Downend Folk Club September Review

Published on: 26 Aug 2016


Alex Cumming &
Nicola Beazley
Downend Folk Club
Friday August 19,
Frenchay Village Hall, 7.30pm.

On the third Friday of each month, music lovers from all over the area (and some some from further afield) gather at one of the club’s two homes to listen to some of the best music this country has to offer.
The range of styles that the club has put on has varied widely… regulars have witnessed foot-tapping folk-pop, melancholy blues, talented singer-songwriters and even hints of country and Americana. This is though, at its heart, a folk club, and this month’s offering was absolutely, completely, and unashamedly from the very folky end of the spectrum. Not that that should be read in any way as an apology, because Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley are two musicians right at the very top of their game.
They came to town at the end of a tour to promote their new album, ‘Across The Water’, and the moment the pair took to the stage, Alex’s larger-than-life personality was immediately to the fore. “Hello, Downend!” he cried, before the pair kicked off their first set with a rousing rendition of ‘Bonny Ship The Diamond’. Downend responding with enthusiastic singing along and tapping of feet… so early in the evening! The signs were good. Further similar sing-along songs followed throughout the evening… including an opportunity for the gathered West Country folk (including Alex himself, although he now lives in the USA!) to accompany the duo with their very best pirate sounds; and an excellent rendition of ‘Billy Taylor’, which kicked off the second-half.
The classic coupling of squeezebox and fiddle, married with Alex’s very folky voice and Nicola’s subtle harmonies, is a combination well-suited to these rip-roaring sea shanties and rousing traditional sing-alongs, but this is a duo capable of much, much more… during some of their tune sets, in particular, there were moments of pure beauty, not least in ‘Bethan’s’, a set of tunes written by Nicola for a friend, and ‘Oliver’s’, which she wrote for Alex’s son, born earlier this year.
By the time they finished their set with ‘Come Me Lads’ (a West Country version of ‘Let Union Be’), the healthy crowd were very much in a clapping and singing-along mood. The demanding of an encore can often feel a little prerequisite, but there was no doubting the sincerity of the crowd’s cheers and calls for one more… Alex and Nicola had thoroughly earned it!
The evening was kicked of with a short set from local band Road Not Taken who, despite being shorn of two of their regular members and with another two confessing to feeling considerably under the weather, performed an enjoyable set, mostly taken from their debut EP ‘Back Into Storyland’, released earlier this year.
But it was to Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley that the evening rightly belonged. This was an evening of no-nonsense English folk music… but it was English folk music at its very, very best.
- Ant Miles
Photo courtesy of Chris Dobson

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