Downend Folk Club May edition

May 04 2016

Mairearad and Anna live in concert at Downend Folk Club

Mairearad and Anna live in concert at  Downend Folk Club

Mairearad and Anna live in concert at Downend Folk Club

“What’s the difference between an onion and a set of bagpipes? No one cries when...” at that the Folk Club’s Ant Miles is drowned out by the sound of proper Scottish bagpipes filling the tittering church.
This is how the astonishing multi-instrumentalists Mairearad and Anna started the second half of their Downend set.  To further compound the joke the first tune of the second set is a banjo and bagpipe duet.  Surely it’s something invented in “Fast Show” hell.  Yet...oh my word!  What a sound!  Put simply these two young Scots make the most joy-filled, smile-inducing, largely instrumental traditional folk music that you have ever heard.
When she’s not wringing incredible sounds from her bagpipes Mairearad plays accordion.  No, that’s wrong.  She doesn’t just play accordion.  She makes it sing, she coaxes and caresses utter beauty from that wheezing box.  She was awarded Composer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2009 and forms part of the current line up of folk goddesses The Poozies .  For every jig, reel and polka that they play Mairearad Green’s accordion playing is breathtaking.  Possibly best of all is her own composition, “Maggie West’s Waltz”, a sedate, delightful, warm evocation of remote Scottish village life.  Oddly, they tell us, it is used by BBC Scotland as their soundtrack to the hyper-violent hockey variant Shinty.
On Mairearad’s left stood Anna Massie.  She’s chattier, charming and funny and when she picks up guitar, violin or banjo she has a deft touch that adds a muscular note the tunes.  She is incredible on a set of reels from Nova Scotia called “Jerry and Otis”, the violin and accordion bringing a touch of Cape Breton to this West Country evening.  As if to prove that JUST playing brilliantly is something so easy Anna sings “Always Will”, a song learned from Nanci Griffith.  That this version is almost as lovely as the original should tell you how good it is.  
Both of these can be found of the pair’s latest album, “Best Day”, and a very fine album it is too.  The highlight of the both the album and the evening is a reel inspired by gin.  It is impossible to sit still whilst listening to “The Botanist”; fingers fly across guitar strings and accordion keys as the two descend in to a boozy, heady flurry.  The Downend audience is always appreciative, they whoop and raise glasses.  This is music to dance to and music to fill hearts with joy.   In the hushed pews these two proudly Scottish, warm and vital musicians have to make do with rapturous applause and wide smiles.  
Before all of this we are treated to another great local find.  Steffan Lewis and Rachel Foster play music tinged with the merest hint of Americana. The songs are simple and often inspired by Yate (!) but played with intelligence and flair.  When the two voices wind around each other something magical happens and those songs are lifted to something even more impressive.
The entire evening ended with a version of “Wild Mountain Thyme”; Mairearad and Anna leading the audience in some gentle singing, as hushed, warming and mellow as a decent drop of Scotch.

Photo:: Ant Miles
Words: Gavin McNamara


Next at Downend Folk Club

Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith
(support from Kitty Macfarlane)
Frenchay Village Hall,
Friday May 20,
Doors open 7.30pm

In May last year, Downend Folk Club featured a fast-rising duo as their support act… and they were so popular that the regulars DEMANDED to hear more!
So, back by popular demand, the club’s headline guests this month will be Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith.
Jimmy and Sid play traditional and original folksong of the British Isles. They tell stories of hardship, joy, struggle and celebration held together with driving banjo and guitar arrangements and close vocal harmonies.
They have both been heavily influenced by the songs and singers of East Anglia, where they both grew up, but their music also reflects the diversity of voices within the folk and acoustic world. They weave traditional English folksong with Irish, Scottish and American tunes, and their own compositions draw on many different styles.
“A cracking album, full of really terrific songs” – Mike Harding
The songs on their new album have been picked up from sessions, singarounds, gigs, recordings and learned from friends. The stories are varied but there is a common thread of political struggle and resistance, and the decline of the industries that were the backbone of England for many generations.
Opening the evening will be Kitty Macfarlane, a 22 year old Somerset-based singer and songwriter. Her lyrics combine honest snapshots of everyday humanity with the bigger questions that have connected minds and voices for centuries, driven by her own fingerpicked guitar.
Kitty’s debut EP, ‘Tide and Time’, was released in March to critical acclaim… so it really is two great acts for the price of one!
The concert will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 20th May. Doors open at 7.30pm, and the music will start at around 8.00pm. There will be a full-bar in the foyer area, open from 7.00pm, serving locally-brewed GWB real ale, Severn Cider, wine, a range of soft drinks and tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/tankard/bucket/mug as part of the club’s drive to be environmentally aware.
Tickets are priced at £11 each, but if you buy before Friday 13th May, you can get them for the ‘early-bird” price of just £9 each.
Tickets are available from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend, Bristol Ticket Shop or online from Members tickets are a bargain £8 each (before Friday 13th May) and are available from the Members Area of the website or direct from Ant Miles. Email