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"Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band + Marry Waterson & David A Jaycock

Venue: Royal Northern College of Music
Town: Manchester
Date: 12-11/16

How marvellous when you're a member of what's often referred to as a folk dynasty and you can call on one of your family to join you on tour. Richard Thompson was able to call on daughter Kami with The Rails and joke about nepotism earlier this year on his UK tour and now Eliza Carthy just has to speed dial her cousin to fetch along her latest project and hey presto - a ready made support slot. Possibly at mate's rates too. All good exposure too for Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock who've also have been out this year with the superb Richard Hawley and were last seen at the Homegrown Festival in Bury in October. After recording 'Two Wolves' ("ah - oooo -oooo" - sorry, still in audience participation gig mode) in the equivalent of distance learning it's good to see them bringing it to life in the same physical space. Marry's distinctive tones clearly identifiable as belonging to the Waterson/Carthy name and brand and David A, quietly going about his business - a man of few words (except for "bloody machines!" when one of his effects pedals fails him), it's a set which is delicate and serene to the point to being actually too quiet - not something you could say about the dozen characters who make up the headliners.

"Fizzy water and a corset. Living on the edge.
Let's jump up and down a bit more to make life interesting."

And while we're on the subject of folk big bands and without wanting to harp on about the 'B' word, the passing of a groundbreaking and much loved multitalented band earlier this year has created a void which many have hoped might be filled. "Promised you a miracle" sang Simple Minds back in the mid eighties; a miracle we wanted, a miracle we've got. The Wayward band has morphed from one brought together to celebrate Eliza Carthy's career achievements back in 2013 and basically have some festival fun, into a fully evolved three dimensional full time box of delights. Entertainment on a grand scale. Decked out in white shirts and faces smeared with blue paint, thh Wayward brigands are a company prepped to do battle. Theirs is a show packed with a dynamic exuberance and one which currently showcases a whole load of new material from the upcoming 'Big Machine' album (Due in Feb 2017 which seems an awfully long time to wait). An album aptly named really as the Wayward Band is very much that big machine, packed with some of folk's high profile finest and steamrollers on relentlessly yet with a subtlety to accompany the carnival ambience.

While awaiting the full album, the teaser with the appearance of the single 'Fade And Fall' suggest hints of what could well be a new Bond theme - it has some of those soaring and dramatic elements and the sort of rise and fall that usually accompanies the usual 007 opening. While you're betting on the new Bond, how about an outside bet for a soundtrack from a folk based musician? 'You Know Me' with its underlying theme raising the question of true British values and a spoken word cum rap part shows Eliza still at ease bleeding the genres and there are also impressive first hearings for 'Hug Me Like A Mountain' and 'The Sea'. 'The Fitter's Song' comes from a Peggy Seeger request for Eliza to cover the Ewan MacColl radio ballad while amongst the new material, the military might of the 'Gallant Hussar' and 'Turpin Hero' sit as the cherry picked icing on the cake with the infectious jamboree of the showstopping 'Good Morning Mr Walker'.

With an high octane encore instrumental roaring from the blocks, you can see why fans are subscribing to the hope that the Wayward Band and their leader are the ones with the X factor; who've come not so much to rescue folk music but to march boldly forward and take it once again to another dimension.

Mike Ainscoe - Words & Pictures

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