At the end of his first set, bazouki wielding Irish singer DAOIRI FARRELL tried selling some CDs; "I don't call them CDs, I call them a life time of happiness". After this incredible night at Downend Folk Club, he's not going to be the only one. 

Nominated for countless folk awards and winner of plenty, Daori (pronounced Derry) Farrell is everything, literally everything, that you would want an Irish folk singer to be. An extraordinary singer with a thousand stories; a glorious musician who makes even the most complicated playing look effortless; an instantly likeable presence steeped in his home country. If there was a single person in this room who didn't want to accompany him straight back to Dublin then those people have no soul. From Biddy Mulligan to Pat Rainey there was a stream of characters that tumbled and strutted from the songs, filling the room and telling their tales.

There were times when Farrell played to the stereotype with just a little too much enthusiasm, although maybe if you call your new album True Born Irishman that can't be too much of a surprise. Still, there was the charmingly befuddled persona, the bar-room jokes and, most telling, the belief that "those in power write the history; those that suffer write the songs". These songs are dripping in that most Irish of things; things might be rubbish but we’ll sings and dance like demons anyway. And so he did. Fingers flying across bazouki strings while his strong voice caroused around. Where some songs lacked a chorus they never lacked a heart; long, winding tales wrapped deliciously around fantastic tunes. Many were traditional but the cheeky, unaccompanied tale of a baby-saving rugby player, Fergie McCormick ("I’m 67 percent sure that it’s true") was pure folk-club joy. 

As much as Farrell conjured a peat-fugged bar off of St Stephen's Green, it was with his most incredible songs you'd swear blind you'd found yourself in a pew. The church-like reverence that greeted both Blue Tar Road and Via Extasia was enough to prove that even without an instrument Farrell could hold every one of us in raptures. Both were written by Liam Weldon, a genius songwriter and subject of Farrell’s BA thesis. One a song of protest the other a love song of the deepest kind. Both were exquisite. 

Before this Irish charmer we were treated to ROSIE HOOD. On any other night she should have been the headliner. A pure, strong voice and someone in complete control of stage and song. Her short set was made up of both traditional and self-penned songs and every one was an absolute gem.  She grew up around Malmesbury and many of her songs were either collected in Wiltshire or based there. A Furlong of Flight, about a flying monk from 1010, was a highlight.  After just five songs she was gone although her lovely album, The Beautiful and the Actual, is well worth a listen. 

So, does folk singing bring a life time of happiness? Who knows, but we certainly had a whole evening’s worth.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: David Betteridge

 

A former electrician who decided to change profession after seeing Christy Moore perform on Irish TV, Dublin-born traditional singer and bouzouki player DAOIRI FARRELL is being described by some of the biggest names in Irish folk music as one of most important singers to come out of Ireland in recent years, and he headlines our concert this month.

Daoirí (pronounced 'Derry') had cut his teeth as a singer in Dublin’s famous Góilin Singers Club, where he was spotted early on by Christy Moore, and at other sessions across the city, many of which he still visits. Following his studies he quickly found work accompanying artists including Christy Moore himself, as well as a list of names that sounds like a who’s who of folk music, including Dónal Lunny, Martin Hayes and many more.

Daoirí finally stepped into the limelight launched his own solo live career at the 2016 Celtic Connections. His determination not to put out another album until he was sure it was the best he could produce, meant that the long-awaited release of True Born Irishman was hugely anticipated. Indeed when a stream of the album was accidentally leaked online for around an hour in July, it was being shared and tweeted about within minutes.

In February 2017 the BBC announced that Daoirí Farrell had received three BBC Folk Award 2017 nominations, more than any other artist that year. He was subsequently asked to perform at the awards ceremony on 5th April at The Royal Albert Hall and went on to win the Horizon Award for best newcomer and Best Traditional Track Award for Van Diemen’s Land from the album True Born Irishman.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be ROSIE HOOD, a young folk singer from Wiltshire, known for her strong, pure voice and engaging solo performance. A BBC Performing Arts Fellow in 2015 and a 2016 Horizon Award nominee at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, Rosie has become more than purely a traditional singer.

Having started learning folk songs at an early age from her family, Rosie has a keen interest in the history of traditional songs, particularly those of her native Wiltshire, where she has spent time researching in the local archives and developing a broad repertoire of local songs.

Rosie’s Fellowship year with the English Folk Dance & Song Society proved a pivotal point in her career giving her time and space to develop as an artist. The year saw Rosie develop her song-writing with mentor Emily Portman, hone her instrumental skills and even resulted in a transatlantic collaboration with New York based singer and guitarist Jefferson Hamer.

2017 saw the release of Rosie's debut album The Beautiful & The Actual, a collection of old and new folk songs.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 18th May 2018, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £12 each in advance (£10 for members), or £14 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be a raffle with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of our drive to be more environmentally aware.

For further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There is a Facebook event for the concert, which you can join HERE. Just click "going" or "interested" to keep in touch with the latest news for this event.

Before the bands start, a girl on the back row is reading a book by Ursula le Guin. The science fiction writer. This tells you something about Downend Folk Club; it's a place to escape the everyday, a place to explore somewhere different and a place where the extraordinary happens. 

Make no mistake, THE RHEINGANS SISTERS are extraordinary. There's a stack of Folk Awards to their names, a multitude of plaudits showered upon them and really, truly it's not hard to see why. Even in this wonderful club we have seen perfectly good musicians drag and scrape a tune from fiddles. Not these two sisters. Rowan (who we’ve seen before with Folk Goddesses Lady Maisery) and Anna transform two violins into open throated song birds. They are harmonious and complimentary, clear and bright. There are concert halls, "proper" Radio 3 endorsed concert halls, up and down the country that would kill for two musicians this good. And these two are here, in a crowded, warm village hall. 

Much of this evening’s set is taken from the new album, Bright Field. It's a bit different from their preceding albums. There are not so many trads, covers and re-imaginings; instead we are treated to new compositions. And "compositions" seems the right word. These are tunes that have a classical quality. No mere jigs or reels, these are beautifully put together. Rowan's fiddle is ghostly, melancholic, casting filigree lines while Anna's playfully dances around, kicking up its heels. Her love of, and grounding in, traditional French folk keeps toes tapping even when the music gets a little wintery. The set of tunes Dark Nights/Swinghorn shows this off to perfection. The first tune is Rowan's, dark and brooding; the second Anna's, joyous and infectious. They fit together beautifully.

The loveliest song of the first half is the album’s title track. Bright Field is the term that the sisters use to describe that special place that you go to make yourself feel "fuller”, to recharge your batteries. Their place must be a one of quite spectacular beauty where the pace of life is slowed to a languid flutter. It must also be Welsh as the song ends with a lovely R.S Thomas poem; Rowan’s strong, honest voice further reinforcing the songs message and beauty.

The second set takes us dancing around Europe. From complicated French dance tunes to Ancient English tunes of incredible dexterity. From cowsheds to fields. Some are traditional and old but some have been written by Anna. It’s hard to tell them apart such is her skill as a tunesmith. Unbelievably they talk of her knocking out a couple of tunes like this every week. Finally they take us to the lonely expanses of North Norway. To a remote festival and seas teeming with fish. Mackerel is a gorgeous song, a deserved award winner and the finest way to end an evening where two incredible musicians take us to so many different places. 

Before all of this IAN A ANDERSON opened up with a short set that conjured moments from Frenchay’s folk past. Anderson is a Bristol folk legend; a true survivor from the 60s, a record producer, a label owner (the brilliant 70s label The Village Thing) and a magazine editor as well as a charming and engaging presence. Playing the bluesy-country-pschy-folk beloved of Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones and the like, Anderson gave us a glimpse of what folk clubs must have looked like forty-odd years ago.  And a welcome sight it was. There were murder ballads, digs at Methodist ministers, true, tall tales and even a bit of Country and Western.  Simple and simply marvellous.

So, as Downend Folk Club celebrates its fourth birthday, The Rheingans Sisters ensure that it was, as ever, out of this world.

 

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Chris Dobson