Triple Treat Of Folk, Reg Meuross, Ange Hardy, Jess Vincent

Venue: Assembly Rooms
Town: Glastonbury
Date: 5/7/14

I've been to many gigs in the Glastonbury area, including a good number at the big festival up the road that carries the name of this Somerset town, but is actually in Pilton, but this was the first time I'd ever been to one in the Assembly Rooms and like the artists playing they are something that little bit special.

Jess Vincent

Built as a small Victorian theatre come arts centre, the Assembly Rooms are built of wood and stone and have absolutely fantastic natural acoustics. I'd ended up at this venue the week after the festival to see 'A Triple Treat Of Folk' and as I'd been asked to compare the night, I was fortunate enough to be there during the sound checks ad get a real idea of the beauty of the acoustics.

The reason that I'd been invited to MC was that the night's entertainment consisted of Fatea Female Vocalist Of The Year, Ange Hardy, Fatea Male Vocalist Of The Year, Reg Meuross and Jess Vincent who was shortlisted for Song Of The Year for her song "Anny Bonny" which was based on the story of the pirate lass and her famous last words to her husband, "If you'd have fought like a man, you wouldn't be hung like a dog."

What was really pleasing is that all of the artists have already been back in the studio since last year so all had new material to bring to the night, Jess Vincent's new album, "Seesaw Dreams" is already out, Ange Hardy's "The Lament Of The Black Sheep" officially comes out in September, but is already available at her gigs and from her website and Reg Meuross' new cut, "England Green & England Grey" , is imminent.

Jess Vincent opened the proceedings and I realised that this was the first time that I'd seen Jess perform solo, having previously seen her with her trio and as a special guest of Reg Meuross at the Great British Folk Festival.

Like an increasing number of singers, Jess spreads her songs across a number of loosely connected genres, from folk, through contemporary singer-songwriter and into more Americana influenced songs. Jess has developed a natural rapport with her audience, which during a section of between song banter came in really useful, as she snapped a string whilst retuning what turned out to be Reg's guitar, which brought about a light hearted exchange between the two as Reg became Jess' guitar roadie and Jess went back to playing the uke.

It was a set that highlighted not only Jess as a performer, but as a writer. She was joined for part of the set by Reg, a compliment he would return later in the evening, including for a song that saw Reg making use of an Appalachian dulcimer mounted on a rickety travelling table, prompting a cruel suggestion that perhaps it should be renamed the zimmer dulcimer.

Ange Hardy

Following a quick change over, it was time for Ange Hardy to step up to the mic. Since her second album, "Barefoot Folk" Ange Hardy has fast been gaining herself a reputation as being a top writer of folk songs as well as performer. Her songs draw heavily on the tradition, as far as writing style are concerned and switch delightfully between songs that reference the history of the music and those that draw upon the emotions of people and whilst undoubtedly a lot of the songs draw on people close to her, they do so in a way that has universal appeal.

She is a writer that is more than capable of adding humour into her songs in a way that doesn't sound forced and in the live environment, amongst the banter, that almost devilish quality comes out.

It's also tempered by the darker side to her set which not only draws on dark elements in folklore, but also songs of a more modern nature that at times remind us how fragile life can be. I don't think it's a coincidence that as well as rural elements to her canon, she also sang a number of songs that referenced both sailors and the sea, areas renown for superstition.

If I'm painting a dark picture of her set, far from it, it was a set infused with drama and the acoustics of the Assembly Rooms were a perfect match for her vocal style, particularly where she was building up the choral nature of some of her songs using a looper, there were times when if you closed your eyes you could almost feel like you were listening to the choir ethereal.

Ange delivered a great set, one that really captured the elements of traditional and contemporary folk and wove then into a thread that caught and drew in the audience as surely as is she'd tied them with a rope and pulled them to the stage.

Actually a quick word about the audience, it has to be said that they were one of the most respectful audiences I've been part of a long time, quite during the songs except when invited to take part, but generous in both applause and at time banter when the songs came to an end or were being introduced, something that continued throughout the sets and when after an interval to recharge glasses, Reg Meuross took to the stage.

Reg Meuross

I've been fortunate enough to see Reg perform a number of times over the years and have always been impressed by the raconteur nature of his sets. Attending one of his gigs isn't just about the singing, excellent though that is, it's about the banter and the stories about how the songs came into existence, he's got a relaxed way with the audience and one that means he's not afraid to take the mickey out of them, even going as far as mentioning Devon.

If he started off with a set list, I'm sure he threw it out quite quickly, responding to requests for favourites from the audience. These were seamlessly mixed with tracks from his new album, "England Green & England Grey", the highlight of which, for me any way, was, "Tony Benn's Tribute To Emily Davison" a song that succinctly manages to capture the spirit of two of his, and mine, political heroes.

The tracks from "England Green & England Grey" appear to indicate that is a more campaigning album than recent cuts, kicking against injustice and changes to rules that constantly seem to favour those that all ready have a lot. On the songs showcased here, it's an album that I'm looking forward to a lot.

Jess Vincent was called back to the stage to join Reg for a number of tracks, which also broadened out the sound and style, but again as this included tracks from the new album, it highlighted that there is going to be a lot going on, musically as well as lyrically.

During the sound check I had been fortunate enough to hear Reg, Jess and Ange rehearse "Birmingham Hotel" which the trio used to round off a fantastic night of song and music, performing it completely acoustically stood in front of the stage, a fantastic way to end a great night of music and song.

Neil King

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