It almost shouldn't be possible for three musicians to produce such a rich and expansive series of soundscapes with the instrumentation on hand, but Gigspanner ably demonstrate the seemingly limitless possibilities offered by the violin, guitar and percussion, with just a few sensitively selected extras throughout the evening.
Centered around Peter Knight's fiddle as the lead instrument, Roger Flack's guitar work has the chance to fill in the spaces and paint in harmonic details that shift the mood under the melody. With music lifted directly from traditional dances, it's a joy to have a beat with a primal, almost tribal flavour at times courtesy of Sasha, a dynamic percussionist who contributes to the lively ebb and flow of the set. It's a texture I would love to hear more of in a folk setting.
These three gentleman are generous performers and it was a pleasure to hear them in a venue that allowed us to get closer to the music. Since the refurbishment of the Lighthouse Arts Centre to mark its 40th year, the studio that hosted the concert has been transformed into a more intimate space without compromising on capacity. Now more reminiscent of Bristol's iconic Wardrobe Theatre, the new arrangement brings you closer to the performers and strips away the invisible barrier often created by a stage. This was evident in the comfortable banter between audience and musicians in the tantalizing anecdotes that were shared between the songs and tunes. It has to be said that Mr Knight has a remarkable capacity to deliver a one-liner with comic timing and a knowing smile.
The beginning of the concert is a gentle transition from the mundane into the vibrant musical world of the trio. The violin whispers delicately through brief snatches of melody before the trio emerges into a familiar territory that meanders around She Moved Through the Fair. Knight uses the tune to take the listener on a whistle-stop tour of his own musical journey.
After the virtuoisic cadenzas of the opening, hanging his fiddle around his neck, Knight proceeds to pluck and strum the strings through the song Penny the Hero, and we are given our first taste of the exquisite harmonies that will punctuate the night. The three part vocals are relaxed and understated, glowing warmly and adding new harmonic possibilities to the arrangements. If they are the perfect accent in Penny the Hero, the harmonies in Hard Times of Old England later in the evening are the centerpiece.
For me the Bows of London is a standout track, both in live performance and the recording. Telling the familar tale of a jealous sister and her murderous intentions, Gigspanner add an extra dimension with their choice of chord progression. Knight jokes about the reaction of a previous audience at his suggestion of creating the macabre fiddle mentioned in the song as a prop for embellishment.
Words: Lee Cuff
Photos: Jo Elkington
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