Two shows, two great bands, two musical traditions and one special venue. On the face of it Eliza Carthy et al and Larkin Poe couldn’t be further apart – one with their feet standing on the solid pillars of English folk music and the other built on the foundations of the blues and rock sensibilities of the Deep South. In truth, and although both bands take their heritage and give it a firm kick from the here and now, they represent the continued line of musical tradition that runs deep in their veins. And both found an ideal venue in the Convent Club – intimate but professional, with an atmosphere and aura that seems to lift and inspire most who play there (with the possible exception of a Mr Finlay Quaye who was rightly slung off stage recently and who, let’s be honest, was always a bit of a tool).
Eliza Carthy is of course of royal English folk lineage (you would have to be with parents like Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson) but she has always been her own person and done it her own way, which is nothing if not admirable. Full of throat, fine of voice and ferocious of fiddle, she leads a remarkable twelve piece band (fiddles, guitars, drums, percussion, melodeons, trombone etc) whose sound is appropriately huge, impassioned and joyous.
After a week recording new material at the Convent, and shooting an accompanying video in the bucolic grounds, they felt relaxed and contented, tight enough to be mountain goat sure of step, loose enough to feel authentic and the real deal. For sure in many a place, and festivals especially, this rollicking band couldn’t fail to get you bustin’ some moves. Here in the Chapel we played the moves out inside our heads but, my moons and stars, what a blazingly bacchanalian big band folk funk thing they are!
Larkin Poe, hailing from Atlanta, were new to me, fresh from supporting Elvis Costello none other, and had squeezed in a date deep in the five valleys, managing to give my otherwise sleepy Sunday eve a kick up the a$$ in the nicest of ways. They are fronted by two sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell, and more than ably backed up by a fine drummer and bass player.
To tell the truth I was expecting something a bit country, probably quite solid, but like much of the standard fare you hear on the radio as you drive around southern USA. But nope, here was something altogether dirtier and grubbier, and so much the better for that. Not knowing their material of course it all sounded new to me, but I appreciated the weaving in of other bits and pieces like the old Cher song Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) and the slide into Black Betty. As the set moved on they got looser and rockier and seemed to be enjoying themselves pretty well – maybe a small little bijou venue like this was a nice change from the normal like out on the road as a rising band?
So two more outstanding ‘beat combos’ gracing the hallowed halls of the Convent. That handy seat front right sees me in it so often now, I wonder if I could have a little plaque made to warn off unwary visitors that its mine?