No question - Nancy Kerr is class. Her Folk Singer Of The Year award a few years back was never more deserving and while last year's 'Instar' might have been criticised in some quarters for being more song based - possibly (shock horror) not 'folky' enough - it added yet another string to her bow that highlighted her impressively developing writing ability.
The chance to showcase her back catalogue was what made a visit to catch the current tour with her Sweet Visitor Band essential, aside from the fact that it's an outfit that's about to be put to bed for a while. In rock terms, it would be ticking the legend box; seen it, bought the T shirt stuff. Backed by Greg Russell, often strapping on the solid body electric and tapping (or toe-ing at an impressive pedal board), double bassist Tim Yates and collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Tom Wright, Nancy adding to the sonic palette with her own fiddle playing and contributing often underplayed but revealingly impressive guitar work.
So the current Sweet Visitor Band tour turned out to be a Nancy Kerr one stop shop based round an 'Instar' core to a set that paid visits to styles and projects, cultures and against a variety of musical backdrops. The tag line 'more than just a folk singer' although with her protest and social observation side running through the blood, her mum blooding her (not literally) in the ways of the protest world as a youngster.
Cherry picked from 'Instar' itself was the folk rocking 'Kingdom' complete with ominous intro that contrasted with a more genteel country rocking in the gorgeous gender fluidity themed 'Fragile Water'. Tom Wright took a step from behind the drum kit and guitar to sit at the pedal steel (also known as the 'pleasure trestle' or 'table of love') for a couple of songs including 'Sisterhood'. Described perfectly by Nancy as the sound of "a sad kitten in another room" before switching into the shuffling swing on Light Rolls Home.
The 'Sweet Visitor' contributed 'Sickle And Harvest' and the 'My Little Drummer' lullaby taken at a pace worthy of rap with some funky guitar chops from Greg while Greg's own Shake The Chains project (on tour early in 2018) got a few plugs not the least of which was the superb Through The Trees that opened the show with an inspiring defiance and the Alan Turing inspired Poison Apple. The theme of music in social change and protest sat perfectly alongside music from Nancy's role in the Sweet Liberties project and a teaser from the brand new Melrose Quartet album 'Dominion' - 'Hand Me Down' - released that very day or thereabouts.
It was a show that like Nancy Kerr and her compardres , never stood in the same musical ground long enough to get rooted and stagnant and proof of why she's always going to be a modest yet shining light in the folk world.
Words & Pictures, Mike Ainscoe
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