The tastemakers have been in overdrive lately proclaiming the talents of American folk band Darlingside. Over in the UK, a widely praised performance at the Cambridge Folk Festival last year set the tongues wagging, and bringing things right up to date, involvement with the Celtic Connections event has coincided with a wider tour of venues around the country. What cannot be disputed is the ear of the tastemakers as the exquisite harmonies, impeccable timing and intrinsic musicianship were on full display as this four-piece combo called into Birmingham’s Glee Club.
The venue’s main room hosted Darlingside on their first visit to the city and while far from full to its capacity, an orderly layout housed a decent midweek turnout. Observing the audience’s response revealed an enthusiastic gathering, many of whom were familiar with the music and savouring the opportunity to listen to the music in a semi-intimate setting.
Prior to the main attraction taking to the stage, fellow Boston based artist Dietrich Strause served up an aperitif of compactly delivered middle line American folk music with a keen ear on Greenwich Village revivalist tendencies. This was not Dietrich’s first visit to the city as he supported UK artists’ Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker at the Red Lion Folk Club in the latter part of last year. Like then, he delivered a highly palatable performance. Although he is the proud curator of a new album, the most striking song of his set came from an older release. ‘Jean Louise’ was the title of the track and who can resist a cleverly constructed number on a To Kill A Mockingbird theme.
In the style of many contemporary retro sounding acts, Darlingside choose the single microphone amplification which involves a twisted degree of shuffling especially when the vocals continually switch between the four members. Don Mitchell, Auyon Mukharji, Harris Paseltiner and David Senft are the constitutional parts of the band; the personification of a rolling first among equals.
Instrumentally, soft electric guitar does play a part but it is the acoustic vibes of mandolin, violin, cello and acoustic guitar that define the sound. However this does play second fiddle to the vocal construction which is the overall explicit feature of being exposed to the music of Darlingside.
Thinking along the lines of Simon and Garfunkel with a touch of Crosby Stills and Nash will lead you into the vocal sonic room of Darlingside. Of course this heavy slant on a lighter vocal sound will need some adjusting to if you like things on a rougher more rounded scale, but there is no escaping that Darlingside exploit their style rather well.
From an outsider’s perspective this show was as much about experiencing the musical ambience of Darlingside rather than the micro detail, hence a patchy recollection of song titles and general themes. They can be explored fuller in their latest album BIRDS SAY of which the instantly memorably titled ‘Harrison Ford’ obviously stood out. A more recent EP, WHIPPOORWIL also lingered in the memory with the song ‘Fourth of July’ held back for the encore and upholding the theory of saving the best ‘til last.
Darlingside have the talent potential to scale almighty heights in the music world and not be shackled by genre convention. Their style has reached this level before and the same could happen again. Maybe an evening in Birmingham on the last day of January will be looked back on as one which housed a band destined for greater things.