Somehow it's been two years, since I sit in Poole's heavily under-utilised arts centre, The Lighthouse, watching the launch of Ninebarrow's debut and subsequently award winning album, "While The Blackthorn Burns", but this isn't about the incompetence of venue management, this is all about the launch night of Ninebarrow's sophomore album, "Releasing The Leaves", a far more positive event.
I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I might even have sat in the same seat as I did for the previous launch and that meant an excellent view of the evening, an evening that started off with a support slot from West Country duo, Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll.
There are many definitions of what is and isn't folk, but I think it's fair to say that by any of them Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll are folk. A duo of fiddle singers, though technically they also use a viola, Nick & Becki are able to talk about song collections and variations and tunes, but in such a way as to avoid making it seem like a lecture and play tunes and sing songs with a due respect. If that makes it feel like they were delivering a set of museum pieces, far from it. This is a duo that definitely believes in folk being a living tradition. Whilst they talked about alternate versions, heart and passion was put into the version they played. Sing-a-longs were encouraged and an audience came to life definitely everything you could want in a support, and more.
Following a short interval, it was time for the main event, Ninebarrow, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere take the stage, together with a string triptet(not sure if that's actually a word, but it is now), consisting of Nick and Becki alongside Kadia's cellist, Lee Cuff, subsequently Ninebarrow are also joined on stage by a stand up bass player, Joe Limburn, who adds a subtle, but evocative touch to a couple of numbers. There's a brief bit of panic, when the duo realise that their microphones are in the wrong place and a hasty stage redress ensues.
If Ninebarrow were feeling any inner apprehension from the unconventional start to the launch of their second album, "Releasing The Leaves", it didn't show in their performance, pretty much hitting their stride from note one. Ninebarrow are an act that have a distinctive sound, both in their voices, in harmony and on their own and in the instrumental arrangements, particularly where they use their distinctive reed organ and it works particularly well in the Studio Theatre. The slight downside is the heat on stage, which, during the course of the set, is necessitating a significant amount of retuning.
Despite a number of minor irritations and a complete cockup by the sound engineer, who forgets to put one of the microphones live, necessitating the restart of one of the songs, Ninebarrow deliver a great set and one that highlights just what a cracking album "Releasing The Leaves" is. Live, the combination of "Three Ravens" and "Blood On The Hillside" is one of those shivers down the back of your spine, neck hair raised moments. The imagery and atmosphere evoked is as good as you will find anywhere.
This launch showed that "Releasing The Leaves" is far more than a studio album, it is the foundation for a great live event, one I would whole heartedly get out and see if you get the opportunity. In the meantime, get yourself a copy of the album, because it's richness is the songs.
Neil King, Photography Jo Elkington
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