VENUE aces & eights, lon­don DATE 29/11/2018

Prog - - Take a Bow - DAVID WEST

Roughly a year and a half has passed since Heather Find­lay first brought her trio, with Martin Ledger and Sarah Dean, to this venue to record her live DVD. On that oc­ca­sion, it felt like the play­ers were still find­ing their feet in the smaller for­mat of the three-piece. But tonight, the trio brim with an easy con­fi­dence, hav­ing grown into their own dis­tinct sound.

The evening is split into two sets, the first of which in­hab­its that fer­tile ground where folk meets blues and rock, not far re­moved from Led Zep­pelin in an acous­tic mood. The open­ing Uno­rig­i­nal Sin sets the tone with Find­lay sound­ing su­perb. Last time, Ledger’s elec­tric guitar tended to over­power the rest of the in­stru­ments, but the mix tonight is spot on. Find­lay’s voice and acous­tic guitar take front and cen­tre, with Ledger’s Tele­caster pro­vid­ing sup­port and taste­ful bluesy so­los, while Dean switches be­tween harp, har­mo­nium, and var­i­ous wood­wind in­stru­ments to round out the or­ches­tra­tion.

“Here’s some­thing stompy for you,” says Find­lay, in­tro­duc­ing Caught In A Fold, from Odin Drag­on­fly’s Of­fer­ings al­bum. Tonight’s set picks freely from Find­lay’s cat­a­logue, from Mostly Au­tumn, the Mantra Vega al­bum with Dave Kerzner, Odin Drag­on­fly, and her solo re­leases.

High­lights from the first set in­clude the glo­ri­ous warmth of Yel­low Time, Mag­no­lia

Half Moon, and ev­er­green, with the lat­ter re­ceiv­ing the loud­est ac­claim.

Set two sees the trio ven­tur­ing deeper into the realm of folk, be­gin­ning with I Am Snow, wherein Find­lay’s high notes are pure as the prover­bial driven. With Christ­mas on the hori­zon, the trio pull out some sea­son­ally themed cov­ers in the form of Sandy Denny’s Win­ter Winds, the folk song The Snows They Melt The Soon­est, and the 16th cen­tury Latin Christ­mas carol gaudete, which is mainly per­formed a cap­pella.

Out of the vaults comes Mostly Au­tumn’s Steal Away – “Where it all be­gan for me,” says Find­lay – and Above The Blue. These midtempo tunes al­low Find­lay plenty of space to give her voice full rein, par­tic­u­larly with the stripped­back ar­range­ments. They fin­ish with Shrink­ing Vi­o­let, an­other el­e­gant bal­lad, although one au­di­ence mem­ber is moved to head­bang along as it builds to a crescendo. Per­haps it’s not too soon for an­other live record­ing of this line-up, as they seem to be get­ting bet­ter.

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