Some things are worth the wait.
It’s been a long time coming, has the visit of HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE to Downend Folk Club. This balmy, showery Summer’s evening is the third time that the duo have been booked to appear; both previous times have had to be rearranged for various reasons before they were even announced. Even this one was briefly in danger of not happening, as Hannah and Ben hit serious Summer holiday traffic on the M25 and, at one point, it seemed unlikely they’d make it.
But make it they did, and worth the wait it was. And then some. “We’re going to have a party,” Hannah tells a nicely full Frenchay Village Hall. “A very quiet, restrained party.” She meant it as a joke, but in actual fact, it’s a great description of what was to come."
The pair, and their myriad guitars, dobros and dulcimers, huddle together around a single microphone, reminiscent of many of the finest bluegrass acts of years gone by. Yet the sound they make, whilst tinged with the merest hint of Americana, is far from bluegrass. It’s a thing of soaring beauty, as their two contrasting voices twist and entwine together in stunning harmonies, and their gentle, sensitive musicianship lifts the whole thing to a magical level.
A review in a well-known folk music magazine, in describing Hannah and Ben as “spellbinding”, said of the pair that they were clearly “born to sing and play together”, and that sense of the meeting of two musicians destined to be a duo is tangible throughout two halves of evocative soundscapes. Hannah’s voice, clear as a bell and at times almost operatic, soars to the rafters, and is complimented perfectly by Ben’s gravelly tones. They wind their way through some traditional songs, including the stand-out I’ll Weave My Love A Garland, while their version of Woody Guthrie’s Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key is simply breathtaking.
It would be easy to lose oneself in all of this, and one frequently does... but Hannah and Ben also have a warm and engaging manner on-stage, and a lively, quirky sense of humour that means that there are as many laughs as their are gasps at the beauty. Their CDs don’t have their names on them, and neither do the t-shirts. “It’s a marketing nightmare”, says Ben. But it doesn’t stop the crowds forming a long, orderly queue to spend their money at the end. One regular summed it up: “An exceptional night, even by Downend Folk Club standards!”
Opening the evening’s entertainment was Exeter-based singer-songwriter BEN MORGAN-BROWN, who delivered the perfect support slot. Bringing to mind luminaries such as John Martyn, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch (whom Ben later said was an inspiration in his musical journey; no surprise there!), his songs were well-crafted and delivered with a crystal clear, gently lulling voice, and a dexterity on the guitar as good as anyone seen at the club before. One to watch, and he, too, proved popular with the gathered faithful.
But it was to Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage that the evening rightly belonged. It was a long time coming, but it was so, so worth the wait.
Words: Ant Miles
Photo: Chris Dobson
Our Summer programme concludes this month with a visit from HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE, a “spellbinding” duo who were “born to play and sing together”, according to fRoots Magazine.
A chance meeting at their local Black Fen Folk Club in Cambridge uncovered Hannah and Ben’s shared musical passions and sympathies, that over time has developed into a unique and intimate show of American roots and English folk music.
Huddled round a single microphone, singing intimate duets with just mountain dulcimer, dobro and guitar Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage are a folk duo that look & sound classically timeless, yet feel refreshingly unique. Fleetingly, they may evoke a memory of Gram & Emmylou, Shirley & Davey, or Gillian & David but their warm distilling of influences from both sides of the Atlantic produces a refined sound that is decidedly their own.
Their unique unplugged presentation creates a widescreen, cinematic soundscape with open spaces and atmosphere, giving their beautifully pure vocals room to share the songs’ emotion and narrative.
The material is as joyful and fun as it is intense, but the common factor is the duo’s warmth and confidence in each other; their natural ease and connection is clearly evident on the recorded music, and a genuine pleasure to witness on stage.
Opening the evening’s entertainment will be Exeter-based singer/songwriter BEN MORGAN-BROWN, who writes intimate and reflective songs heavily informed by the folk-baroque guitarists & singer/songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Inspired to pick up the acoustic guitar when he first heard Bert Jansch’s debut album, his open-tuned guitar, ethereal vocals & obliquely personal lyrics tip the hat to Nick Drake, John Martyn, Michael Chapman et al, whilst still maintaining a unique musical style & identity.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 20th July 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 our now-famous "stealth 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.
We are thrilled to reveal the programme for Autumn/Winter 2018.
There is a real blend of styles across the broader folk genre from some of the UK's leading names - there really is something for everyone - and it's rounded off by a rather special Christmas treat!
Kicking off the programme on Friday 21st September, at our Frenchay Village Hall home, will be JIM CAUSLEY. During the past decade Jim has been nominated no less than six times for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award. Opening for Jim will be singer-songwriter HANNAH WOOF.
October's gig sees us back at DOWNEND SCHOOL on Friday 19th as we welcome THE LUCY WARD BAND. Lucy is an impressive, original songwriter whose unique delivery and breath-taking voice has enchanted audiences the world over. JACK HOPKINSON will get the evening underway.
Our November headliners are MEGSON, at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 16th. The husband & wife duo bring an infectious mix of heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars. Megson have gained fame on the British folk scene, not only for their arresting & intelligent songwriting, but for their exquisite musicianship and northern humour. Opening the evening will be the highly-rated KIRSTY MERRYN.
Rounding off the programme on Friday 21st December, as we return to CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND after their refurbishment, will be a unique collaboration between two of the UK's top acts. 'AWAKE, ARISE: A CHRISTMAS TOUR FOR OUR TIMES' sees LADY MAISERY link-up with JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH in what promises to be a stunning evening. The five-piece will be supported by DANNY PEDLER & ROSIE BUTLER-HALL.
We feel sure that you will agree that this is one of our best programmes to date. All four shows are on-sale now at MELANIE'S KITCHEN and online HERE. And we know that you're going to want to come to all four shows, so once more we've added a Season Ticket option, available online only, where you can pay for all shows in one go (and avoid those pesky booking fees at the same time!).
Page 23 of 67