Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, B’ham
Second milestone as Covid becomes the normal: first outdoor festival a fortnight ago and this first indoor gig. Long time coming, mind, with at least two earlier postponements over the last year and a half, so much so that I bought my ticket twice, a year apart, forgetting the earlier purchase. Luckily @stevet took up the offer of a freebie, and, given the new regs, we were in the right place as the door opened to grab prime front row seats.
Not a firm of dour Scottish solicitors, Drever, McCusker and Woomble are what might be called an indie-folk supergroup, reprising their sole album, 2008’s ‘Before the Ruin’. Who they? Kris Drever is the guitarist and singer of Lau, John McCusker the fiddle maestro currently earning his main crust with Mark Knopfler and Roddy Woomble the singer with Idlewild, and the writer of gloriously maudlin and morose fare. This was, to all intents and purposes, their first gig since Cov Zero, with any warm-up jinxed by their nine hour drive down from Edinburgh.
Kicking straight off with four songs from Before the Ruin, it was apparent immediately there were four of them, the fourth musician on harmonium and backing vocals. McCusker very much the man in control, with a self- and band mate deprecating sense of humour, his fiddle sang around the more solemn intonations of Woomble, the singer lurking in the shadows at the back of the stage, hand in pocket, beanie on head, seemingly a reluctant frontman. Drever, standing and with, unusually, an electric guitar, strummed and picked counterpoints and added his harmony vocals, his voice quite the contrast to Woomble. The tunes and constructions are solid and imbue a sense of hebridean landscapes, but shorn of any overt folk fiddle-dee-dee, more of a subtle inflection.
Moving away from their album, Woomble then sang the title track from his solo album of much the same period, My Secret is My Silence, that song alone cementing the worth of the evening, before melting into the background. This allowed Drever to sing one of his songs, to McCusker’s sympathetic backing. Unsurprisingly, this left McCusker to play some of his tunes, which meant the introduction of the female at the back of the stage. She turned out to be Helen McCabe, an Irish fiddler, if also adept on her other instruments. Twin fiddles and the exemplary rhythmic play of Drever meant for a somewhat awestruck audience.
The rast of the show continued with the quartet sparring between their own back-catalogues and new stuff, an Idlewild song, benefitting from the acoustic arrangement, a couple of new Drever songs and a delightful paired set of tunes, led by McCusker but written by McCabe. Utilising the old chestnut of announcing the encore in advance, so as to avoid the embarrassing wait in the corridor by the gents toilet, they played the final two songs, returning to the Before the Ruin rationale for the tour. All too soon, a set, I suspect, curtailed by their late arrival and the venue having a later show, of Lord knows what, in the same room. All in all, a great show that gave further confidence back to me, and that live music was still in good nick. I think and hope @stevet left a convert to the distinctive tones of the three main proponents.
Such is the taint of ‘folk’, an older audience, I suspect few there much younger than the trio, each of these relative veterans still only in their 40s. The odd Idlewild t-shirt, perhaps hoping for less fiddle, maybe not. A fair number of masks on, noting also that the band members were emphatically masked when not playing: having had 18/12 unpaid furlough, they were taking no chances of a ping.
It made me think..
Jings, I love live music.
(And, it was good to know that my double-buying was not unique, me going home with a copy of the Jason Isbell/Mike Cooley/Patterson Hood live album, 2stevet having mistakenly ordered it from two different platforms. That was reassuring……..)