What’s in your Granny’s Attic? A stack of old 78s? Your Dad’s Subbuteo? A picture; slowly aging and showing the moral decay of an old lady? Some old rubbish? Or three frighteningly young, obscenely talented folk musicians who look as though they may have taken a wrong turn on their way to Fresher’s Week? Probably not the latter if we’re honest.

That, however, is precisely what this GRANNY'S ATTIC contains. Attacking traditional folk songs with boundless energy and the casual brilliance of youth Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, George Sansome and Lewis Wood give Downend Folk Club yet another glimpse of the future. And it’s a future you’d certainly want to visit. It’s hard to put in to words just how wonderful a violin, a guitar and a selection of squeeze boxes can sound but these three play with such joy and verve that it’s impossible not to get entirely carried away. Starting with a rollicking broadside featuring Nelson and Trafalgar the 'Wheels of the World' show us what we have in store. Earthy three part harmonies, effortless musicianship and a trawl through the obscure outer reaches of Folk Song.

It’s hard to believe that it was three years ago that Granny’s Attic were nominated for the BBC Young Folk Award. It’s even harder to believe that they didn’t win it.  

Despite the fact that their combined ages are approximately equal to the average age of the audience Granny’s Attic know their trad from their Elbow. The set is littered with ballads and broadsides, collected songs and Morris tunes. There are songs that are hundreds of years old and freshly minted dance tunes. Each one conjuring a particular event or a time long gone but each, just like every good folk tune should, containing a seed of the contemporary.

Take 'What I Saw in my Dream...' for instance. A song of folk whimsy but with words exposing social ills and righteous anger. Sadly some of those 19th century problems don’t seem so very different from our own.

Particularly brilliant were the instrumental tunes. Mostly written by violinist Wood they swirl around beautifully. Taken from the latest album, 'Lazy House/Right Under the Bridge' was so joyous, ridiculously infectious and a total delight. Feet tapped, hands clapped and faces smiled.

The feeling that you’re left with from Granny’s Attic is that these three really mean it. There’s no polite polish, no nod to those that find folk a bit "difficult" and no tired cover of the 60s legends. Quite frankly they are all the better for that.

Before this hard-core folk fest local trio EMBER offered a wonderful set of original songs. Mike Richards sings and plays guitar on thoughtful, sensitive acoustic numbers with Meg Batch’s beautiful violin and Hajnalka Deak’s understated piano weaving them together in to something lovely.  Their new EP, 'Paintings', was heavily plundered but it is clearly packed with excellent songs that you would want to re-visit.

So, Granny’s Attic then? Full of promise, joy and verve. And nothing weird. Or rubbish.

 

Words: Gavin McNamara

Photo: Alan Cole

Another great evening awaits South Gloucestershire’s music lovers this month as we welcome a band who made a real splash at BRISTOL FOLK FESTIVAL a while back… so much so, that our regulars have DEMANDED they appear on our programme!

GRANNY'S ATTIC - Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne (melodeon, concertina, vocals), George Sansome (guitar, vocals) and Lewis Wood (fiddle, vocals) – are a folk trio who play the tradition with verve, energy and their own inimitable style. These three young men are all exceptional musicians, fine singers and play traditional songs and tunes from the British Isles alongside self-penned material.

Originally formed in 2009 as three students at secondary school with no better way to spend their lunchtimes than scrape a tune or two, Granny’s Attic gradually became less about avoiding socialising with their peers and more about actually playing music, and so Granny’s Attic premiered in 2010 at the prestigious Claines Church Fete.

2011 saw the release of their debut EP ‘Mind the Gap’ featuring a mix of traditional and original tunes. Around this time, the band took their first forays into regular live performing, with early highlights including the first of many appearances at the Worcester Music Festival and a support spot for the legendary John Kirkpatrick at Worcester’s Huntingdon Hall.

The following year saw the release of their first full-length album, ‘Better Weather’, featuring a mixture of traditional tunes and songs as well as some self-penned tunes. With a solid mix of traditional songs, tunes and a number of Lewis’s own tunes, their latest album ‘Off The Land’ was released in August 2016.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be local band EMBER

Formed in Bristol in January 2016 when Downend Folk Club regular Mike Richards met Hajnalka Deak in an ill-fated attempt to learn the cello, the pair began to explore some musical ideas on guitar and piano and found a number of songs and arrangements quickly followed. 

Earlier this year, Ember added fiddle-player Meg Batch and recorded their debut EP ‘Paintings’.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 20th October 2017, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online from online HERE. There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based brewery GWB, and locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will also be a raffle. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of our drive to be ecologically sustainable. 

There is a Facebook event for the evening HERE... why not give it a share?

“I’m a collector of folk tales and myths. It’s basically an obsession,” Kim Lowings told a packed out Frenchay Village Hall at the latest Downend Folk Club concert in September.

She’s right; mythology and hundreds-of-years-old stories are the thing that underpin the music of KIM LOWINGS AND THE GREENWOOD, this highly-rated West Midlands-based ensemble. These are songs that tell stories, weave tales and paint pictures, whether the traditional material given the Greenwood-treatment or the songs that flowed from the pen of an increasingly-impressive songwriter in Kim Lowings.

The subject matter might conjure up and evening of downbeat melancholy but nothing could be further from the truth; Backing band The Greenwood favour a driving, rhythmic style for the most part. It’s a refreshing change… there is foot-tapping and even the odd hand-clapping moment. 

Touring their third studio album ‘Wild & Wicked Youth’, the show kicks off in the same way at the critically-acclaimed record. The first-few bars of ‘In Spirit’ are whistful and whispy… and then The Greenwood kick into gear and the evening takes off.

The band, made up of Andrew “Jarv” Lowings (who also happens to be Kim’s dad) on bouzouki, guitar and bhodran, Dave Sutherland on double-bass and vocals and Tim Rogers on cajon and percussion, are all highly-skilled musicians, but it’s no doubt that it’s Kim who’s the star of the show.

Blessed with a beautifully rich voice that suits her chosen genre perfectly, Kim slips effortlessly between mountain dulcimer and piano (there was a lot crammed onto that little stage!), whilst also showing that she is comfortable fronting the band with just a microphone at her disposal. Her stage presence is warm and relaxed, and she takes the (off-mic) jibes from dad in her stride. Only the first few rows will know what was said but everyone smiled nonetheless.

The set weaves through tales of fiddles made out of bones that can only play one tune (Oh The Wind and Rain’) and drunken relatives saved from the sea by a formidable wife (‘Maggie’s Song) as well as taking in some other traditional numbers (‘The Newry Highwayman’, from which the new album takes its name; sea-shanty ‘Bold Riley’ and a very enjoyable take on ‘The Cuckoo’)… but it’s as the first-half draws to an end that the “special moment” hits us… and it’s as unexpected as it is beautiful.

Shorn of her backing band for this one number, Kim takes to the piano to deliver the self-penned ‘Firestone’. It’s stunning. Voice and instrument intertwine to tell a tale of soul-searching and wondering. After the driving rhythms of the rest of the set, you could hear a pin-drop; one audience member took quickly to Twitter to tell the world that it had almost brought him to tears. It’s that good, it’s that beautiful and with it Kim Lowings surely announces herself as one of the best songwriters on the scene.

The evening was opened with a set from GAV BALL. A regular in the Downend Folk Club audience and some time singer with Bristol-based rock band BUSK, Gav has been trying out some more acoustic, folky numbers in his solo material, and he delivered the perfect support slot. Funny, engaging and even topical, with a newly-written number in honour of a DFC regular who is fleeing to Cornwall (‘The Ballad of the Barefooted Man’… we’ll miss you, Brian and Edwina!), he has the audience singing along and crying with laughter.

But it is to Kim and her gang that the evening rightly belongs. In his introduction, MC and Club Chairman Ant Miles told the expectant crowd that this was a band who are “the epitomy of the phrase ‘one to watch’.” On the evidence of this gig, it’s hard to disagree.

Photo: Chris Dobson