which Johnson plays to warmed up, appreciative and rapt audience. Midnight Ramble has particular interest due to it being written about the characterful characters and experiences gathered while the inner town of Derby late on a Friday night, it has everything “Gypsies selling roses”, propositioning men, and a swirling blues ambience.

“Plastic Bag Fairy” is a demonstration of Johnson’s excellent acoustic guitar times and tones; as the first song she wrote it is interesting to see how it contrasts with the rest of her set. Slightly more optimistic and sunny, it shows the good in people who have little to live on. Ending on “Pour Me” is the striking of a match to a can of gasoline as a finisher that refuses to take things slowly.

An intriguing addition to Derby Folk. Worthy and in a way delightfully low-key, her songwriting left an impression with us. Check out her Mixcloud of recordings here.

Kim Lowings and the Greenwood Band

Pretty much the highlight for us and several others at the festival, Kim Lowings and the Greenwood Band had been on our cards for a good while, but we hadn’t seen them live until now.

The band has a good sound and a nice range of instruments. Lowings herself has a distinctive and clear voice and it was all enhanced by the Guildhall’s  acoustics. The joyful thing about Lowings and the Greenwood is that they have a playful aura which they cast on to several oldies giving them continued leases of life. Their version of “The Cuckoo” was rather special, and their take on “Oh the Wind and Rain” leaves you wanting more.

We do not want to go into too much detail here, except to say they are an entertaining and rich sound experience, and that  for you should check out our other blogpost here about their latest album “Wild & Wicked Youth” here. Take a look at Kim Lowings and the Greenwood’s site here.

Kirsty Merryn

Kirsty Merryn was a very welcome addition.

Recently basking in the sunshine from her debut album “She & I” (it is very, very good) she had a chance to perform in Derby Cathedral to an attentive audience. Performing her numbers solo without band accompaniment, Merryn brought a touch of class. At one point she was brought a bouquet of flowers (this has happened a lot while we have been on the road recently), adding even more colour to her flourishing, piano led set. Some songs she shared included ghostly tale “Without Grace” about Grace and William Darling and a tall lighthouse, “The Birds of May” had a strong stillness to it’s sound, like a pagoda next to a small pond of bright koi. This was a general theme and feeling throughout the set; Merryn provokes with a powerful front and a quiet strength that shatters aggravating noises around. She is a fantastic role model in this regard that men and women could look to equally. She also previewed a love song to the sea that she was working on which was exciting to hear. Usually she is the support for Show of Hands, and in a way she is a perfect foil to their louder more anthem-fuelled sounds. They both share a sense of wonder in people and musically approach their reflections on them from different angles.

Like Kim Edgar but earlier in furrowing her own path, Kirsty Merryn is on an upward trajectory. Check out the video below, her website here and keep tuning in for more writing about her in the near future.

Oka Vanga

Oka Vanga are another group for which we have been acquainted with for a while. We reviewed their latest album, “Dance of the Copper Trail” and found it, “An incredibly listenable album that is tightly managed and has a pretty rich, consistent sound” here, Suffice to say they did not disappoint in person either. Playing some material from their EP, as well as some other acoustic wonders (bolstered by some great double bass) like “The Devil’s Tide,” an exciting, interesting song about a female pirate.

Hosted by live music aficionados, “Village Folk.” they brought a Western charm with their tales of birds, trains and magical trees. The set was punctuated by a heartfelt and warm few songs by Dave Sudbury. He sang “The King of Rome”, and we cried a lot. Fantastic to see him and the friendly reception that he got with the generous applause and acknowledgement. Here is Oka Vanga’s website.

There were many big names at Derby too including  Show of Hands, Oysterband, Roberts & Lakeman, and Leveret too which were fabulous to hear while we were moving from place to place. The schedule is enormous, detailed and leaves you with choices to make but in the best possible way.

“Derby Folk is good value, convenient and friendly with good systems for putting the audience close up to both big and upcoming stars of the folk and roots circuit.”


This trend of encouraging this myriad of folk names continues for 2018 as some due to be attending include: Lady Maisery, Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys and many, many more. The tickets are available here and more information about the Festival as a whole here,

This coming year the festival will be running from 4-7 October 2018.

There will be an extra concert on the Thursday compared to previous years (see the site for details). 




Acoustic Gigs Historical

Hannah Martin & Phillip Henry – Music in the Dark – Derby Gaol 11th May 2017

As part of their “Out of the Ordinary Tour”, Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry are bringing their particular brand of folk to the unusual, historical and downright spooky buildings of the UK. At this leg of the tour I have managed to catch them as they arrive at Derby Gaol; a working, historical museum. From the outside looks like a kind of medieval fort, inside a dungeon shrouded in darkness, the walk up is particularly interesting as in the groups there is a collection of equipment both of execution and pain. It is usually host to it’s own brand of entertainment in the city but for this night only it hosts the aforementioned duo famous for winning a Radio 2’s folk award for “Best Duo” in 2014, playing a show at the Royal Albert Hall (with Show of Hands in 2012) and with producing an array of well-received albums through the years. It is a nice touch to add a bigger air of wonder to your works by performing in these spaces, it brings the history of folk music a little closer to now.

The gaol has been bought by a paranormal investigator and  ghost hunter (Richard Fenix) and has hosted a number of local folk nights over the years, perhaps on a quiet night when the air is still and the crows at bay, you can hear the rattle of chains and the anguish of a musician trying to tune his banjo in the dark. As the shady door-keep eyes the customers coming in he carefully opens bottles of Hobgoblin Gold to pass onward as we sit at tables with themed Gothic candle holders, a skeletons hand held upwards. Guitars are lined up monstrously next to dark figures down the dimly lit corridor, one cannot tell if it is a singer or a prop? The ambience is startling. As everyone is seated we find the duo arrive under the cover of half darkness; we huddle near the coal fire making the night even more special as it spits large chunks of coal and ash against the fire guard throughout the set.

Fans of Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry will attest that I would not have needed any sorcery to appreciate and understand their songs from history, though many of those subjects do touch on the dark and seething underbelly of humanity (some fine folk staples). A combination of interesting instrument setups and changes, and the duo’s crystal-like vocals ensure that there is something quite interesting to hear and with  a nice degree of variety.

Prior to this show I had only caught snippets of their pretty extensive work even with my best listening efforts, for someone like me “Out of the Ordinary” is the kind of tour that appears to be the “best of” tour in that it covers a lot of ground and is a fantastic catch up. Acolytes of the pair will also appreciate  a reasonable amount of new tunes (maybe 3-4) in the set that they are taking out into the dark (around 2-4 songs). So by all means, their best work is not behind them.

So there is a great mix of older works and newer tunes. “The Last Broadcast” was a lap guitar garden dance in paradise. Following on from Henry’s wry consideration of the number of strings and exactly how many of them would be precisely tuned for the occasion we get a more upbeat numbers. It takes it’s time, waving Asian silks as it goes, showing Henry’s early musical influences in India to their best. For this song it is more a dungeon in Delhi than Derby, but it is excellent stuff. Also there’s the expansive and dynamic reworking of a Morris track, “The Cuckoos Nest” (they figure it could no longer be a Morris track as it had been slowed down a fair bit) leading into “Old Adam The Poacher.” Some lovely vocals alongside guitar and banjo accompaniment, if it is indeed a Morris track putting on the brakes has allowed it’s more winding, evocative nature to come out.

As mentioned, the gig is a good opportunity to catch some newer tracks in development for their next album “EdgeLarks”. “Signpost” was an interesting one. Written in Tasmania by Hannah Martin it highlights the worst pangs of homesickness while you are awash with the blues, “15 miles from paradise… 95 miles from nowhere else.” Looking at the kindness of strangers and losing oneself in a strange place, it is good modern fodder for a folk inspection. “Albatross” is a special track too. Described as a “happy” track, maybe a bright and tangy pickle within a cheese sandwich of cheese, “Albatross” is the duo’s self-proclaimed revival song they penned to explain the endangered nature of these birds (and also folk musicians!).  Martin’s voice is a deep, hushed and undulating song that revels in it’s gentleness, “may the winds of the earth, guide your little boat.” A ditty that smells of fresh breeze and sea salt, it has an understated starkness, so if you like that kind of thing and you like your folk to revealed by the bright, bright sun; this song is for you. This track is available exclusive downloadable number, I find it nestled in the folds of the incredibly practical tea-towel they have for selling.

Proficient with multiple guitar, banjo, fiddle and voice; the biggest surprise was probably the foot-operated shruti box and also the performance of “Train; I wanna boogie.” It’s extensively layered time keeping with the beat, and quick pace is an explosion on the harmonica. I have heard songs in different sets that try to recreate the train experience (off the top of my head, “Steamchicken” do this) but very few capture the subtle intonations of the steam train, it’s moving wheels and the klaxon. I’m still not quite sure how Phillip Henry does it, I did not really get a view of him playing the harmonica so for all I know there might have been an actual train on the stage behind that pillar! As with the venue, some things are better kept as mysteries!

An interesting evening and a good showcase of work to date, performances in these places of dark history do get the mind turning and throw in another element to music; it enhances an already selection of songs. Hannah and Phillip share a strength of purpose, some really discerning lyrics and sharp vocals as well as an army of instruments that change throughout the set. An enjoyable evening, a nice idea, head along if they are touring near you.

To check out the spooky locations of their music, check out the website here. There are still a few dates left and a library tour after that.




Festival PR

Hebden Folk Roots Festival – 2017: 12-14 May



How are things going with everyone?

Things are going splendidly well here in Sheffield. The sun hasn’t fully retreated, life is certainly stirring and festival season is well and truly kicking off.

I wanted to write something  to make you aware of a festival, this  weekend coming (12-14 May) in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

I will be in attendance at Hebden Folk Roots Festival. Surely “Folk and Roots” is a better turn of phrase you ask?

No.”Folk Roots” makes sense and I will tell you why.

In it’s third year, Hebden Bridge opens it’s doors (quite literally the whole town’s pubs and venues are getting involved) to host a number of artists from across the Folk, Acoustic and Roots musical spectrum. To call it “Folk and Roots” would firstly miss the full range of what’s on offer with all the musicians in between (also playing Americana, BlueGrass, Swing- you name it) , and secondly it wouldn’t do justice to the sheer volume of singers, storytellers and workshops that are being wonderfully crammed into a lovely, cultural hotspot (I’m thinking recently of Happy Valley as well as older influences on Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes).

What am I excited for?


Well there are a large number of well-known artists lending their talents to this growing festival. BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Nominees O’Hooley & Tidow be making an appearance, Sparkly and Rootsy Jess Morgan and the Light Band be there riding the crest of their last release “Edison Gloriette” (which I helped crowdfund), and bluegrass heavyweights The Kentucky Cow Tippers also be grazing on the positive vibes in Hebden Bridge.

As mentioned, there is music for everyone. What am I looking forward to in particular?


As a fan of all things folky and with a keen eye for relatively new performers who are shaping the scene “Bric-a-Brac” with Bella Gaffney is a strong contender for  a group whose set I am hoping to mosey on down to. Having performed at Beverley Folk Festival in the past, they converge from the Midlands and head upwards to delight curt Yorkshiremen and women alike. Looking at their clips from previous performances, I can see energy and enthusiasm and a great double whammy of traditional and modern. Their website is here, see below for a clip.

Plum Hall

Having gained the watchful eye of R2 Magazine and Steve Knightley; Plum Hall are an intriguing duo to consider. Looking at some of their previous performances (clip below from Moonbeams Festival where they cover “All I have To Do Is Dream”) I am feeling it will be a warm, rather inclusive atmosphere they will bring to Hebden Bridge. Will there be a log fire and will there be lots of ale? Probably, and the time goes swimmingly when there are good tunes to be heard.

Debs Newbold

I am somewhat envious of storytellers. They look cool, they have interesting tales to tell and they bring a certain air of enchantment wherever they go. I am envious in particular because often they make it look easy (and I know it’s not). From what I can tell, Debs Newbold has gathered much acclaim from her work. Like a shell collector who unearths known beautiful objects she thus arranges these known wonders (Macbeth, King Lear) and some original works and sells out vast, opulent rooms full of people (including at Hay Festival). Not only this there is some prestige here, she is also an education consultant for Shakespeare’s Globe after all and was ranked one of the top five acts of Towersley Festival. Why would I want to see the cat, when I can see the cream that the cat desires? Does that make sense? No, but this promises to be a good show.


Ghost Walk: ‘Beyond the Veil of Calderdale’

Ghost walks are the best. Be it the quiet considered ramble through the cobblestone streets in York (where you often end up in a spooky pub at the end) or the father metropolitan, youthful and nerve wracking experience of a student ghost walk in Edinburgh (where you get things thrown at you and student actors jumping out of bins when you least expect); there is indeed something for everyone. I love connecting with a place with history and where myth and superstition overlap. I wonder if there will be a Thriller Dance to be had alongside the jigs and Morris there will be there?

A very small sample indeed of the kinds of things happening. There are no end of other genres being covered including Rockabilly, Klemer, Swing, Barbershop.. check out the artist page

There are also Singing Workshops, a huge number of Dance Workshops and even a Clown Workshop (I am afraid of clowns but this guy seems nice!) 

Striving to keep a lot local and celebrate this area, I think the curator for HEBDEN BRIDGE FOLK ROOTS, Brian Toberman  sums it up best:

 “The committee has created a festival, I as a musician would love to be at, we are lucky to have the amazing talent on our doorstep. The Hebden Folk Roots Festival brings people and music together and celebrates our local community, it is always good to give something back to our lovely town and bring a smile to people’s faces. We work closely with all local people, musicians and businesses to create a people’s festival.”  


It will be good to see you there! There are a lot of venues, a lot of spaces and an awful lot of musical acts. It’s child-friendly too and promises to be a compelling weekend.

I will be there for the full weekend, if you see me there give me a shout and lets compare notes on what is happening!

I will also be providing shoutouts, and reminders about events and artists who are appearing, so follow me @folkphenomena on Twitter so you know who is on, playing what, where and when.

Go the website for details on pricing, accommodation and the possibility of camping.

Hope to see you this weekend!


Folk Music Gigs

Steamchicken @ The Bury Met – 11 Mar – Album Launch

Steamchicken is a universally fun and energetic band boasting shamelessly soulful vocals and a catchy, booming brass-line.

Chocks away!

Somewhere between a smoky jazz outfit and a blues brass extravaganza, “Steamchicken” are a group who set out to entertain, and do so in spades. Much like the wise, old traveller from a Western or the steely glare of a a wizened sensei in a martial arts movie, it feels very much like the band has seen and experienced a lot; their music reflects a fusion of life experiences, musical history and stage presence. As a result it’s very hard to dislike the work they are doing here and there is a lot of widespread appeal. Comprised of a huge roster (or is that rooster?) Ted Crum (Harmonica, Bass, Melodeon), Andrew Sharpe (Piano), Joe Crum (Percussion), Mandy Sutton (Tenor Sax), Becky Eden-Green (Alto Sax, Bass), Katy Oliver (Trumpet), Matt Crum (Soprano Sax, Melodeon) and Amy Kakoura (Vocals) it is clear there is a large brass influence to the mix, (which I love to bits). It also means that there should a bit of instrumentation for everyone (though maybe not shruti box enthusiasts). The addition of Amy Kakoura’s voice is like the aroma of flowers in a beautiful display collection that draws the crowd in and fitting along the steely harmonica and chasing piano quite nicely.

It is always a pleasure to see the chickens in action, and on this day they certainly were poultry with a purpose. “Steamchicken” come to the Bury Met to perform in the smaller space at the venue; not quite the scene from a New Orleans club basement (the seats are too comfy for example) but certainly an event and show with energy, pizzazz and a rather enviable lineup of songs to influence and entertain. It is an intimate space and like the friend you knew at school that smoked menthol cigarettes in the rain, it is rather a cool companion to the larger concert room upstairs; it felt like hanging out in the world’s best basement conversion with friends as you set the worlds to rights. On this day it was the album launch for their latest collection called, “Look Both Ways”, sensible advice for chickens and humans alike.


One of the joys with the group is that they tread not too softly upon a number of genres and gladly share in the fun with the audience. On entry to the gig, Steamchicken gave out a number of stickers (some were left pointing, others right pointing). This was not obviously apparent but whichever way you pointed (ooh err) had a bearing on how you participated in one of the songs, either as the train klaxon or some wheels rollin’ on down the track. Lets say I rolled alongside a lot of others, fun was had all round and we certainly were getting somewhere. From their years doing ceilidh and previous band reforging with Amy Kakoura, they are definitely ploughing ahead. It was a fun show, it really doesn’t take an over imagination to work out that they would fit well at a number of folk festivals. What of the music they played on the evening?

Their songs ranged from folkier numbers to full blown blues and jazz, an instrumental number and doses of the musical influences for ska. Whilst showcasing some tracks from the new album there were some numbers drawn from the band’s previous works too. Of the folkier stuff they tackle there is the folk classic “The Oak and the Ash” with some wonderfully sad piano with a voice like an expressive vine wrapped around a tree, a tightening and heart tugging presentation. From the new album, “Big Tin Horn” is a further example of them working with a sound that crosses genres. Somewhat a folk shanty, somewhat swing and also ska/jazz backing it reminds just how fun music can be. Like the friend who is centre of attention at a gathering who also drags up the mood, the energy; it is breathless, the gentle breeze and sun of Spring. The brass takes on a life of it’s own and the nautical interludes are truly exquisite, “dance to the rhythm of the marching band, dance to the coming of the dawn” (probably my favourite track from the new album). “Mary and the Soldier” was another track from the new album, one of most expressively old-world numbers sounding like it is running through a forest of expressive accordion and deep, longing song (a song Dylan and others had recorded in the past). The most committed song to the idea of folk on the album, it is folky jazz at it’s best; if they were children stealing biscuits from the biscuit barrel they would leave no trace, likewise here folk is combined with their jazz instrument leanings in a seamless way.


Another track  “Jericho” is something else altogether though exactly as you would imagine with a hallowed call, soulful wall shattering melody from the brass and Old Testament name dropping, “Joshua”, “King Saul” and all the other big names from the time and place. War-like in tempo it is the heavy cavalry within a medieval army, especially so as other artists with songs that call upon this event from the Bible (K.D. Lang, Hilary Duff, Kelly Oliver just for starters) take either a more oblique, saccharine or personal narrative approach to the imagery (in that order). Steamchicken’s take was kind of “in your face”, a confident cousin telling you to take the risk to swing across a stream on a rope or the artillery firing in a Napoleonic regiment. “Western Approaches” remains a favourite, transplanting you from the certainty of things to a storm brewing on the open sea and the quickening of pace. Starting in a swing fashion, the drums call out the certainty and ebbing of the sea; then as it progresses the band blows left and the band blows right, as it takes off and picks up pace. It certainly brings the adventure of sailing forward and revels in the joys and fears of this ancient pastime and trade.

The band have put in a scattering of covers to their new album, they all fit remarkably well though and their spin on things are always interesting and add something to the track. “When I get Low, I get High” is a streetwise, urban rumble of a song, a mindful cover to include on the new album. Though a cover of a 30’s track, it does do it’s own thing and their performance showed a smoldering Amy Kakoura. It is high kicking, it growls and pounds the burning sidewalks with it’s presence, and whilst it isn’t Ella Fitzgerald’s signature bite, Kakoura’s voice reaches around and brings a class of it’s own, “My man walked out, now you know that ain’t right, well he’d better watch out if I meet him tonight.” If you wanted a snapshot of Kakoura’s versatility in soulful voice, this might be the track that you go to first. Quite possibly a monumental influence for the band name, “Ain’t Nobody here but us Chickens” is one their finishers, a swing mainstay of a song and an indicator of their vintage soul their cover is up there with the best (and their chicken impression is one of the best I’ve ever heard).

A fun evening for all really. There are always several head nods to yesteryear but the band themselves carry a fresh, vibrant strength of voice and backing. There is a lot of variety here, a very good fit in musicians and throughout the set several “spotlight” moments where an “old time” glamour is presented on stage and you lose a little sense of the present. A great venue, a great band, a great night (for everyone).

Steamchicken’s new album “Look Both Ways” (released on 10th Feb 2017) can be bought here and they are doing a few dates later in the year (check here)