Just watch his fingers. Just. Watch. His. Fingers. As long as the head banging and foot stomping doesn’t distract you first, just watch his fingers. They are a blur.
There is no way that anyone other than Mohsen Amini can play a concertina like that. He is TALISK's not-so-secret weapon. The greatest musician that has ever played on this stage; a raconteur, a rabble rouser, an electric, restless, pounding presence at the heart of a massive tune generating machine. He won Folk Musician of the Year in 2018 and, if there's any sense in the world, the BBC may as well retire the award and give it to him forever.
Just watch his fingers.
Way back when (let’s call it the 1990s) Pixies and Nirvana did that loud-quiet-loud thing for American indie. Talisk are doing something similar for folk music. It's some sort of slow-quicker-much quicker-really flippin' quick-slow thing. As a consequence there's dancing before the end of the first tune. Crazy legged step-dance, immodest bouncing, improvised swing-your-partner-about, stomping and wheeling. There's whooping. There's hollering. There’s absurd amounts of clapping. Not always in time. However fast the dancers dance or the clappers clap there is no way of keeping up. Talisk are way, way ahead of this packed room.
Tunes race by – no, really, they race, they zoom, they cascade – none of them have words, titles don't matter. Everyone is having too much fun. What do you mean, you need titles? Are you some sort of a folk nerd? Literally no one cares. Folk art, let's dance. And smile. And dance some more.
If Bellowhead were the high water mark of “amazing folk bands that you have to see live" then Talisk are your next favourite live folk band. There hasn't been anything as exciting as this lot for years and, unlike the Bellowhead juggernaut, there are only three of them. If you can drag yourself away from Mohsen’s fingers then the other two are equally amazing. Graeme Armstrong’s guitar has a propulsion all of its own, it’s almost percussive, and Hayley Keenan's fiddle keeps the tunes in check when the concertina is flying about all over the place. In lots of ways she is the star of this band. Without her sense of timing and musicianly discipline the wheels would be off when the stomping starts.
If you really need highlights and titles then The Hills starts with a slow, beautiful fiddle air before ramping through the gears and ending in absolute delirious, smile inducing mayhem. Crooked Water Valley does the same. And so does Dystopia. There's a bit more crazy legged dancing for that one, the fiddle intro is a bit shorter and the mayhem a bit more fevered. Both of their full length albums, Abyss and Beyond, are mined for treats and the pace is never allowed to drop below frenzied. It should all be a bit exhausting but it never is. This is music that is thrilling and so full of joy that it’s almost impossible not to move; it is properly heart-warming.
CALUM GILLIGAN must be very glad that support acts don't go on after the main act. His soft, warm Scots folk-pop was too gentle to stand up to a Talisk shaped battering. As it was he was a beautiful opening act. A lovely voice with a few gloriously pop-edged tunes. There was a hint of Kris Drever about him, and that's no bad thing.
Fingers flying, smiles beaming, couples whirling, a roof raised. Talisk felt like the most fun you can have on a November evening. Follow that!
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Chris Dobson
Scottish firebrands TALISK headline our November concert… and it’s a good job the event is at DOWNEND SCHOOL, because we've already sold tickets to more people than we could fit in our Frenchay Village Hall HQ!
In their five years, Talisk have stacked up several major awards for their explosively energetic yet artfully woven sound, including 2017’s Folk Band of the Year at the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, and a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Musician of the Year 2018 Mohsen Amini, Hayley Keenan and Graeme Armstrong seamlessly meld concertina, fiddle and guitar to produce a multi-layered, enthralling signature that has effortlessly captivated audiences from the USA to Australia, and throughout the UK. Appearances at world-leading festivals - including Cambridge Folk Festival, Denmark’s Tønder, WOMAD UK and Las Palmas, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Celtic Colours, Milwaukee Irish Festival and five successive outings at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections - have amassed a die-hard following, whilst the world’s folk and world music media have also lauded high credits upon the trio.
The release of their hotly anticipated second album, Beyond, in October 2018 was met with a five-star “Top of the World” review in Songlines, praising the band as “incredibly infectious and endearing... fresh, invigorating, accomplished and playfully frisky.”
Opening the evening’s entertainment will be CALUM GILLIGAN, a Scottish folk singer-songwriter born in Galloway and based in Liverpool. He has been writing his own music and gigging from an early age, playing around the UK and beyond over the years. He writes a subtle blend of Celtic folk and Americana music with influences ranging from Woody Guthrie and Christy Moore, to contemporary folk artists such as Kris Drever and Kate Rusby. His lyrics form the heart of his music, with melodic guitar and powerful vocals carrying the words aloft.
Having appeared at several festivals over the summer, 2019 has already been a resounding success for Calum, and with the launch of the Maybe Half a Lifetime EP in September, Calum says “it just keeps getting better!”
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Downend School on Friday 15th November 2019, 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 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 well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. There is now a 50p surcharge for disposable glasses.
We are thrilled to reveal our brilliant programme for Spring 2020. We've got a couple of returning DFC favourites as they bring their new songs, as well as some new faces as we continue with our promise to bring the very best folk, roots and acoustic music to South Gloucestershire.
ODETTE MICHELL is a British folk singer-songwriter, guitarist and bouzouki player with a bold new take on the acoustic tradition and a voice capable of demonstrating the finer points of both folk and traditional song with genuine craftsmanship. In May 2019, Odette released her enchanting debut album The Wildest Rose. The album gained widespread positive acclaim and featured notable musical contributions from Phil Beer (one-half of multi-award-winning acoustic folk band Show of Hands) who plays fiddle on two of the tracks and sings backing vocals on one other track; and Toby Shaer (Cara Dillon, Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys). Our very own ANT MILES will get the evening underway on Friday 17th January with a short solo set.
Our February event, on Friday 21st, sees a welcome return for contemporary folk/acoustic duo GILMORE & ROBERTS. Nominated three times at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Katriona Gilmore (fiddle, mandolin) and Jamie Roberts (guitar) met while studying at Leeds College of Music. Their 2018 album A Problem Of Our Kind is the fifth studio album from the duo, who combine award-winning songwriting with astounding musicianship and their trademark harmonies to create a powerful wall of sound. Supporting them will be MATT QUINN & OWEN WOODS.
Described as “a gentle, lulling delight” by The Guardian, Scottish trio SALT HOUSE are our headline guests on Friday 20th March, as part of their tour to launch their new album, Huam. Songs are central to Salt House. New songs that sound as if they’ve always been here. Ancient ballads woken up. Poems given the tunes they’ve long deserved. Songs about place, politics, landscape and birds. Kicking off the evening's music will be the impressive JON WILKS.
Rounding off the Spring programme, on Friday 17th April, will be the first act ever to sell out a DFC concert... and one that our regulars DEMAND that we have back every three years or so! Sometimes folk, sometimes not, INDIA ELECTRIC CO. use traditional instruments in contemporary styles to explore diverse themes from Eastern Europe, Irish traditions and modern urban alienation to end up with something “quirky and glittery - a veritable musical magpie’s nest” according to BBC Radio 3. They're back at Downend with a new album in hand, and will be supported by Bristol-based French singer-songwriter JANE.B.
Each concert will be held at Frenchay Village Hall and starts at 8.00pm (doors open at 7.30pm). Tickets are on-sale now, from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend, or online HERE. We're offering the Season Ticket option again, which means you can buy tickets for all four gigs in one go and avoid those pesky booking fees.
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