Lady Maisery in dub?
Not really, but Lady Maisery deep in a glorious well of bottomless, mile-wide reverb?
Last night we drove into Bristol for the opening gig of the Bristol Folk Festival, which is happening across the weekend of the 29th and 30th of April. We are not necessarily what you’d call folkies, though all of the local folk venues occasionally tempt us with their invariably uncomfortable chairs. Last night we ventured out after the working week simply because the band was Lady Maisery; we’ve seen them three times now, and once in their guise as ‘Awake! Arise!’ with Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith, and the three women who make up this wonderful assembly are all spectacularly talented musicians who always manage to conjure magic for us.
After opening the Folk Festival yesterday they are embarking upon a tour – you can see the rest of the dates here: https://ladymaisery.com/tour-dates.
For the uninitiated, the band consists of Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans, three of the most accomplished and adventurous artists in modern folk. They are very much on the progressive edge of modern folk. There’s no woolly jumper stuffiness here. In a cathedral by evening time you might of course see a few woolly jumpers, but no stuffiness.
The gig in the cathedral was centred around their most recent album, the irridescent beauty that is called ‘Tender’. For my money, this fourth studio album is their most exciting so far. Collectively they deliver what’s been described as an ‘audacious, boldly political and manifestly personal record that reaches far beyond their previous work’. I’d agree entirely with that conclusion. The album is largely self written, but they have also included covers of well-chosen songs by Bjork, Tracy Chapman and Lal Waterson.
What made last night’s performance unique was the acoustic of the space in which it took place – basically just MASSIVE reverb. We exchanged the clarity of vocals you get from a venue like St. Georges (where we’ve seen them play twice before) for a glorious pool of monasteric atmosphere. Sensibly, despite the fact that their tour centres on delivering the songs from ‘Tender’, they also chose to include a select few songs from their back catalogue (‘The Crow On The Cradle’, and that Catalan polyphonic song whose name escapes me – oh my goodness me, yes.) carefully chosen to exploit the acoustic to its best effect. Their sound guy gave a bravura demonstration of how to cope with the challenge of making a band that features acoustic instruments and exquisite harmony singing sound as if they naturally belonged in a great medieval church with roots in the 12th century. Gosh, how I wish they’d recorded last night’s performance!
Enough of my clumsy proselytising. Listen. Check out the track I’ve linked to below, go see them play and sing, and do buy their album; for me it’s a really exciting push forward. Every one of theirs is worth having, and this latest (from late last year – their first for 6 years) is something very special. They’ve come back after Covid absolutely blazing with promise. Get on board!
From my occasional observations I’d say this was a typical folkie crowd – packed with members of Generation F – the Generation That Ignored Rock. A scattering of younger pluckers for sure, but a hearty majority who’ve done their time since the days of Les Cousins, protest songs and duffle coats, which some of them still have. This is very much affectionate ribbing, you understand. I am amongst them to a strong degree.
It made me think..
Who needs three trucks just to move the drum kit?