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John Spires + Effra

Venue: Widcombe Social Club
Town: Bath
Date: 7/08/16

A fixture of the Bath Folk Festival is New Shoots, where young unsigned folk acts get to go head to head. Effra won the first competition in 2012 and returned to the festival this year as a main stage attraction.

Introduced as having their roots in rock, classical and jazz (not folk, apparently!) the trio's music experiments with genres, melding them to produce a fast-paced and scintillating hybrid. In a way similar to the Penguin Café Orchestra, repetitive, minimalist figures from Aidan Shepherd's accordion are a staple, while Tom Newell's fiddle takes flight with Vaughan Williams-style lyricism. Alex Bishop's often subtle guitar kept the tunes moving at a pace.

One half of Spiers and Boden and one eleventh of the folk phenomenon Bellowhead, John Spiers is also great value as a headlining soloist. His show at Widcombe Social Club was a masterclass in melodeon, accordion and concertina playing, with more than half a dozen squeezeboxes crowding the stage.

Chatty and knowledgeable, the obvious joy with which he tackled the set list was infectious. Many of the tunes were clap-along, even dance-along and all were definitely foot-tapping.

Morris tunes, hornpipes, waltzes, slow airs, slipjigs, reels and schottisches all got a look in, many introduced with an entertaining glimpse at their complex history and position in the folk family tree.

While he played mainly traditional tunes, his self-penned numbers look set to become folk standards before too long.

Andy Nelmes

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