Downend Folk Club Review October 2017
Published on: 02 Oct 2017
Kim Lowings and the Greenwood
Friday September 15
Frenchay Village Hall
“I’M A COLLECTOR of folk tales and myths. It’s basically an obsession,” Kim Lowings told a packed out
Frenchay Village Hall at the latest Downend Folk Club concert in September.
She’s right; mythology and hundreds-of-years-old stories are the thing that underpin the music of this highly-rated West Midlands-based ensemble. These are songs that tell stories, weave tales and paint pictures, whether the traditional material given the Greenwood-treatment or the songs that flowed from the pen of an increasingly-impressive songwriter in Kim Lowings.
The subject matter might conjure up an evening of downbeat melancholy but nothing could be further from the truth; Backing band The Greenwood favour a driving, rhythmic style for the most part. It’s a refreshing change… there is foot-tapping and even the odd hand-clapping moment.
Touring their third studio album ‘Wild & Wicked Youth’, the show kicks off in the same way at the critically-acclaimed record. The first-few bars of ‘In Spirit’ are whistful and whispy… and then The Greenwood kick into gear and the evening takes off.
The band, made up of Andrew “Jarv” Lowings (who also happens to be Kim’s dad) on bouzouki, guitar and bhodran, Dave Sutherland on double-bass and vocals and Tim Rogers on cajon and percussion, are all highly-skilled musicians, but it’s no doubt that it’s Kim who’s the star of the show.
Blessed with a beautifully rich voice that suits her chosen genre perfectly, Kim slips effortlessly
between mountain dulcimer and piano (there was a lot crammed onto that little stage!), whilst also showing that she is comfortable fronting the band with just a microphone at her disposal. Her stage presence is warm and relaxed, and she takes the (off-mic) jibes from dad in her stride. Only the first few rows will know what was said but everyone smiled nonetheless.
The set weaves through tales of fiddles made out of bones that can only play one tune ('Oh The Wind and Rain’) and drunken relatives saved from the sea by a formidable wife (‘Maggie’s Song) as well as taking in some other traditional numbers (‘The Newry Highwayman’, from which the new album takes its name; sea-shanty ‘Bold Riley’ and a very enjoyable take on ‘The Cuckoo’)… but it’s as the first-half draws to an end that the “special moment” hits us… and it’s as unexpected as it is beautiful.
Shorn of her backing band for this one number, Kim takes to the piano to deliver the self-penned ‘Firestone’. It’s stunning. Voice and instrument intertwine to tell a tale of soul-searching and wondering. After the driving rhythms of the rest of the set, you could hear a pin-drop; one audience member took quickly to Twitter to tell the world that it had almost brought him to tears. It’s that good, it’s that beautiful and with it Kim Lowings surely announces herself as one of the best songwriters on the scene.
The evening was opened with a set from Gav Ball. A regular in the Downend Folk Club audience and some time singer with Bristol-based rock band BUSK, Gav has been trying out some more acoustic, folky numbers in his solo material, and he delivered the perfect support slot. Funny, engaging and even topical, with a newly-written number in honour of a DFC regular who is fleeing to Cornwall (‘The Ballad of the Barefooted Man’… we’ll miss you, Brian and Edwina!), he has the audience singing along and crying with laughter.
But it is to Kim and her gang that the evening rightly belongs. In his introduction, MC and Club Chairman Ant Miles told the expectant crowd that this was a band who are “the epitome of the phrase ‘one to watch’.” On the evidence of this gig, it’s hard to disagree ...