Something’s wrong. The usual air of bonhomie at the folk club is dark and oppressive. Maybe It’s the inclement weather, the glowering stormy skies that envelope Frenchay. Maybe it’s not.

Soon after GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR take to the stage we find out what’s happened. Parked in a Bristol multi-storey, some scumbags stole their precious instruments.

 You’d expect punk rock. Howls of fury. Four letter words and despair. Instead we get an anger ploughed in to every song.

“That set of tunes”, declared guitarist Russell after the first beautifully-judged instrumental, “was called Could The B@@@ards Who Nicked Our Instruments Please Bring Them Back”. From then on it becomes strikingly obvious that this set WILL contain anger, fury and howls of emotion. Just not in the way you might imagine.

All of a sudden you notice that each and every song is about injustice and unfairness. How the world conspires against the little man and is run by fools. Take 'Did You Like The Battle Sir?' from the new album, 'The Silent Majority'. A vicious swipe at incompetent and self satisfied leadership, hurled at us with a savagely strummed guitar and lyrics growled out. It is only just sweetened by Algar’s lilting violin.

'Crooked Jack' and 'EGA' follow. Both proper folk stories. Both telling tales of resistance and fortitude. The latter, in particular, a striking feminist moment praising an individual strength (Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in this case). In these depressing times Russell and Algar tell us the truths we need to hear. Just like Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger did all those years ago. Spiked with a very personal anger they make us listen to what is right.

All of this would be mighty worthy were it not for one thing. They are astounding musicians and undercut everything with a very wry sense of humour. Algar is usually the joker of the two (he’s subdued tonight) and plays violin as though the angels themselves handed it down to him. Multi-award winning and having recorded a gorgeous solo album he has a rare talent. Russell, his perfect foil, possesses a voice that seems far older than his tender years. Flecked with grit and tinges of Americana he has recently contributed to the fabulous Shake The Chains project, amongst other things.

The second set starts with the title track from the latest album, 'The Silent Majority'. It’s extraordinary. It swings wildly at every despot since the 30's. Landing punches with borrowed instruments. Skewering every evil regime with a simple song. Even with these unfamiliar machines they attempt to kill fascists.

In support was LEON GORMLEY. He’s a classic folk club singer. A delicate guitar player with an unashamedly Midlands accent. There are echoes of Bert Jansch, Chris Wood and  a polite political displeasure. His lugubrious style is perfect as an opening act but he’s totally flattened by the juggernaut that is coming behind him.

With luck Russell and Algars’s instruments will have been returned by the time you read this but, hopefully, their anger will never fade. We need them because, undoubtedly,  something’s wrong.

 

Words: Gavin McNamara

Photo: Chris Dobson

 

After the success of June’s India Electric Co. concert, this month’s event sees another favourite returning for a second helping.

GREG RUSSELL & CIARAN ALGAR first graced the stage at Frenchay Village Hall in August 2014, but, it being the middle of the Summer holiday season, many of the club’s regulars missed the opportunity to see the dynamic duo in action, and begged for another opportunity to catch them live.

Two time BBC Folk Award winners Greg and Ciaran met in 2011. Soon after the joining of the pair, the duo were signed to Fellside Records and in July 2012 released their debut album, 'The Queen’s Lover'. Numerous tours followed as the duo developed and honed their stage craft, becoming one of the most sought after young acts on the English Folk Scene. "The press coverage and folk club reports have been glowing and rightly so" (R2 Magazine).

In January 2013, the pair picked up the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk award. Following the award win, Russell and Algar toured the country in April and, after completing school and University Exams in May, began touring again at the beginning of June - a schedule which saw them play venues and festivals such as Cambridge Folk Festival and Fairport’s Cropredy Convention as well as appearing live on Mark Radcliffe’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Show.

After recording their second album in the November of 2013, again with Fellside, Russell and Algar received the Horizon Award for Best breakthrough act at the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The second album, 'The Call', was then released in July receiving 5 Stars in fRoots, 4 Stars in both R2 Magazine and The Telegraph and a host of other brilliant reviews, Bright Young Folk describing it as an "outstanding show of maturity" with "enormous promise".

The duo come from musical households and both began to develop their musical skills long before joining forces. Algar, originally a member of TRI became All Ireland Champion, and All Britain Champion on numerous occasions before the age of 16 and Russell had begun a career as a solo musician supporting acts such as Karine Polwart and Lau, amongst others.

Their latest album, 'The Silent Majority', was released last year to critical acclaim.

Support on the evening will come from LEON GORMLEY.

Self taught from an early age after picking up a guitar at home that belonged to his father Leon performed at various venues around the Birmingham folk scene of the mid to late 1980’s. Seduced by the lure of computer based music, first learning how to produce it then teaching it at a local community centre, he took a break from the world of folk during the 90’s but the acoustic guitar was never far from his side and he returned to it with a renewed passion at the onset of the new millennium, writing new material and continuing to develop his own unusual five finger picking technique.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st July 2017, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. There will be a full bar, stocking a range of soft drinks, wine, tea and coffee, cider, locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based brewery GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. You are encouraged to being your own tankard/glass/mug as part of our drive to be environmentally aware. There will also be a raffle, the proceeds of which are spent directly on support acts, as we are an entirely "not for profit" organisation.

Emma Bedford's quest to see 40 gigs in a year brought her to Downend Folk Club for the first time to see India Electric Co. She reviewed the evening for her blog and has kindly allowed us to use it for our monthly website review too. Hope we'll see Emma again soon!

"I didn’t even know the name of the band I was going to see until an hour before the show, so I clearly had no idea what to expect. At a folk club in a village hall, never been there before either.

My friend Kate was photographing this gig and invited me to go with her (she’s a lovely person and a very talented photographer) so despite being very tired from the gig the night before and being at work all day I went along.

This was my second folk club experience of #40gigs so I knew the atmosphere would be friendly and welcoming, and it was. We were so early that the hall was still being set up! We had a cup of tea listening to the sound check, which was a unique experience all by itself.

Support was from JACK COOKSON, a Radio 2 Folk Award nominee. He played a short set, which was stronger towards the end. The final two tracks, both new, were a lot stronger, perhaps showing the development of his songwriting? He’s a very talented young man, who can play the heck outta an acoustic guitar. One to keep an eye on if you like folk/acoustic music I think.

Then main act. In two halves (folk clubs are so civilised, you get a halftime break) INDIA ELETRIC CO. I honestly had no idea what to expect, so when they were introduced as being, by their own admission "sometimes folk, sometimes not" I sort of knew I was going to like them. Which I did. Enormously. Cole has a great voice and Joe appears to be able to master any instrument you put in front of him. He played violin/fiddle (what is the difference anyhow?!), accordion and guitar last night but also plays keys apparently. Being multi talented & really lovely appear to be traits of folk musicians I am discovering.

The music was lush, filling the hall with gorgeous melodies. They moved between styles and genres with ease, sometimes in the middle of a song. When talented musicians play like that its such a joy to just admire them. Despite a few technical issues (hey, even Elbow had them guys) the sound and lighting were really impressive. The volunteers who run Downend Folk Club should be rightly proud of the work they put in.

Watching the interplay between Joe and Cole was fantastic, almost like jazz musicians, communicating through the music and being totally in tune with each other. I also loved that when a song was emotional, Cole inhabited it so fully he had to take his glasses off and put them in his pocket. They did an amazing Springsteen cover that was a joy to watch as well as hear. It was beautiful. They also played songs based on poetry, where else do you get songs inspired by WH Auden than a folk club? Parachutes was a total standout track, all the feels going on with that one. In the encore they invited Jack up to join them and that was a real treat. Collaborate more lads!

Afterwards we had a chat with them all & Cole ended up trying on my glasses which is definitely a first for #40gigs and I doubt will be repeated! Thank you Jack, Joe, Cole, all of Downend Folk Club and Kate for making gig 25 another memorable and special night.

The contrast between 24 and 25 couldn’t be greater, one a crowd of thousands in a forest, one a few dozen in a village hall. But #40gigs has always been about voyages of discovery, supporting musicians and finding new music. Folk clubs in village halls are as much a part of that. I appear to be a proper folkie convert now!

25 down. 15 to go."

Words: Emma Bedford

Photo: Kate Southall