Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Well I wasn’t originally going to review this show, feeling it might prove even a bit too niche for the AW f***ies, few as we seem to be. But I couldn’t let it lie, not after listening to their superb and imaginatively titled 3rd album, III, purchased for a princely tenner at the gig. So peel back your senses or pass on the other side, oblivious in your ignorance.
I first came across two of this trio, Tom Moore and Archie Churchill-Moss, fiddle and melodeon respectively, a year ago, they being (new) members of Jim Moray’s False Lights, reviewed here a year ago. (Look it up!) Some years before, in 2011, in conjunction with Jack Rutter, they had won the 2011 Folk on 2 Young Artists of the Year, producing a couple of well received albums, I and II, before diversifying into other work, both musical and breadwinning alike. Now they are back in this original format, still looking improbably young to my ancient eyes.
So to the concert. The Kitchen Garden Cafe is tiny, seats crammed into the tiny space, ahead of a small ground level stage area. Tonight, in honour of the trickle of erudite punters, tables had been dotted about the space, allowing great relative comfort for the 30 odd stalwarts present. Bang on 8 and ambled on the 3, perhaps unsurprised by the paucity of the audience, relishing the opportunity to play entirely without any amplification at all. Sitting down to boot. And play they did. Straight in with the lead track from the album, the weaving interplay between the 3 instruments almost psychic. Predominantly instrumental, this is complex and almost orchestral music, akin much more to some of the neo-classical mob than to any leaden folk-rockers. Whilst the melodeon and fiddle do most of the heavy lifting, guitarist Rutter is no mere accompanist, providing both rhythm and melodic counterpoints, sometimes the 3 instruments all playing different descants and melodies around the main themes. Mostly written by Moore and Moss, a smattering also of traditional pieces were presented and a bit of Henry Purcell, so beloved of the shawm and crumhorn era Albion Bands. The joy they share is empathic, grinning and egging each other on. Moss seems the boss, sat centrally, from time to time peering down earnestly at his compadres hand movements, as if checking they are making he right chords, ahead of veering off into a reverie of his own. Stick thin, hair in a lose bun, he was actually raised in Glastonbury, all appearances being of hand knitted vegan stock. Moore, on fiddle, altogether stockier, with long hair, pushed behind the ears, circa 1970. Rutter, meanwhile seems happier image free, wind tunnel/hair willing, providing also the only down point of the show, namely the two vocal interludes. “Who fancies singing a chorus…….” I know the tradition demands a rustic and nasal timbre but, c’mon, guys, you’re better than this, even if we, the audience, gamely tried to provide. Or made it look we were.
Two sets, each about 40 minutes, the intermission stretching equivalently as too many old chums had rolled up mid show and got them talking.
The CD did not disappoint. It does not disappoint. All the tunes had been played as well live and so were comparable and remembered. No vocals on the recording, hooray, unlike I and II, perhaps a sound move. This shouldn’t be confined to a silo of single genre folk music, this is simply expert instrumental prowess, tunes that uplift and tunes that make you ponder. If Leveret up your street, or Spiro, two other exemplary acoustic bands, these guys are for you.
Well, all older than the band, naturally, but some as young as late 30s gave me hope for the future of folk music……
It made me think..
Nowt more electric than an acoustic band.