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