Downend Folk Club April Review

March 28 2016

When the first note that a musician sings draws an astonished gasp from the audience, you know you’re in for a cracking night.

Luke Jackson
live in concert at
Downend Folk Club
(With support from Hannah Cumming)
Friday March18,
Frenchay Village Hall

When the first note that a musician sings draws an astonished gasp from the audience, you know you’re in for a cracking night.
That first note, hit with power, gusto and immeasurable control by Luke Jackson was a sign of what was to come, as the Canterbury-based roots singer-songwriter wowed a healthy crowd throughout his exemplary set.
Weaving his way through a variety of styles that flirt around the edges of the folk genre, Jackson displayed the vocal skill and control of an artist way more experienced than his twenty-something years, and left a good few audience members proclaiming him their favourite act to appear at the club.
It’s not just the voice; Jackson possesses skill and dexterity on the guitar that puts one in mind of the great Jeff Buckley and even, on the bluesier numbers, of the mighty Eric Clapton. He is in complete command of his instrument of choice, whether on driving, percussive numbers (accompanied by his stomp-box) like ‘Ain’t No Trouble’, or on more reflective songs like ‘Baker’s Woods’, which he finger-picks his way through with an enviable talent that made this writer and amateur guitarist want to give up and go home…!
But the voice. What a voice! Jackson possesses a timbre and tone rarely seen on the UK folk scene. This boy has range, too, demonstrating bassy, resonating low notes, mid-range notes which ooze quality, and a more-than-acceptable falsetto. It may sound, from this review, that this guy has it all. That’s really not an overstatement.
The heart of folk songwriting beats strongest in songs which tell a story, and Jackson delivered a story on every single song; stories about an old lady who wanders the streets of Canterbury and may (Jackson supposes) sleep in his now-closed high school (‘Aunt Sally’; it was, and I quote, a “rubbish school”); tales of that friend we all have who massages the truth to appear impressive (‘Charlie And The Big World’, which, he explained, forced him to eat his words as his friend DID actually travel the southern hemisphere!); songs of regret and sadness (‘That’s All Folks’), during which Jackson explores the feelings that are keenly felt when a close friend takes their own life; and songs of longing (‘Kansas City Lights’, during which you really feel his desperation to get back to the UK and his lovely partner Kate). This is seriously good songwriting. His words, all delivered in that masterful and powerful voice, demand that you sit up and take notice.
Jackson’s stage presence is engaging and witty without being overbearing; this artist is all about the songs. Launching into his set without a word for two numbers, he then proclaimed: “Right, well that’s me warmed up.” The audience were well ahead of him, already baying for more. Jackson proceeded to produce a set that touched a number of different genres, including blues, folk and even a touch of Americana (‘Tennessee Whiskey’).
In a set mostly comprised of original numbers, Jackson produced a rendition of Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia On My Mind’, coupled with a hint of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’, which had the audience singing and tapping along, safe in the knowledge that they were in the presence of an act that knew exactly what they wanted, and had the skill to deliver it.
And, just when the 80-strong audience thought they’d had their lot, Jackson returned to deliver an off-mic encore of Sam Cooke’s classic, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. It was a truly breathtaking end. Downend Folk Club audiences have never really done standing-ovations, but by the end of Jackson’s set, at least half were on their feet.
Opening the evening was the Somerset-based Hannah Cumming, who performed a five-song set without putting a foot wrong, and set the tone for the evening. The fiddle-singer (a type of act not seen at Downend Folk Club since Bella Hardy back in the early-days), performed a set of immense quality and opened the evening in superb style, winding her way through folk standards (‘Davy’, ‘Tilbury Town’) alongside a couple of Cyril Tawney covers (‘Grey Funnel Line’, ‘Sally Free And Easy’), with a cheeky Florence And The Machine cover (‘What The Water Gave Me’) thrown in for good luck. This girl is talented… watch this space!

Words: Ant Miles
Photo: Julian Cox


Next at Downend Folk Club
Mairearad & Anna
(support from Steffan Lewis & Rachel Foster)
Christ Church Downend,
Friday April 15,
Doors open 7.30pm

Two of Scotland’s finest musicians are the guests as Downend Folk Club continue to bring the cream of the UK folk scene to the area.
Mairearad & Anna will headline the club’s April event on Friday 15th April 2016 at Christ Church, right in the heart of Downend itself. They will bring a new twist to what the club offers as the first visitors from a vibrant traditional music scene in Scotland, and are sure to delight audiences old and new. Mixing an eclectic repertoire with exemplary stage presence, this duo really is one to savour.
Both Mairearad Green and Anna Massie have been at the forefront of Scottish music for a number of years. Mairearad was awarded Composer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2009, and Anna’s success goes back beyond her win at the BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year in 2003. She was a nominee for the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2005; and a Nominee for Best Instrumentalist, Scots Trad Music Awards 2005, 2008, 2010. They both play with a number of other line ups, including The Poozies, Blazin’ Fiddles, Bella Hardy, and Box Club.
Sharing similar musical backgrounds in the Scottish Highlands, both Mairearad and Anna are proud to show off their musical and cultural roots, taking their music to heights such as five stars in The Scotsman and high praise from KT Tunstall, becoming a much-loved live act.
“…the camaraderie and sheer fun of musical collaboration is plainly evident and infectious.” – Songlines Magazine
The duo weave Mairearad’s accordion and bagpipes with Anna’s guitar, banjo and fiddle to create a unique and impassioned sound, pouring their energy and knowledge of the tunes to distill new and old versions together to bring you into the history and delivery of their music. Different combinations of instruments bring sparkling results to their sets.
They are responsible for three albums – 2009’s eponymous debut, ‘Doubling’ in 2013 and ‘Best Day’, released late last year. All of the albums were recorded in different ways, showing off the duo’s ambition and ability.
“An exuberant, beautifully recorded album…crisp, clean and crystalline.” - fRoots
Support on the night will come from local duo Steffan Lewis and Rachel Foster, who will open the evening with a selection of original folk and country influenced music.  Both veterans of many different bands, they’ve been playing together since 2014. Listen out for Steffan’s songwriting and distinctive guitar style, combined with Rachel’s natural vocals and harmonies.
The event will be held at Christ Church Downend on Friday 15th April 2016. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a full bar serving GWB real ale, cider, wine and a range of soft drinks, for which we encourage you to bring your own glass.
Tickets £11 early bird, £13 full price (£10 members).

For further information, please contact Ant Miles on 07837 881941, email or find the club on social media.