Our Christmas Concert has been a staple in the diaries of local music lovers for many-a-year, with a series of memorable events since our formation almost eight years ago, and this year promises to continue that tradition with a visit from a bonafide folk “supergroup”.
Now in its seventh year, A WINTER UNION is a festive folk band like no other. From five leading lights of the British folk and roots scene, gig-goers can expect soaring vocals and exquisite musicianship as the band delight with a repertoire of folk songs from across the yuletide traditions. Glorious wassails, fresh arrangements of traditional carols both well-loved and little-known, and original songs heralding the joys of the season.
HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts (three times BBC Folk Award nominees GILMORE & ROBERTS) and Jade Rhiannon (THE WILLOWS) are excited to roll out their stunning festive show. These songs are stirred together with such beautiful 5-part harmonies, accompanied by dobro, fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, guitars a-plenty and a shruti box thrown in for good measure.
The five-piece will be joined on the bill by folk singer-songwriter LIZZY HARDINGHAM, who has long been on the radar of our committee after a breakthrough year or two.
A South-East based folk musician and songstress, Lizzy is paving her way as a powerhouse performer with "beautifully delivered songs that sing straight to the heart". 2019 saw her storm the UK folk club and festival scene, including Cambridge Folk Festival, while in 2020 she captivated online audiences with "a voice that could fill a stadium and the sensitivity to bring a room to attentive silence". Having been nominated for FATEA's coveted Female Artist of The Year, Lizzy is currently being mentored by the English Folk Expo and working on "firmly nailing her place as one of the rising stars of the folk scene”.
Her debut album Dusk is "an incredibly strong, top drawer album that packs a punch with every song”.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 17th December 2021, are available online at www.downendfolkclub.com and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £15 each in advance or £17 on the door. There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. and cakes from Radstock's THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, run by our former sound engineer Chris Webster! You are encouraged to bring you own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. There is now a 50p discount for those bringing their own receptacles. There may be mulled wine and mince pies… watch this space!
Before the show began, the queue wound its way through the graveyard of Christ Church Downend. A decent amount of people still masked and keeping a polite distance. One woman turned to another and asked "have you read Where the Crawdads Sing yet?". The utterly delightful CARRIVICK SISTERS hadn't so much as plucked a string yet here were all of themes you needed. Right there: lost America, a love of the natural world, a bit of heartbreak, the merest smattering of death, delivered in the most perfect English stylings you're likely to see.
And so it proved. Twins Laura and Charlotte Carrivick have been playing their folk inflected bluegrass for over ten years. Six albums in, and they are insanely brilliant, full of love and longing. Just about as lovely as anything that Downend Folk Club has ever seen.
In proper bluegrass style, the sisters stand around a grand, single microphone, stepping forward when required, then falling back to harmonise and join seamlessly together. Banjo and fiddle or mandolin or guitar perfectly compliment Laura's voice as she tenderly relays old-timey standards and is-this-an-old-one new ones. Her voice is timeless; pure and simple, heartfelt and road-weary. When she sings, suburban Bristol falls away and vast American vistas can be seen in its place. Dusty highways and dustier saloon bars replace the pews and craft beer; she takes us somewhere else entirely.
All the more remarkable really because her sister, Charlotte, is practically out of action, a cold reducing her normal voice to a husky, backing vocal croak. She makes do by throwing extravagant rock star shapes whilst thrashing her mandolin instead. Or constructing clever, lightning fast guitar runs. The sisters laugh, re-start songs, swap instruments, talk over one another, tell rambling stories about over-wintering hedgehogs, laugh again and, pretty obviously, have the best of times.
With Charlotte's voice betraying her, the set is carefully curated to allow Laura to sing everything instead. Songs from their other bands - Midnight Skyracer and Cardboard Fox - are dusted off, old tunes are played with joyful abandon and a selection of covers show just how superb these two are.
If you're going to play bluegrass two of the touchstones are Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. In their first set of the evening, The Carrivick Sisters play Emmylou's One of These Days and both Annabelle and Dear Someone by Welch. All three are perfect. Add a dash of Buck Owens, some glorious fiddle playing, and there's no doubt that, even with one vocalist, The Carrivick Sisters are as authentic a bluegrass band as any from Devon could possibly be.
In a set of highlights, the cowboy swing of I Love You Honey zips along, bouncing jauntily, whilst If You Asked Me is a love song for those that don't want mushy romance. Breathtaking tunes Crate 223 and Making Horses have toes tapping, and a Dobro-drenched version of Midnight Skyracer's Virginia Rose is all virtuosity, good-natured humour and an abundance of brilliance.
Before that, THE LAST INKLINGS play a short, five song set. As befits a band who made up, in part, the fantastic Kadia, they intricately weave a spectral atmosphere with a cello and mandolin. Beautiful harmonies tell complicated folk tales of car crashes, hauntings and the last lullaby. Leonardo Mackenzie's cello is utterly lush; not "Bristol lush" but properly lush; deep and pastoral. Why don't more folk bands use it? In a twinkling they disappear, leaving only the ghost of their delicate songs.
If the woman in the graveyard ever does read Where the Crawdads Sing, she’ll find a story of beautiful Americana where adversity is overcome and the whole thing ends in pure delight. Quite similar to this evening really.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Barry Savell
A special evening awaits the audience at Downend Folk Club this month as they are treated to a visit from one of the UK's top bluegrass and folk acts, THE CARRIVICK SISTERS.
Twins Laura and Charlotte perform their original songs and instrumentals along with a few carefully chosen covers on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, and clawhammer banjo. Their busy touring schedule is rapidly building them a reputation for engaging and entertaining live performances with tight sibling vocal harmonies and multi-instrumental virtuosity. Having grown up in South Devon, an area rich in folk lore and legends, much of their original material is inspired by their local surroundings and history.
As well as touring all over the UK, The Carrivick Sisters have performed at major festivals in Canada and mainland Europe. They have released five studio albums to much critical acclaim and airplay worldwide. Their sixth album, 10 Years Live, was recorded in front of an audience and is a 10 year retrospective and celebration, with half of the album being old favourites chosen by fans and the other half previously unrecorded material.
The Carrivick Sisters first started performing as a duo in 2006, originally as buskers before starting to play more and more proper gigs, turning professional when they left school in 2007. In 2007 they won the South West Busker’s and Street Entertainer’s Competition, gaining themselves their first spot at Glastonbury Festival.
Laura and Charlotte will be joined on the bill by fast-rising duo THE LAST INKLINGS, who will get the evening underway with a short set. The Last Inklings are Leonardo MacKenzie and David Hoyland, formerly of Kadia; both are accomplished multi-instrumentalists with a solid folk background. The band's innovative sound crosses genres, centred around cello, mandolin and vocal harmony, layered with guitar, piano, strings, synths and percussion. With vibrant backstories and creative musicianship, their songs have a modern flavour that is rich with imagery and narrative, exploring at their core what it is to be human.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 19th November 2021, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend. They are priced at £15 each and must be purchased in advance. There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of our drive to be more environmentally aware. There is now a 50p discount for those bringing their own receptacles.
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