DOWNEND FOLK CLUB MARCH REVIEW
Alden, Patterson and Dashwood (support from Molly-Anne), Downend Folk Club Friday February 15
GREAT things come in threes. Worrell, Weekes and Walcott. Led Zeppelin 1, 2 and 3. ELP (all right, not ELP. They were rubbish). Alden, Patterson and Dashwood. As mesmerising as West Indian cricketing gods; packed with as many great tunes as a run of classic albums; significantly better than a dodgy prog rock band. Armed with dobro, guitar and violin, the Norwich three-piece brought more than a hint of country to Downend Folk Club and proved that three is the magic number.
Playing in South Gloucestershire as part of a huge tour in support of their second album, By the Night, it's pretty clear that APD are a beautifully well oiled machine. Harmonies do what harmonies should; they blend and soar. Each of the three compliment the others. Classic country instruments fit together like they were born to. And, of course, they were. Noel Dashwood's dobro is especially wonderful, layering country goodness all over these songs. Raiding the folk tradition on either side of the Atlantic we are treated to the very best of America and the UK. Going Across The Mountain has its heart in Tennessee but the voices put it firmly on the English east coast. It's not the only one. Bonny Blue Eyes is a song of the sea, heading for the new world, looking back to the old country. With Christina Alden's voice to the fore it is fabulous.
Having that voice in your arsenal would be enough for most bands but these three have a bit more than that. Red Rocking Chair starts as a bluegrass-y a capella and ends with all three instruments tearing it up with Alex Patterson’s earthy fiddle leading the charge. All three take it in turns to show their musical might and all three have that simple, unshakable knowledge that they're brilliant. It's a highlight of the early part of their set.
The highlights come thick and fast though. The Time Song is inspired by The Time Traveller’s Wife and feels like a lazy afternoon in front of the fire with a good book. The Dyeing Room is a joyous instrumental and Waterbound is all a capella and bluegrass, three friends singing for the pure love of it around a beautiful old microphone. Three songs. Three styles. All find appreciative Downend ears.
It comes to something when a band cover a song that you love and you don’t miss the original singers. It’s even better when those original singers are Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch but when APD unplug for an acoustic I'll Fly Away that's precisely what happens. Faithful to the O Brother Where Art Thou version that we all know, it was the perfect summation of everything that this band does. Glorious, simple, joyful.
They even slipped in a little bit of politics in the anti-Brexit Sail Away. It's hard to argue with the sentiment that "we didn't ask for this but did nothing to stop it happening". There weren't too many dissenting voices as they left the stage. Just wild applause.
To start the evening Gloucester country-ish singer Molly-Anne floated across five lovely, self- penned songs. Wearing a proper country hat, strumming an acoustic and blowing a mean harmonica she was one hell of an opening act. On both Long Road Home and Talkin' 'Bout Somethin' Molly found some Country grit, a great tune and an enthusiastic audience.
Another fantastic Downend Folk Club night effortlessly proving the power of three. No more, no less.
: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Alan Cole