Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Fred's House - Cookley Village Hall, Worcestershire. Sunday 24th April 2016

It didn’t take too long into this show for the peerless harmonies and enticing melodies of Fred’s House to take a grip. The five piece outfit from Cambridge are in the throes of playing a raft of dates around the country in support of their upcoming new album and there is ample evidence that the record will serve the band well in the near future. What Fred’s House do extremely well is lift the underlying quality of their recorded material and ensure a live audience unconditionally enjoys the best parts in the purest form.

Cookley Village Hall in Worcestershire has put on many good folk and roots gigs over the last couple of years with this evening’s show matching up well with the best. Fred’s House veer more towards the rock side of the folk genre and showed an acute understanding of how to balance the sound within the confines of an individual venue. Without the input of electric lead guitar, the frontier sound of Fred’s House was driven by the keyboards. Drums, electric bass and acoustic rhythm all play an important role ensuring the majestic songs get the instrumental support they deserve. These songs are primarily sung by Vikki Gavin who thrives in the role of band front person, while still preserving the collective entity of an equilibrium band.

The band’s onstage personality and heartbeat revolves around the roles of Vikki and song writing partner Griff Jameson. Griff supplements his guitar playing with a sidekick vocal part in support of Vikki with the pair being frequently joined by bassist Gafyn Jameson on three-part harmonies. On drums Paul Richards keeps time in a bright and breezy manner, leaving the keyboard skills of Alister Bunclark to sparkle at many an opportune moment. What is possibly the defining trait of Fred’s House at this moment of a fledgling career is the tremendous ability to pen a catchy song, free of soft pop pretense while capturing the essence of an iconic style.

FAULTLINES is the name of Fred’s House new album and unsurprisingly its near entirety was played across the two sets of this evening’s show. The second song in, ‘Face in the Water’, was a timely reminder to how good this record is and the cue to settle back for further riches to be unveiled in their live format. One of the few tracks where Griff takes lead vocal bolstered up the middle part of the first set with ‘Nevermind’ and it wasn’t soon after when one of the higher profile songs from Fred’s House’s repertoire made an appearance. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ was the first song that alerted me to the band when it appeared on a compilation album put out by the Folkstock folks nearly a couple of years ago. It has now re-surfaced for the first time on a wholly Fred’s House record and adds a feel good factor among grittier tracks. Perhaps with a view to injecting a touch of wider familiarity into the live show, the band selected a couple of popular covers to play and few balked at the opportunity to join in with the chorus of ‘Starman’.

After the break there was another opportunity for a singalong with ‘Gotta Get a Message to You’, but the real heart of the second set was four of the strongest songs from the new album. All four had their credentials strengthened with a live performance. ‘California for a Girl’ is a smashing song written as a parting gift to an ex-band member and brings some heartfelt sincerity to the proceedings. ‘Earthquake’ sees Fred’s House diving into a whirlpool of dreamy sensibilities, while ‘Ghost Town’ is decorated in retro glory and presents the pop tinge of the band with a streak of finesse. ‘Another Universe’ is a totally gratifying and rousing anthem, deserved of its climax position on both the album and this thoroughly entertaining show.

All that was left was the complimentary band introductions conducted by Vikki coupled with a soundtrack of ‘Somebody to Love’, popularised by Jefferson Airplane in the late sixties. There is an intrinsic resemblance of Fred’s House in full flow with the sounds synonymous of that iconic West Coast folk rock style, totally awash in lush harmonies and driven by a soulful keyboard output. This earmarks Fred’s House as a band to look out for on the UK indie circuit with a wide ranging appeal encompassing country, folk, rock and pop. More importantly than labels, they make damn fine music and effortlessly transfer this attribute to the live venue. FAULTLINES should be added to your ‘to get’ list and fast tracked to the top. The same sentiment can be applied if Fred’s House are ever in your vicinity. Take these statements as a valued recommendation.

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