Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party
support: Nick Manley; Innominata
Winchester Folk Club at The Barn,
The Railway, Winchester
9th April 2014
Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party
Fay Hield – vocals
Sam Sweeney – violin, cello, viola, nyckelharpa, footboard, vocals
Rob Harbron – concertina, violin, banjo, vocals
Andy Cutting – melodeon
Roger Wilson – guitar, violin, vocals
The Wicked Serpent
The Weaver’s Daughter
Kings Barrow (instrumental)
Briar & Rose (Tom Waits)
The Lover’s Ghost
Grey Goose and Gander
The Parson’s Gate
My favourite venue. It always feels like a privilege to see people playing in such an intimate setting. In this case it had been moved from the original The Attic to the larger The Barn, but it’s still very small and close with a six inch high stage and they had put out chairs. It is used for rock too, and Fay Hield made a comment about it being odd to be in a rock venue. It’s odd to me to see five such accomplished and acclaimed musicians in such a small setting. The modern folk scene does thrive at festivals and larger halls as well, but if Fay Hield had been recording in the late 60s and had such acclaim, I’m sure she would have been contemplating a far higher profile. This is true for her generation of musicians, and I’d say the same about Jon Boden, Seth Lakeman, Jonathan Wilson and Simone Felice. But why complain? It means that the quality of folk in small halls is at a very high level indeed.
The set starts powerfully with The Wicked Serpent, then into my favourite, The Weaver’s Daughter (with Rob Harbron moving to banjo) and an unaccompanied Pretty Nancy with audience singalong. Every one taken impeccably and confidently. Fay Hield has excellent audience interaction.
I usually review in chronological order of the evening, but anyone looking for this will be looking for the main set so I’ll put the supports below. The set and band were familiar from Eastleigh last year, but there was a major change. Sam Sweeney had been in hospital last year and was replaced. It worked well, but I had asked in the interval about Kemp Owen and Fay said they couldn’t do it without Sam Sweeney. The same happened to Sir Orfeo, and listening to the things he was doing on cello throughout Sir Orfeo tonight, I could see the point. There are fiddle players and fiddle players, but Sam Sweeney has immediate authority in a rare way. The addition of amplified footboard, which he stomps on, is important. Both instrumentals (I can’t learn to call them “tunes” which seems the folk word) were entrancing. The one in the first half was called King’s Barrow, but he didn’t name the one in the second half.
I mentioned this in earlier reviews but with her solo albums. She mentioned Bert Lloyd (A.L. Lloyd) and how in researching folk songs he may have added something. A folk fan friend thinks she improves a lot of what she finds. Little polishes here and there most of the time, the end result being that her version tends to be the best. After she finished Tom Waits The Briar and The Rose, in a duet with Roger Wilson, she mentioned Tom Waits and someone shouted out “You do it best!” to which there was approval right round the room. She demurred, but it’s true. She did do it better than the original. Actually that’s something female vocalists can do with both Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, where any male attempt is weak in comparison with an original. A female voice takes it further away from direct comparison.
Tarry Trousers is a good cheerful lead in to the interval. Again, Fay Hield is selling the CDs and chatting. You don’t get Judy Collins doing that, but they are of comparable ability and quality.
There was only one from The Full English project, the unaccompanied Awake Awake opening the second half. Given three members, Fay Hield, Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron, I’d expected at least couple … Linden Lea was such a great piece with The Full English as was The Man In The Moon. But she stuck pretty much to the two albums with more from Orfeo than Looking Glass.
Mad Family and Naughty Baby work well one after the other. In Naughty Baby Sam Sweeney played nyckelharp which I had to look up on the sleeve notes then Google. It’s a Swedish peg operated violin type instrument! It’s the first time I’d ever seen one. This song from the Opie collection was another stand out because of the beautiful melody and his playing. On the Orfeo sleeve it says Fay added a simple tune which she got while listening to I Haven’t Got A Clue. We spent half the journey home trying to place the hymn (as we thought) it was related to. As soon as we dropped the words it came. It’s the German National Anthem, wrongly but widely known as Deutschland Uber Alles which actually has a nicely ironic edge connected to the lyric. Think of Little Hitler by Nick Lowe!
The Sam Sweeney led instrumental was hypnotic. It’s why a seated venue is important! King Henry is a great change of pace, though you do wonder which King Henry might have been King James’s son.
The Lover’s Ghost is a good example of how seamlessly they can switch instruments. Sam Sweeney was on cello, Rob Harbron switched from concertina to banjo, and Roger Wilson from guitar to violin … as he did on several numbers.
Grey Goose and Gander is a natural rousing closer with The Parson’s Gate as an encore. Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party are one of the best musical evenings you’re going to find. We’re already keeping our eyes open for the next tour.
REVIEW of The Full English 30th October 2013 here
Review of Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party March 2013 here
See also my article on Fay Hield on The Toppermost site
The stage is set …
The Winchester Folk Club made an evening of it with two support acts, bith local, both extremely good.
(A song about boy deserters in WWI)
My Time Is Coming
Rock The Horses
This short solo set had two instrumentals and three songs. The outstanding piece was Sweet Saviour which he said he wrote forty years ago. Good vibes, lovely playing.
Dave Butterfield – Mandolin, Tenor banjo, Whistles
George Benn – Guitar, Lead vocals
Mike Cross – Flute, Percussion, Vocals
Rick Bush – Fiddle
Health to The Company
Farewell & Adieu Spanish Ladies
French Tunes (Boure?)
The Osbury Lads
This Romsey band has apparently been going since 1981. They alternated instrumentals and vocals, but the trademark was that on one side they have underlying guitar and violin, but on the other whistle and flute, often together, and the tunes go for melody. They mentioned that Ayr Loch (?) was probably Central European in origin or Israeli. We thoroughly enjoyed their set, especially Health To The Company, Spanish Ladies and the local area one about Luddites, The Osbury Lads. Excellent playing and singing