The Twisted Folk Festival returns to the Artsdepot, and eGigs was there once again to sample the folk gems on offer.
Rodney Fisher was nice. He was pleasant, he sang well and he played well; as did his violinist, bass player and backing vocalist. There was, however, nothing remotely memorable about his set. It ebbed and flowed at the same pace throughout and was, well, nice.
The pace of New York's Gregory and the Hawk (Meredith Godreau) was equally sedentary but the electric guitars of Godreau and Mike worked well and was a welcome alternative to the usual pair of acoustics. Godreau's whispery vocals perfectly compliment her dreamy lyrics – 'Grey Weather' being my favourite.
Magic Arm (Marc Rigelsford) epitomises the ethos of this festival. Yes, he is armed with an acoustic guitar (which seemed to be held together with gaffer tape), harmonica, tambourine and keyboard but his real tools are the tapes and loop pedals which he uses to create an array of sounds making each track highly individual. 'Widths and Heights' made me forget it was a rainy day at the back end of November and his take on Leroy Carr's 'Six Cold Feet Of Ground' shows what can be done with a song over seventy years old.
Multi-instrumentalist Paul Marshall paints a very vivid picture, and though his songs are dark, verging on pleasingly lurid they belie his engaging nature. He muses about the beard hair caught in the microphone, and then introduces a song called 'Cross Stitch Lips' - a song about murder and horses. The songs go down well. 'This is War' an intense tale about the death of love performed on keyboards is excellent.
Folk experimentalist David Thomas Broughton's improvised set visibly intimidates some members of the audience. The man lands somewhere between genius and unselfconscious clown. He dances, he falls, he walks away, all the while singing in a deep voice, which has no doubt invited comparisons with Antony Hegarty. There is no setlist, the songs flow one into the other – largely paeans of love - "the river of love plunges my heart into fear" - and the audience are fascinated. In the quiet pauses you can hear a pin drop. The set ends with a massive shriek and he runs out of the auditorium.
It's a tough act to follow, but headlining soloist Liz Green is more than capable with her unique brand of Coco Rosie tinged blues, starting with an accapella number that sounds like a jailhouse chain gang song. Lyrically, Nick Cave springs to mind with her nod towards impending execution in the Gallows Song. But it never feels morose, more akin to one-woman theatre. The audience love it and though she traditionally does not perform encores, she isn't churlish enough to deny them one.
Beth Jeans Houghton opens the night with what appears to be a tea cosy on her head, Armed with the extremely unfettered use of loop pedal she creates her own angelic choir, sings a selection of bright songs, and for 'Milk Bottles' is joined on stage by friend Matt, who heroically clambers on stage much to delight of the audience to provide handclaps.
If Beth is sugar, then ex-Lamb's Lou Rhodes is certainly spice. Despite suffering a virus the Mercury Music award-nominated artist's set is intensely compelling. She barely moves from her chair, but enthrals the growing crowd with vignettes of lyrically-rich forlorn songs of flying too close to the sun in 'Icarus' and in 'Tremble' the ache of love has never sounded so good. She treats us to a brand new song, which is filled with quiet optimism titled 'One Good Thing'. It resonates deeply in a time of violence and economic flux "All it takes is one good thing to happen" She closes with new single 'The Rain', and her thirty minutes feels over far too fast.
From the moment he walks onto the stage you can tell that North London's Natty breathes cool the way everyone else breathes air. After opening with 'Hey Man', he tells us that he hasn't gigged for a while, hasn't written a set list and met Jesse Jackson today before playing his latest single 'Bedroom Eyes'. Natty's acoustic guitar is joined by Chrizlas electric bass and John Bloods djembe creating a laid back feel to his effortless fusing of r&b, reggae and soul. He is able to fit 'Badman'; 'Revolution'; 'Cold Town' and the heartbreaking 'Say Bye Bye' into a woefully short set before finishing with the 'Coloured Souls'.
The Handsome Family are husband and wife Bret (guitar, vocals and music) and Rennie (bass, banjo, melodica and words) Sparks. They are accompanied by Steve on electric guitar, fiddle and really, really good lap steel. Unlike Natty, The Handsome Family have a set list although it would seem that no one has the same list and for one new song Steve is asked to listen for a bit, and pick it up. Their dialogue is almost as good as their songs: "America is rotten to the core: rocket fuel and mind control drugs leave a bitter taste in tea", but the dark gothic lyrics of 'Weightless Again', 'Arlene' and 'The Sad Milkman' are what set them part from all other alt-country acts and 'So Much Wine' is a Christmas story that the writers of Eastenders would have dismissed as being too depressing.
The Handsome Family have a cult following and most of that cult were in attendance and very vocal. At one point Rennie had to implore "ask for something we're going to sing, then we can acquiesce – that's how it works". With a 13 year, ten album career, forty minutes was, unfortunately, never going to be more than a taste of what they could offer.
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article by: John Hawes&Yasmin Selena Butt
photos by: Helen O'Sullivan
| published: 03/12/2008 08:18|