Emily’s core inner circle comprises Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton, a pair of high class musicians with a lengthy association and also integral members of the traditional leaning side project, the Furrow Collective. To give the Coracle a fuller sound, the ladies are joined by established folk circuit fiddle player Sam Sweeney, the multi guitarist input from cross genre picker Matthew Boulter and the omnipresent percussion playing from an eleventh hour substitute for this tour following an accident to Emily’s husband. Together they brought to life the magic of a bunch of songs inspired by mystical fairy tales, the consuming delights of open space and some more pertinent events closer to home. A dark undercurrent flows through in a common theme calling at such subjects as infanticide and the sinister side of robins! Your imagination is frequently taken to obscure corners, yet always underpinned by the delightful soundtrack that the Coracle Band delivers.
The material spanning Emily’s two sets was almost equally lifted from the three studio albums. The middle of these is perhaps the one kindest to Emily so far in her career with the title track from HATCHLING being accredited with a best original song of the year at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk awards in 2013. Sitting in a prime second row position in the MAC’s theatre allowed other tracks from this record to be succulently savoured such as encore number ‘Sunken Bells’, standout candidate ‘Hinge of the Year’ and the highly creative ‘Hollin’’. Emily’s ability to write a melody to traditional words in the latter highlights her studious approach to folk music and the strident goal of relaying the baton of the inter-generational song.
Bringing her music up to date with material from 2015’s CORACLE, she also extracted the title track among others like ‘Nightjar’, ‘Borrowed and Blue’ and ‘Seed Stitch’. Like so many songs on the evening, the stories accompanying them were rich and enlightening, thus marking a key difference between enjoying music in a live setting in the artist’s company and listening to the recorded copy. With this in mind we learned of Emily’s association with Lal Waterson and the origin of ‘The Cherry Tree Carol’ which also proved one of the evening’s highlights.
This opening show of the tour included the role of singer-songwriter Neil McSweeney in the support slot. He chose to share a number of new songs from an upcoming album release with some interesting subject inspirations being the source of compositions such as ‘Land of Cockaigne’, ‘Strangers of Maresfield Gardens’ and ‘Atlantis’. Another preview song from this record in ‘Old Glory Blues’ was probably the pick of Neil’s half hour in the spotlight.