Almost a year to the day and with the band which has evolved into Axl/DC shaking a leg, shooting to thrill even, down the road in Manchester, the three original members of Simpson, Cutting & Kerr made their return to Bury. 2015 saw Nancy as the flag bearer with her Folk Singer Of The Year award, while 2016 sees the mantle passed to Andy Cutting, current holder of the Folk Musician Of The Year award. Not that they'd be boasting about the fact; what are awards for if not for the press agents to maybe utilise in their advertising to attract a few more bums on seats. Accompanied as usual by folk music's 'go to' producer and soundman Andy Bell who plays his part as the 'fifth Beatle', maybe they should be re-named Simpson, Cutting, Kerr & Bell. Yet awards or not, the three, sorry four, are simply masters of their craft.
Their 'Murmurations' album still forms the bulk of the set, but it's more like 'Murmurations Plus' with the trio branching into a couple of 7" vinyl singles as part of their recorded output and naturally, merchandising opportunity. One of these, 'Ruben' follows all the traditional American song themes of homelessness, murder and railroads, featuring Martin on the first of several workouts on banjo and Nancy's free flowing fiddle. Along with their 'Gather The Owls' tune set (and despite it's origins being deeply English) it was hard to imagine we were sat in deepest Bury with the distinctly country flavour and "oh lordy me, oh lordy my"s pouring from the stage.
Nancy's not been idle either; a couple of new songs she's worked on are slipped into the set. Her 'Kingdom' has a heavy Elizabethan folk swagger about it, inspired by delving into legislations of the laws of the land - or should it be the laws of land? There's also 'Fragile Water' which takes inspiration from the tales of the mythical selkie creatures which appear in the folklore of various lands. Living a life as a seal-like water creature and then shedding their skins to become humans on land, it's modernised somewhat into the contemporary theme of gender change and being in a comfortable skin. It really summed up an overall impression of the tour which is the contrast between the traditional English music and the American centred sounds coming from stage. A contrast too between the stories behind the songs, the messages and the morals on the one hand, and the fact that Andy Cutting's 'Seven Years' waltz "means nothing at all" - nothing wrong with a good straightforward tune. To that you could add a short but interesting support slot from Ian Sherwood from Halifax (Nova Scotia - the accent was a bit of a giveaway). Discovered by The Met's David Agnew on a trip to Canada, his set made clever use of loops to add extra voices and sax to his live guitar and voice.
Yet the highlight of the set and indeed 'Murmurations' was the imposing 'Plains Of Waterloo'. A song which when you've not heard it played for a while hits you not in the face but in the gut. No wonder Martin waxes eloquently about the progression through the minors and the majors, picking the notes as he talks about the song. Even on a continentally balmy evening in Bury, it sends chills and no doubt sends fans skipping to 'Murmurations' track 9 as soon as they get home. Here's looking forward to June 2017
Mike Ainscoe - Words and Picture
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