The word 'suthering' means 'the sound of the wind through the trees', apparently. On the day that Storm Eunice battered her way through the country, there could have been no more appropriate band to headline our February show.
Indeed, at various times throughout the day, it looked as though SUTHERING might not make it. Julu Irvine and Heg Brignall, who make up the duo, moved to Devon from Bristol just before the March 2020 lockdown, and their corner of the world took a good bit of Eunice’s brunt. And then there was the milk lorry that overturned on the M5.
But make it they did, and the sizeable audience were glad that they did. Joined by Olivia Dunn on violin and Sarah Ricketts on double-bass, the duo were here to launch their debut album If We Turn Away into the world.
As the audience descended into an expectant hush after a rapturous, almost raucous, welcome Julu and Heg took them on a journey filled with tales both true and mythical… stories of the fantastic and the everyday.
Partners in life as well as in music, the chemistry between the pair was obvious from the first number, Blood and Gold, delivered unplugged and a cappella from the front of the stage. Their voices intertwining together with delicious crunchy harmonies a plenty, Julu and Heg showed that they are right up there with some of the very best singers treading boards of the folk clubs and arts centres at the moment. Each of them are great singers, but it’s when they sing together that the magic happens.
It’s not only the voices, though, as Julu (flute and guitar) and Heg (piano) demonstrate what fine instrumentalists they are too, as do the band that they’ve brought to accompany them. It’s a dream come true, they tell us, to have their own 'girl-band', and their sense of excitement is palpable.
The songs themselves are of an exceptionally high quality. Stand-outs include the first two singles from the album; Gather came to the pair when they were going through a dry songwriting patch after they’d first relocated, and speaks of attempting to overcome that sense of displacement, while Kingfisher is an ode to the bird that they’d spot during long lockdown walks and became sign of hope. But each and every song is a lovely thing. Don’t take our word for it, get a copy of the album!
Before Suthering took to the stage, the Downend crowd were treated to a glimpse of another rising star… and what an impression he made! DOM PRAG is about to launch a debut album of his own, Needle & Thread, and it’s another one that’s definitely worth getting hold of.
Dom’s short set included mostly traditional songs, with Oakey Strike Evictions a particular stand-out which brought whoops from the crowd, along with a self-penned song, Come All You Fine Young People and a nice take on Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, and prompted many of the folk club regulars to remark that he is the best support artist they’d ever seen in the club’s almost eight year history… quite an accolade and one that surely means that Dom will return for a headline show of his own in the not too distant future.
So, Eunice howled outside and battered the doors of the church, but try as she might she could not put a stop to the beautiful things happening within its walls.
Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Barry Savell
A very special evening indeed awaits South Gloucestershire’s music-lovers as one of the country’s most highly-rated emerging folk duos launch their debut album at the award-winning club this month.
SUTHERING (which means "the sound of the wind through the trees or wind under a birds wing”) combines the musical talents of Julu Irvine and Heg Brignall. A couple in life and in music, the duo have taken the folk scene by storm with their unusual and fresh approach to folk. Julu and Heg are true story-tellers who champion female characters, creating new narratives for women and unearthing the female heroines of folk.
What sets them apart is their wonderful chemistry and charisma on stage, natural humour and two beautifully matched voices. With an unusual mix of cascading, dramatic piano; intricate, fingerstyle guitar; flute, whistles and harmonium, Julu and Heg bring an exciting take on folk storytelling with their evocative and distinctive sound. Their arresting a cappella arrangements have been memorable favourites with audiences.
Their debut album If We Turn Away explores themes of community, connection, environment and conscience is very much a reflection of the times we are living in and has been influenced by the duo’s experiences during the pandemic. Each song is carefully crafted and arranged, telling tales of struggle and triumph against all odds; from both their own lives and from stories they have found. The album is a tonic for the divisive times we are living through. “We’re searching for light in this long, cold winter” sings the chorus of the first single Gather, which is an offering of strength and hope and is accompanied by a beautiful video filmed on Dartmoor.
Julu and Heg will be joined by Olivia Dunn on violin and Sarah Rickets on double-bass, the launch gig being the only opportunity to see this expanded lineup on their tour. The evening’s entertainment will get underway with a short set from DOM PRAG, whose music knits together British and European folk tradition, classical guitar, mining songs, unaccompanied singing, poems set to music (e.g. Keats, Larkin), compositions influenced by Schubert and Shostakovich, bluesy riffs and raw vocals.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 18th February 2022, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based HOP UNION BREWERY (formerly GWB). Audience members are encouraged to bring their 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 a 50p discount for those bringing their own receptacles. We will also have fantastic cakes available on the bar, courtesy of THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, the Radstock-based company fronted by our happily-retired former sound engineer Chris Webster.
"What about a little drop o’ cider," sings the lone performer on Downend Folk Club’s stage this month, "just to warm the cockles of your heart.”
It’s freezing outside, probably the coldest day of this chilly January so far. The MC reveals in his welcome that his boiler at home has broken down, and there’s collective empathy because it's bitter out, really cold.
But, in here, wrapped in the cosy warmth of Christ Church Downend for the first time in 2022, there are no such issues. Warmth is all around and, whilst there is cider (and lovely local real ale) available at the bar, that’s not the main cause of this warmth. Most of it exudes from JIM CAUSLEY.
It’s Jim’s second visit to the popular concert series, his first coming back in 2018, and he has lost none of his charm. A warmer, more engaging personality on-stage you’d struggle to find. Jim’s repartee is superb, packed with wit, quip and wisecrack. He immediately puts you at your ease, it’s like having a bit of good-natured banter with a friend. There are tales of Devon, stories from the Cornish tin mines and, perhaps most entertainingly, that one about when Jim was invited on Countryfile to play Pride of Devon and celebrated the occasion by stepping on, and completely destroying, John Craven’s spectacles.
But, whilst his stage presence is perhaps amongst the very best of those treading the boards of the folk circuit today, it’s the musicianship and the voice that really set Jim apart. Mojo Magazine once called Jim, "… the finest singer of his generation" and, whilst there’s more to that story than there might at first appear (I’ll not spoil it here, go and see a Jim Causley gig to find out!), it’s still very easy to see why they said that. Jim has a lovely, resonant baritone voice with just the right amount of a West Country twang. He accompanies himself on accordion and piano and is clearly a master of both.
His set is varied and well-chose, including a good number of songs that began life as poems, written by his relative, the celebrated poet Charles Causley. Jim has made a couple of albums of these poems set to song, and this evening he wheels out the highlights, which include My Young Man’s A Cornishman, Angel Hill and I Am The Song, which Jim uses for a well-deserved encore and has the audience singing along with gusto.
There are West Country classics a-plenty, too, including a nice medley of The Blue Flame and Queen of Hearts, as well as Childe the Hunter and the aforementioned What About a Little Drop o’ Cider?, all taken from Jim’s latest, self-recorded lockdown offering, Devonshire Roses. Alongside a couple of self-penned numbers, notably Home, which touches on the trauma of moving house, and nice versions of Ralph McTell’s Barges and Annie DiFranco’s Your Next Bold Move, there’s something for everyone… Jim Causley really is an all-round entertainer.
Before all this loveliness, there’s a very promising selection from the fast-emerging KATIE GRACE HARRIS. Katie has popped over from her home in rural Oxfordshire to get proceedings underway, and she’s brought her cellist, Andy Nice, with her. Another who uses piano and accordion to showcase her voice, Katie provides the perfect warm-up as people come in from the cold. Hard Times and Rio Grande both stand out, the set goes by too quickly and it’s easy to see why Katie has been turning heads.
So, on a cold, cold night, South Gloucestershire’s music lovers were sent away with a lovely warm glow. Let’s hope it was enough to keep the MC warm throughout the night...
Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Barry Savell
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