I go to a lot of gigs... or at least, I used to! I’ve been to great gigs, awful gigs and everything in between. Let me tell you the sort of gig that’s the rarest of all... the gig that transports you away from reality to somewhere entirely different for a couple of hours. Last Friday was one of those gigs.
JACKIE OATES is a name that has been synonymous with the reinvigoration of English folk music for many a year. You’ve probably seen her on stage with the likes of The Imagined Village or The Unthanks, or with her regular collaborators Mike Cosgrave, John Spiers, Tristan Seume, Jack Rutter or John Parker, at many a festival and concert over the years. If you have, you’ll surely have been blown away by Jackie’s utterly mesmeric voice, and sensitive fiddle-playing.
It’s hard to believe, then, that as she took to the stage for Downend Folk Club’s second live/online hybrid concert in front of a socially-distanced audience of twenty-something people, that this was Jackie’s FIRST EVER full solo concert. Surely not?
You couldn’t tell though. Armed with just a lovely, light-coloured viola, and electric piano and THAT voice, it seemed for all the world that Jackie had been doing this forever. She claimed to be “a bit nervous”, up there without band-mates for the first time, but if she was, she hid it very well indeed.
Alternating between her position at the vocal mic, that fiddle at her chin, and sitting at the piano, Jackie delivered a fantastic relaxed concert, everyone immediately put at ease by her charming personality and the gentle, lulling nature of many of her songs. And the audience certainly appreciated it, generating applause and whoops at the end of every song to rival noise at the regular sell-outs at the little South Gloucestershire village hall, and no doubt added to a week later by hundreds of people watching in their homes via the magic of the internet.
Highlights are hard to pick out... not because there were few, but because the whole of Jackie’s performance felt like one long highlight! After kicking off with a couple of fiddle-tunes, Jackie’s rendition of Congleton Bear, matched with the tune Whittlesey Straw Bear, really settled us in for the evening, while her rendition of Ewan MacColl’s The Joy of Living, with it’s accompanying story, hardly left a dry eye in the house.
She’s got a real knack, you see, of drawing you in. Drawing you in the tales told in these old songs that she sings; drawing you into a little of her life with her tales of children and families; and drawing you in with that voice. My goodness, THAT voice.
Ok, things aren’t quite normal at the moment. It’s still not quite like a Downend Folk Club gig (but well done to them for finding a way!). But do you know what? For two hours on that Friday evening, Jackie Oates transported us away from 2020, with its trials and tribulations, to somewhere utterly lovely.
Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Chris Webster
LIVE: Frenchay Village Hall, Friday 9th October, 7.30pm +++ ONLINE PREMIERE: Friday 16th October, 7.30pm.
It’s the return of a very familiar face in October as we put on the second in our series of live/online concerts.
JACKIE OATES returns for a third visit to the club to perform her first ever solo gig in what promises to be a truly special evening. Many will remember her spine-tingling performance, backed by a full band, to a packed out Christ Church Downend as recently as last December (it feels like years ago, doesn’t it?!), and regulars may also cast their minds back to July 2015, when we first met Jackie, this time with Mike Cosgrave.
Jackie’s is a name synonymous with the reinvigoration of English folk music, beguiling audiences with a delicate balance of tradition and reinvention. Her mellifluous voice and imaginatively plaintive fiddle style has won her several BBC Folk Awards during a 16-year recording career that began as a member of the nascent Unthanks and has continued with seven acclaimed solo albums.
Collaborations with Alasdair Roberts, Belinda O’Hooley and her brother Jim Moray on material that’s ranged from traditional ballads to eerie lullabies and rich contemporary songs, Jackie has earned fans beyond the folk scene she grew up in. Her music has featured on cBeebies, Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show, alternative station XFM and even an upcoming episode of Midsomer Murders. And she was granted a rare honour by having a makeup product named after her by Lush cosmetics.
To quote the illustrious Mojo magazine, Jackie Oates enthrals.
Tickets for both parts of the concert are on-sale now from HERE. They are very limited (to a maximum of 26) for the live element of the concert, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 9th October. Doors open at 7.30pm for a 7.45pm start. There will not be a bar so ticket-holders are encouraged to bring their own refreshments and the means to consume them. They should also bring a face-mask (for moving around the building, it does not need to be worn during Jackie’s performance) and their own hand-sanitiser. Tickets for the live concert are £15 each and are only available in advance. This also includes a ticket for the stream, details below.
The online event premieres on Friday 16th October via YouTube. You can only access this concert if you have paid for a ticket, which are priced at a minimum of £10 each (although you are encouraged to take the option to pay more if there is more than one person watching). Ticket-holders will be able to watch the concert as many times as they like for one month, so if you can’t make the premiere on Friday 16th, it’s still well worth a watch!
It was different to the pre-lockdown Downend Folk Club gigs that we’ve grown to know and love.
As we walked into the familiar Frenchay Village Hall, which has been the main home of the club since is was formed in 2014, there was quite a lot that was unfamilar. Firstly, there was no bar, no lovely GWB beer for sale, no delicious Naughty Brownies. In the main hall, there were a dozen pairs of chairs, meticulously placed the mandatory two metres apart. There were arrows on the floor and doors marking out the one-way system for going to the loo. There were two masked people setting up cameras and recording equipment on the stage. And it was quiet, compared to normal.
But you know what? None of those unusual things mattered, not one little bit. Because we were at an actual concert. And, even better, we were at a NICK HART concert.
Perhaps a new name to some, it’s certain not to stay that way. Nick Hart is an incredible performer. The MC, in introducing him, claims that “Nick Hart is one of the most important things to happen in English traditional music for many years” and, as soon as he starts playing, it’s impossible to disagree.
There are no gadgets. No bells or whistles. Live looping and effects pedals are not what Nick is all about. He is perhaps better known for playing the concertina, but there’s not even one of them. There’s just this large, slightly dishevelled man, and a guitar. Just one guitar.
Turns out, that’s all he needs. Well, that and his distinctive voice. There are shades of Chris Wood in the vocal, echoes of Nic Jones in the guitar style. The set-list is made up entirely of traditional English folk songs (aside from one slightly more recent one written by friends of Nick, called The River Don’t Run). And yet, Nick manages to make them feel new, exciting, relevant.
Highlights include The Molecatcher (featuring an hilarious ‘implied rhyme’… I’ll not spoil the surprise!), Riding Down to Portsmouth, Butter and Cheese and, saved for a well-deserved encore, The Yellow Handkerchief, but every song is delivered with authenticity and charm. Nick’s instantly likeable, too. It’s a slightly odd situation for everyone but Nick puts the audience at ease straight away, with a sharp wit and very informal manner on stage.
His first two albums are called Nick Hart Sings Eight English Folk Songs and Nick Hart Sings Nine English Folk Songs. This is very much in keeping with Nick’s uncomplicated style. During the evening, Nick reveals that he’s been working on a third album during lockdown, and that is has ten songs on it. The title, however, remains shrouded in mystery. Whatever it’s called when it’s released, you should buy it. And the other two. And tickets to see him perform whenever you can. He’s that important.
A word, too, for Downend Folk Club. It would have been very easy to just not bother putting anything on when the pandemic hit. But not only did they bring us weekly interviews/mini-concerts for free during the full lockdown, they’ve now managed to put on this concert, which was not only for a live audience but available to buy as a stream to enjoy from home the following Friday… and, I’m told, there are several more of these live/online gigs in the pipeline. Fair play to them for striving to bring us the music we love.
So yes, it was different. But my goodness, it was good!
Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Tamsin Elliott
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