Saturday, 28 April 2018

GIG REVIEW: Ninebarrow - Woodman Folk Club, Kingswinford. Friday 27th April 2018

Ninebarrow is a Dorset-based folk duo providing a blast of fresh air across the national scene. From the acclaimed status of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Horizon nominee, the pairing of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere is carving a significant mark as a vibrant purveyor of the traditional tale and song. Not content with dwelling on the past, their music fully embraces the surroundings of the present and intuitively takes a bold step into the future. Utilising the triple instrumental approach of harmonium, multiple strings and piano, the soundtrack sways within the mood of the songs, accomplished yet not overpowering the sparkling vocal content. This evening was a case of the folklore of Dorset spreading its wings to the outer limits of the West Midlands to extol the virtues of the seasons, the landscape, the history and fantasy. All served with occasional dashes of staple folk sides.

Across a brace of sets in the homely settings of a hired social club, Jon in particular continually fought the fluctuating temperature settings that played havoc with the strings, including the bouzouki and ukulele. The harmonium (or more descriptively referred as the chord organ) proved less temperamental and was primarily the domain of Jay, although a priceless moment just before the interval saw both musicians attempt, and pull off, a duet, on one.

Where the duet tendencies did regularly flourish was in the song department. The harmonies were bright, vivacious and evocative. Showing a vocal prowess seized upon and acting as the perfect vessel to portray the magnitude of the song. The latter probably defines Ninebarrow as they set out using every depth of their literate craft to polish the art of introducing and executing the intrinsic song.

Apart from a couple of folk club standards, the prime focus of the performance was the material that has formed the recently released album THE WATERS AND THE WILD. This record primarily packs with original content, seasoned with a couple of interpretative efforts. ‘Prickle-Eye Bush’. ‘Gather It In’ and ‘Overthrown’ were among the picks from the new record. This album will gather momentum in the folk world over time. It is not really a recording designed for immediate grasping and it will be markedly helped by Jon and Jay’s extensive touring to strip it down up close and personal before re-building the worthy content.

Two of the evening’s outstanding moments were songs from a previous album, WHEN THE BLACKTHORN BURNS. ‘Siege’ was a heroic tale of English Civil War resistance, while ‘Weeds’ launched into a maybe mythical, or not, future where the land submerges human existence. Other subjects dealt with in the songs ranged from the Jurassic archaeological landscape of Dorset and the county’s nautical heritage to acknowledging the importance of seasonal events and mythical hierarchies in the natural world. Of course, it would not be a folk gig without the obligatory death, gore and murder. Song #4 seemed a long wait but the pair more than made up for it by the end.

Although by folk standards Ninebarrow are in their formative years, they appear to have perfected the ageless streak needed to survive and flourish on an informed scene. This youthful zest acts as a conduit that re-invigorates a traditional stance. Almost theatrical in motion, Jon and Jay are easing into generational standard bearing mode and look every inch the accomplished performers in this responsible guise.
















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