If you write a review of an all girl folk night do you have to be qualified in some way? Must at least your CD collection be brimming with names such as Joni Mitchell and your iPod set to annoy fellow bus passengers with the barely audible pluckings of Suzanne Vega? Or maybe you just need to be a girl?
The particular night in question was hosted at the unique and eccentric Mello Mello…. So good they named it twice. Squirrelled at the end of Slater Street, it was of some curiosity to the high-heel and alcopop crowd as they passed by the cosy emanating window-glow. Talking of pop this reviewer enjoyed some lovely organic lager….
First up were trio Stealing Sheep and a song called ‘Lion Show’. The Canadian, English and Norwegian group was a tiny-framed offering with an abundance of talent, style and catchy tunes. Their songs felt like opening a child’s picture book for the first time and then settling down under covers and enjoying it by faded torchlight.
Their next song, ‘Fire and Brimstone’ continued the music-box feel and I almost expected the girls to rotate like toy ballerinas as they sang their beautiful close harmonies. I couldn’t help thinking they had a feeling of country groups of the 40’s and their violin, percussion and guitars were picked hypnotically and at a later point with a rousing accordion.
The rest of the set continued with some fun disarray, as they forgot their lyrics, but with such charm that no one minded. The wings and the halos came out for ‘Sleep, sleep, sleep… let your spirit wander home..” and the audience’s attention remained acute.
The final song “a song about hating work, and homophobic parents…” started more sombre in tone, but was still beautifully melodic with lyrics: “relax your pen, relax your face – you’ll write much better…”
Next on the lampshade-filled stage were Greta and Maev. In their normal guise these two quietly spoken string players are part of Temple Fire (think of a UB40 sized musical population, then double it, then take away two).
There was a gentle romance to their violin, harp and vocal set that took me on a musical equivalent of the ferry from Hollyhead to Dublin and into the deep rural culture of Ireland. The wistfulness was briefly subverted by their announcement of the next song title, “Fanny Fire”. I’m not sure whether this should be hyphenated but the tune was well received by giggles and an all too obvious ‘phnaar’ from a bloke in front of me.
Finally the ladies finished their set with a song that they told us is considered sinful – as it has been known to provoke “dancing, fights and drinking”. So there’s my defence as the organic beer continued to slip down a little too easily
Lizzie Nunnery started her set with one of the more prominent tunes from her new Album – ‘Company of Ghosts’ – entitled ‘England Loves a Poor Boy’. Recently signed to Fellside Recordings, the album is a further milestone and triumph for Lizzies’ ever-growing abilities.
Tonight she was supported by local artist, musician and former member of legendary Liverpool band China Crisis, Gary Daly.
Lizzie began this historical tragedy in her fine vibratoed tones and what sounded like a regular following seemed to enjoy it from the outset. Beautifully realised lyrics… “he’s been walking these streets since 1919…. draggin’ this story ‘cross 50 years” fill the air as she tells the tale of Liverpool legend Ernest Marke. Lizzie then followed with ‘Pubs that never close’. Her impassioned vocal held a mirror up to the crowd as she wanted us to think about modern life, our need to party, our need to be always “fighting back the lows”.
Another highlight to the set was her performance of ‘Exit Songs’. Here the songbird sang about the cage and tells us of her frustrations as a musician, with bad venues and even worse crowds. But I could only imagine what Mr. Daley thought as her lyrics painted a miniature scene, one of a man who used to be in a band in 1982. But with this new arrangement and Daley’s keyboards cutting through the air, I’m sure he didn’t mind.
The night blazed on, and the tables filled up with beer bottles as Lizzie slapped a ukulele like a baby’s bum to a reworking of the M.I.A rap song ‘Paper Planes’. Can’t say I’ve ever loved this song, in fact I could say I hate it but with this arrangement and the charm of a ukulele I might be convinced. But the finale to her set was flourished with ‘Lullaby for Alice’ again proving she has more ink-wet poetry than most to dish out! In a word – superb!
The amazing quality of performance continued with the novel and inventive Hannah Peel. Her sound, live and up close, had a feeling of the fairground, but not the real fairground, (modern fairgrounds are just nauseating) but the kind of fairground you dream of finding as a kid. And as she played the enigmatic ‘Almond Tree’ on the pianorgan the sound felt ancient and mystical.
Hannah sat down at the piano for her second song and began to play. The sound of the piano itself came to the fore with unusual presence. The old box of junk that is resident at Mello Mello always seems to be full of ghosts itself, and on closer inspection it’s name-plate bears the words ‘Challon of London’, and with its carcass bare for all to see, it did have a beautiful sound, as the elegant Hannah continued her jilted love-wounded composition ‘Better than me’. She then swapped between a beautiful Chopin influenced piece to a jazz torch-song-influenced piece called Mr. Batt.
Anyone who has heard of Hannah will have heard of her musical box. A strange and novel way of performing saw Hannah use a contraption not visually unlike a lie detector. We watched her feeding a long roll of paper through the beast whilst she turned a handle. Apart from looking slightly demented, the sound and effect produced were amazing. Pop tunes from the ‘80’s – tunes I thought I’d never really want to hear ever again – were given an incredible lease of life. ‘Tainted Love’ become fascinating and coupled with Hannah’s lilting sexy voice was quite mesmerising.
The evening drew towards the inevitable curtain and a number of the musicians join the stage. Lizzie and Lindsay duet with Hannah for “The Streets of Derry”, with Hannah on piano and a fine violin solo from Greta Svabo. The whole piece was sung with head shaking conviction and finely placed harmony.
As is customary with Almanac folk nights, the final songs were classic sing-alongs, with ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’ featuring a strong vocal solo by Hannah and a full voiced foot stomping version of ‘Dirty Old Town’.
Another great Almanac Folk night, and to think only the day before, someone actually told me that Liverpool has no culture!
Liverpool Acoustic is the only website of its kind in the UK. It was founded by Graham Holland in April 2008 as a central resource for the vibrant and exciting acoustic music scene in Liverpool and the Greater Merseyside area. The website publishes news from the local acoustic music scene, previews of upcoming events, reviews of music releases and gigs, and the Liverpool Acoustic Spotlight podcast. This content is available for free via email subscription. The diary lists acoustic events including festivals, theatre concerts, folk clubs, showcases and open mic nights.
December 14, 2017
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