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Ninebarrow + Will McNicol

Venue: The Lighthouse
Town: Poole
Date: 26/4/18

There is always a bit of a buzz for a home town gig, particularly when it's an album launch. Ninebarrow have been making an increasingly big mark on the folk scene, winning awards and getting nominated in the Horizon section of the Radio Two Folk Awards.

The chosen venue was Poole's Lighthouse, where Jon & Jay aka Ninebarrow have previously launched albums. Tonight sees them making a step up from the Studio Theatre to the significantly larger Towngate Theatre, in itself a reflection of just how far the duo have come.

There was a real buzz as the audience took theira seats, "The Waters And The Wild" is Ninebarrow"s third album and like it"s predecessors is an album rich in narrative with many of the tracks reflecting inspiration from both history and landscape.

If you've not been fortunate enough to get along to a Ninebarrow gig, or listened to an album, the first thing that captures you is the sweetness of the harmonies, the bourbon and honey mix that has enough of an underlying kick to really emphasise the the words that are coming at you and giving you the feeling that you are almost seeing the events being sung about.

I've been to some album launches where the band just play the new album, but that definitely wasn't the case here. Ninebarrow understand that in order to get the best out of something new, it needs to be given a context, in this case a best of the previous album to firmly give it roots.

One of the things that struck me about the evening was it felt like there was less of the duo's trademark reed organ sound, although they did have two with them and played them both separately and together, even both playing the same one at one point during the gig.

Jon, is a multi-instrumentalist who seems to have a ponchant for playing double stringed instruments that really helps to give a warmth to the duos sound and actually there is a lightness to their music that puts them very much at the other end of folk spectrum, away from a lot of the darker material and body counts that permeates some folk gigs.

At points during the gig, Ninebarrow were joined by Lee Mackenzie, Kadia's cellist and bassist John Parker(JP) of way too many bands to mention, to help fill out the sound and atmosphere of some of the songs. The additional musicians were used sparingly, but to stunning effect. It helped emphasise the stength of the underlying songs, showing just how easily they can be switched from duo mode to band and retain that sense of purpose and narrative, ably supported by Rob Swan who ran the desk.

"The Waters And The Wild" is a great album and on tonights showing is one that really translates well into the live environment. When an album and performance are this good, it's very easy to recommend. Ninebarrow are showing themselves to be more and more masters of their craft, creating songs that will stand the test of time.

Opening on the evening was another Dorset musician, guitarist Will McNicol, performing a solo instrumental set, though he can often be found out touring with Luke Selby as well as other artists. Will has recently launched a new solo album, "Dragonflies, Frogs and Bumblebees", named after a simultaneous sighting in his garden.

With the exception of one song, Will plays all the instrumentation on his album and thanks to the judicious use of a loop pedal, was able to recreate the soundscapes right in front of us on the Towngate Theatre stage. It was a great start to the evening and as with Ninebarrow, an act I would thoroughly recommend seeing live.

Words and photos: Neil King

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