Fabulous fresh music and ‘matured’ humour

September 01 2014

What did the cheese maker do when he painted his wife? He double glossed her.

Review Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar


Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar


What did the cheese maker do when he painted his wife?  He double glossed her.

Dreadful cheese jokes are not what you expect when visiting Downend Folk Club.  Quality music is though. Happily two time BBC Folk Award winners Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar delivered both.  As winners of the 2014 Horizon Award they were always going to be good.  But who knew that they would be THIS good?

The purveyor of the cheesy puns is Ciaran Algar.  Tall, affable, charming and a man who plays a fierce and firey fiddle with the passion and verve that would make the devil dance.  Incredibly he is eighteen and was celebrating his recent A Level success.  He is living proof that life is simply not fair.

Since 2011 Algar has been making simple, understated and affecting music with Greg Russell.  A few years older, and Wise to Algar’s Morecombe, Russell plays fluid acoustic guitar and sings with a maturity far beyond his years.  His songs brim with love and loss, history and heroes, politics and family.  On Friday night those songs held the audience entranced.  Feet stomped in appreciation and massed singing of tricky choruses attempted. Traditional songs sat with contemporary tunes and a hint of Americana too.

The set was pulled from the two albums that the pair have recorded.  “The Call” is the most recent and is a brilliant example of modern folk music.  No hey-nonny-nonny or fingers in ears here.  It fizzes and charms in equal measure.  A perfect reflection of the two remarkable musicians.  A highlight of the album is “Away from the Pits” and live it’s even better.  When Russell’s strummed acoustic guitar and pure voice is joined by Algar’s whirlwind fiddle the roof nearly comes off of the small hall in Frenchay.

Downend Folk Club is still just a few months old yet its reputation is already rock solid.  How amazing is it to have one of the finest Folk Clubs in the country on our doorstep?  It is easily as good as anything that you would find in any other city.  Russell and Algar put a smile on every face and showed that folk music is something for everyone.  From wild dance tunes to contemplative ballads, virtuoso playing to simple songs they were magnificent.

Next month India Electric Co step onto the Downend Folk Club stage.  They are another young, gifted duo armed with fantastic songs and a twinkling sense of humour.  They also do a superb cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.  Look it up and then go and see them.  Cheese jokes not guaranteed. 

Gavin McNamara

Downend Folk Club regular