There are so many good bands and so much good music to be discovered that sometimes finding them can be a real problem, especially in a big city where numerous venues give an unlimited choice of attractions. One place to head is internet and community radio where the mainstream can be left to the big boys and the more specialist genres can be mined. It was listening to an internet show that led me to Heg & The Wolf Chorus who, by pure coincidence, were playing in London the following night at one of my favourite venues.
The Harrison, upstairs, is a proper pub with good beer at reasonable prices and a excellent bar menu. The stage is downstairs in a tidy venue sitting maybe 40 with a mixture of rows and tables around the edge. With good lighting and a cosy atmosphere it's ideal for intimate gigs.
Opening the evening was Julu Irvine (https://www.facebook.com/JuluIrvinemusic/) who has just released her début EP "Unrest". Julu sings delicate songs, with a beautifully crystal clear voice, about dreams and lost love but not in a way that becomes depressing. The accompaniment was herself on a gentle picked guitar with Heg joining her on backing and harmony vocals, which was lovely to see. It's very entrancing music from a relatively new performer who should prove popular on the acoustic circuit.
FATEA nominated Heg & The Wolf Chorus are Bristol based and their music centres around Heg Brignall's storytelling abilities. The main element of a really strong set was songs from the 2016 release "Raising The Fire" which is a folk concept album full of magic, mystery and theatre. The basic concept is that a White Witch curses mankind as she's wrongly burnt at the stake, and it's all downhill from there. The human world collapses in fire mythical beings to return although it doesn't end well for them either. This is folk music after all.
As a four piece outfit Kate (fiddle), Joe (double bass) and Chez (accordion and cornet) add depth to Heg's keys and lead vocals that allow the music to range from power to ballad via gypsy swing and jazz, but in a way that tells the story rather than being a random selection. Julu joined them on a few occasions with additional vocals.
It wasn't just songs from the latest album of show, though, there were some good covers of Sally Oldfield and Sandy Denny which the band had played at a tribute to the legendary Bristol Troubadour Folk Club and finished with a shanty dedicated to Heg's Grandmother, who inspired her love of storytelling. The story of Granny following the chalked line is well worth hearing for the punchline.
The vocals, from everyone, were tight and high quality with every word clearly enunciated as is absolutely necessary when telling a story and Heg's lead shows what a very fine voice she has. Musically they are a very strong band and the interaction with the audience made this an immersive experience. It was good to see all the performers getting out and talking to everyone; it became a house concert where we were all friends enjoying each other's company. Once again, it was another hit from FolkonMonday, who set benchmarks for quality.
There are just few opportunities to see Heg & The Wolf Chorus before their autumn tour ends, details are on the band's website, but you should go if you get the chance. After that they head back to the studio for a new album, and this is also going to be a myths and legend concept but this time coming more up-to-date, looking into alternative i.e YouTube world views - or conspiracy theories if you like. We heard one song from the new work; the Internet favourite of the "Hollow Earth". The song questions if it's the Earth that has a gap, or is it us? The new album, as yet untitled, has been part funded by an EFDSS Creative Seed Bursary and is another reason to look forward to 2018.
Tony Birch - Words & Picture
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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