From the moment he stepped onto the little stage at Frenchay Village Hall, you could tell it was going to be something special.
SAM CARTER has been so busy with his new band False Lights that he’s played very few solo gigs lately. After last Friday evening, it’s clear that it’s been very much a loss to the folk world… and what a privilege it was to have such talent at Downend Folk Club.
Opening the evening were Hertfordshire-based trio SAID THE MAIDEN who, after a mad-dash along the traffic-packed Friday afternoon M4, which meant that they only just arrived in time, played five beautiful songs which drew many-a-happy-ooh from the 100+ audience. Folk staples like ‘The Derby Ram’, ‘Silver Dagger’ and ‘I Wonder What Is Keeping My True Love’ sat happily alongside a nice interpretation of ‘Jolene’ and their own composition ‘Polly Can You Swim?’, as the voices of the three girls intertwined in stunning harmonies and filled the room. There were lots of requests from the audience to see more of Said The Maiden, so watch this space.
And then Sam took to the stage, and his dexterity on the guitar was obvious from the first moment. As a guitarist, I often watch musicians’ fingers and envy that they can do things that I can’t. It’s different with Sam Carter… his many alternative tunings and the shapes he forces his slender fingers into meant that I couldn’t even tell how he was doing what he was doing! But one thing’s for sure… it sounds incredible.
Photo: Chris Dobson
Complemented by the sort of voice that makes you believe every word he sings and a warm and engaging stage-presence, Sam finger-picked his way through songs of loss and longing about the loss of his sister as a child (‘Here In The Ground’), regret (‘We Never Made It To The Lakes’), divorce-rates (‘The One’) and “a bloody good row” (‘Taunting The Dog’). This is not just a talented singer and guitarist… Sam Carter is a seriously good songwriter.
His set came mostly from his last album, ‘The No Testament’ and his next one, as yet untitled but due for release next Spring. Stand-out moments are hard to nail down as the whole evening was filled with such quality, but ‘Southbank To Soho’ is a seriously good song, and merits parting with a few quid for the new album on its own.
Towards the end of the second-half, Sam was joined on stage by our very own patron Jim Moray on vocals and mandolin, as the pair treated us to an acoustic version of False Lights’ ‘The Indian’s Petition’. As a fan, seeing two of my favourite musicians on stage together was a tremendous moment. I’ve seen False Lights and loved it, but this was two musicians at their stripped back best… simply spectacular.
Of course, the crowd wanted more, so Sam stepped back onto the stage for a real crowd-involvement number, as they created a brilliant humming and finger-clicking backing to the title-track from ‘The No Testament’, a sacred-harp song that finished off the evening in superb style.
Folk-legend Mike Harding once claimed that Sam is “one of the most gifted acoustic guitarists of his generation”. On the evidence of this gig, it’s hard to argue. If you missed it, put “seeing Sam Carter live” on your bucket-list. You’ll be glad you did.
- Ant Miles, Chairman
We're thrilled to welcome the inimitable SAM CARTER as our headline guest for September.
Sam is a gifted singer, songwriter and acoustic musician, with his fingerpicking style of guitar playing being rated by everyone from Jon Boden of Bellowhead to Nithin Sawney. Since his 2009 debut recording, 'Keepsakes', he has built a following, and a sound, all of his own.
From beginnings as an Emerging Artist In Residence at London’s South Bank Centre, Sam has gone on to support folk big band Bellowhead, perform all over the world with the British Council, and put together another full length album (2012’s 'The No Testament') as well as a recording of his live work at the Union Chapel. It’s safe to say that the Downend crowd are in for something special when Sam arrives on Friday 18th September.
With elements of English traditional music, as well as that of American genres like gospel and spiritual music, and the shapenote hymn-singing tradition, Sam’s ideas and stories come across in new and exciting ways. Difficult to sum up in words, his performance has to be experienced first-hand.
‘His songs look set to stand the test of time and to be covered by others in turn’ - R2 Magazine
Sam plays in a combination of different groups and with different projects, including False Lights (alongside DFC Patron Jim Moray) and the Sweet Liberties with Nancy Kerr, Maz O’Connor and Martyn Joseph. However, he only plays as a solo artist on the odd occasion, so be sure to get your tickets early!
Support in September comes from SAID THE MAIDEN, an award winning trio from Hertfordshire who perform traditional and contemporary English, Irish and American songs.
Jess Distill, Hannah Elizabeth and Kathy Pilkinton use fiddles, flute, whistles, accordion, guitar and more, as well as vocals from all three members.
The band, who scooped the Isambard Award at this year's Bristol Folk Festival combine a range of influences and ideas to come up with something completely unique.
The event will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 18th September 2015. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a full bar serving GWB real ale, cider, wine and a range of soft drinks, as well as a raffle, with our own Jill Williams back behind the little book of numbered tickets!.
Tickets are £10 in advance, £12 on the door, and are available from Melanie’s Kitchen, Bristol Ticket Shop and here. Members tickets are £9 and are available from the Members Area of the website or direct from Ant Miles.
If you are brave enough to go to see One Direction at Wembley, or the X-Factor Finals, you’re likely to spend your evening either straining your eyes to catch a glimpse of the ‘musicians’, or staring at a big screen to the side of the stage… you may as well have stayed at home and watched it on the telly.
But at Downend Folk Club, as well as many other venues across the thriving UK folk-scene, you have the chance to get up-close-and-personal with some superbly-talented people... and last Friday evening was the perfect example.
Kicking off the evening in superb style, Chipping Sodbury-based singer and guitarist NOEY McELWEE’s resonant, sweet-as-honey voice weaved its way through well-known songs like Ralph McTell’s ‘First Song’, appropriately her opening number, 'Feels Like Home' and 'The Birthday Song', as well as welcoming her friend Mary Williams on vocals and flute for 'Run' and the other three members of her quartet BS4 for a close-harmony rendition of 'Ebb Tide', before finishing off with a version of 'Pour Me A Drink' that had the audience humming happily along. A smashing start to the evening.
And then the main event. CHRIS CLEVERLEY may not be the biggest household name that we’ve featured at the club, but he is without doubt amongst the most talented, and surely it’s only a matter of time until his name is at the top of festival bills across the country.
Photo: Chris Dobson
Starting off in unashamed folky style with an unaccompanied rendition of the traditional ‘Jolly Bold Robber’, Chris showcased his pitch perfect-singing voice… soft and relaxed, at times almost whispered, but with a firm underlying confidence. Singing a capella is always a brave thing to do, even more so at the very start of a set, but every member of the audience was hooked straight away.
Then he picked up his guitar and we saw exactly what Chris Cleverley is all about. This guy is a serious talent. Fingers stretching to almost impossible positions on his fretboard, the notes filled the intimate space at Frenchay Village Hall, and imprinted themselves forever in the hearts and minds of every single member of the one-hundred-plus strong audience.
During two sets of impeccable quality, Chris treated to his version of ‘O Shenandoah’, as well as self-penned tracks from his soon-to-be-released debut album, ‘Apparitions’, including ‘She Would Say A Lot Of Things’, which drew the now customary sigh of satisfaction from the audience, and ‘Missing Persons’, during which Chris explores the sensation of feeling stifled in a place. He lives in Birmingham which, he claims, is a “land of rainbows and unicorns”, but reveals that he often escapes to the West Country for some time to himself (“mostly drinking beer”). Indeed, Bristol has become an important place in the life of this affable West-Midlander… he scooped the Isambard Award at 2014’s Bristol Folk Festival which, he tells us, really changed everything and transformed his musical career and persuaded him to keep going.
And were we glad it did, as Chris concluded the first-half by transporting us to America, first to the 1950s for ‘Stables’, before switching to the banjo (his second instrument, and played in a clawhammer-style) and taking us further back to the 1930s for ‘I’m Not Long For This World’.
During the evening, Chris name-checks a number of guitarists that have influenced him to leave behind the classical guitar of his childhood and heavy metal phase of his teens and focus on the English folk tradition; names like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Nic Jones and Martin Simpson. Their influence is obvious, and whilst Chris himself would no doubt baulk at the suggestion, his playing is right up there with these folk icons. But Chris Cleverley is very much his own man. Blues-tinged guitar solos (no doubt influenced by his father, a well-known act on the Birmingham blues-scene), mingle effortlessly with the folk finger-guitar style, and Chris cleverly (ha!) uses excellent percussive strokes to punctuate his songs and keep the audience on their toes.
Chris treats us to a version of the bawdy ‘Barrack Street’ in homage to Nic Jones, before showing us just how good a song-writer and lyricist he is with ‘The Dawn Before The Day’, the stand-out track on the album and certainly one of the highlights of the evening. This is a song that deals with the end of a relationship, but Chris handles it with a lightness of touch that make it an absolute winner… if Simon Cowell got his hands on it, it would certainly be a hit record!
We finish as we started as, for a well-deserved encore, Chris puts down his guitar and sings a beautiful unaccompanied version of ‘The Parting Glass’. It’s a fitting end to a perfect evening.
So you haven’t heard of Chris Cleverley? Oh, you will…
- Ant Miles, Chairman
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