Finest

ALAN NI­CHOL HAS THE LAT­EST ON THE ROOTS MU­SIC SCENE IN THE NORTH EAST

The Chronicle - - What’s On -

ONE of the finest singers the UK/Ire­land folk scene – in­deed any folk-scene – has ever pro­duced ar­rives on Ty­ne­side for a show in Sage Gateshead’s Hall 2 tonight.

Cara Dil­lon, orig­i­nally from Dun­given in North­ern Ire­land but long based in the south­west of Eng­land, brings her band for a show with a dis­tinct Christ­mas theme.

Af­ter win­ning the All Ire­land Singing Tro­phy as a 14-year-old, she formed a band called Oige (an Ir­ish word mean­ing youth) two years later and they recorded a cou­ple of al­bums.

Still in her teens, she then re­placed Kate Rusby in the band Equa­tion, which com­prised the three Lake­man broth­ers – Sean, Sam (now Cara’s hus­band and mu­si­cal di­rec­tor) and Seth – plus Kathryn Roberts. Not sur­pris­ingly, the band was dubbed the era’s “folk su­per­group”.

Since the Equa­tion days Cara and Sam have recorded seven al­bums and won a host of awards in the process. The most re­cent al­bum, The Wan­derer, once again earner her the type of crit­i­cal praise that has ac­com­pa­nied all of her work since her self-ti­tled de­but ap­peared 15 years ago.

The most ap­pro­pri­ate al­bum for this show, how­ever, is last year’s Upon A Win­ter’s Night on which she tapped into ma­te­rial that is time­less and redo­lent of fam­ily gath­er­ings (both Cara and Sam had sim­i­lar Christ­mas child­hood mem­o­ries).

The re­sult is a set of songs which are un­tainted by the usual com­mer­cial Christ­mas sound­track and de­liv­ered in the purest voice from any mu­si­cal genre.

Fri­day night in Cluny 2 changes the mood com­pletely. The guests are the Philadelphia rock’n’roll quin­tet, Low Cut Connie, who, ac­cord­ing to one Amer­i­can critic, ‘put on a fe­ro­cious live show.’

The band, formed in 2010, is fronted by piano-play­ing Adam Weiner, who ap­pears to draw in­spi­ra­tion from women, if the re­cur­ring theme is a re­flec­tion of re­al­ity.

His piano is dubbed ‘Shon­dra’ and the band name is, ap­par­ently, in­spired by a re­al­life wait­ress. Al­bums en­ti­tled Call Me Sylvia (2012) and Hi Honey (2015) would seem to re­in­force the mo­tif.

The band’s fourth al­bum, Dirty Pic­tures (Part 1), was re­leased ear­lier this year.

That same en­ergy is in ev­i­dence up­stairs in the larger room when Dr Feel­good bring their an­nual dose of R ‘n’ B to what is sure to be a packed au­di­ence.

The date has be­come some­thing of a preChrist­mas rit­ual for the long-run­ning quar­tet. Per­son­nel changes over the decades do not ap­pear to have dimmed the over­all drive of a band whose pop­u­lar­ity is tes­ti­mony to the mu­sic they make.

There is a re­turn to more folk-in­spired mu­sic back at Sage Gateshead to­mor­row – in Hall 1 this time – when the Un­thanks join forces with the ad­ven­tur­ous cham­ber orches­tra, Army of Gen­er­als, and some fairly ob­scure an­cient in­stru­ments.

The Mer­cury-nom­i­nated Ty­ne­side band’s ma­te­rial would ap­pear to be a suit­able fit for or­ches­tra­tion and this show, on home turf, should see the re­al­i­sa­tion of that view. Fa­mil­iar artistry on a broader can­vas, you might say.

Can there re­ally be a more po­tent or gifted singer/gui­tarist/song­writer cur­rently ply­ing his trade in the UK than Nick Harper ? It is a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion that has been asked be­fore but re­gard­less of your per­sonal ver­dict he is al­ways, in the live set­ting, sec­ond to none for value.

He returns to the re­gion with his band, The Wilder­ness Kids, and a new al­bum, called Lies! Lies! Lies!, to show­case when he plays the Cluny (up­stairs in the main room) on Sun­day night.

The Lon­don-born mu­si­cian pos­sesses ev­ery tech­ni­cal gift that man and gui­tar could pos­si­bly crave – pow­er­house gui­tarist, soar­ing vo­cals and songs that con­tain thought-

Philadelphia rock’n’roll quin­tet, Low Cut Connie

Nick Harper and the Wilder­ness Kids

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