Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Black Feathers - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Wednesday 9th November 2016

Midway through this gig, the penny dropped on what makes The Black Feathers one of the most precious duet harmony acts on the UK folk and acoustic circuit. Apart from the impeccable timing, a sweet sound surrounded by a dark wrapping and dovetailed voices, it is the way they interject the golden moment of anticipated silence so effectively into many of their songs. The dramatic effect leaves the listener hooked on where the piece is heading and is borne out of an inherent talent to harness the beauty of the duet.

It took a while for this Gloucestershire based duo to hook up with the Kitchen Garden Café and now sealed, it is a union made for the idealistic music listener. To comment that their debut performance at Birmingham’s premier listening venue was a resounding success is a dramatic understatement and surely a trend set for subsequent visits. Right from the irony of opening track ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ through to an inclusive rousing unplugged cover of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ to bring down the curtain, Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes consistently showed the finesse of their craft.

There is no element of doubt that their multiple American excursions are playing a significant role in forming The Black Feathers. There are definite southern sensibilities creeping into their sound as well as a certain bias towards the sad song genre. Long may this influence remain as the whole aura around The Black Feathers soaks up the mystique of a sound attracted to the male-female harmony duet orchestrated by a single acoustic guitar.

SOAKED TO THE BONE, their debut full length release, hit the market earlier this year and has refused to be budged from playlists by likeminded peer acts. This evening the album was fondly delved into by Sian and Ray with ‘Arclight’ soaring above the rest with its atmospheric majesty, pushed to the limit by ‘Down to the River’, ‘Homesick’ and ‘All For You’. On this record the duo braved the wrath of bandwagon jumping by covering a version of the Dylan-Adele populist piece ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and pulled it off with spine tingling excellence. The only food for thought is that maybe future covers should be in the re-interpretative mould that they dealt with the classic ‘Spirit in the Sky’. Lofty praise for the work of The Black Feathers though is stating that the only difference between the covers and the originals is a sense of familiarity.

On the topic of originals, we were served a couple of newbies in their brace of gig sets, one hot off the notepad with the title recalled from a significant memorable chorus ‘The Ghost Has Eaten Well’. The other fresh song had its origins in a Pennsylvania log cabin, with ‘Holy Water’ leaking out as one of the most personal songs to date from the duo’s brief repertoire. The good news is that both sounded great and re-assurance that one day SOAKED TO THE BONE will have a worthy follow up. Before we leave the track analysis, a quick word on two songs picked from their initial EP including the sole love composition ‘You Will Be Mine’ and the lyrically smart ‘Open Book’.

Prior to The Black Feathers entertaining a respectable Kitchen Garden Café debut turnout, Birmingham based band (in a slimmed down trio format for the show) The Lost Notes opened proceedings with a similar acoustic sound and thriving mixture of duets, three part harmonies, memorable guitar pieces and a batch of songs that held your attention. Mutual respect was interchanged between both acts and recognition that grass roots music requires supportive camaraderie.

The grass roots may not be the long term home of The Black Feathers when judgement day arrives and the re-alignment of music justice sieves out the crap. Until then the enlightened few will revel in an act that makes music the right way and does it rather well. The grass roots may not be such a bad place when unfiltered music is there to be enjoyed. 

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