Friday, May 28, 2010

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan

Jazz@FutureInns Bristol
19 May

I suppose you are are expecting me to say something interesting or clever about this weeks performers.

Well, then.

Nancy comes from England and James comes from Australia.

She plays the fiddle and he plays the ouzouki. I know this because I overheard him telling somebody in the interval that that's what it was. Otherwise, I might have thought that it was a guitar.

They just had a little baby boy named Hamish, who will one day be able to tell his friends that his granny was Madeleine the Rag Doll.

They used to live on a boat on the river outside Bath, but have recently moved into a house because of the baby, which brings them out in a lovely song about sailors longing for the land.

They do a nice line in clever song medleys, so that Thaxted (I vow to thee, my country) turns into Sad To Be Leaving Old England, with just a level teaspoon of Hard Times Of Old England for seasoning.

Nancy has a delicate, little-girl-lost voice; James is more robust, less folk songery.

Nancy sings a lovely gypsy influenced version of Barbary Allen which she says is the first song she remembers her mother singing.

James opens the second half with some contemporary Australian tunes. Blood Stained The Soil of Australia was completely new to me: one of those leftie anthems which makes you want to go on strike regardless of your previous political affiliations. It was written by their late friend Alistair Hulett: I have to say I liked their version better. James also does a not at all folkie but very good song called The Long Run apparently written by a group of left-wing economics students.

The Australian side of the partnership definitely dominates tonight's set: the first half finished with the mighty Farewell to the Gold -- not quite as good as Nic Jones version, but then, what is? Nancy contributes her own ballad about Ned Kelly's final days in Jerilderee. Their next album will consist entirely of original Nancy songs.

Words like "sweet" come to mind when I try to describe the partnership; the music, even the angry political songs are light, melodious, catchy.

Hamish gurgles occasionally from the back row: we're assured he likes Mum and Dad's songs and will go to sleep if we join in the choruses. From time to time during a riff they catch each other's eyes and grin or laugh. The venue is ridiculously empty, but you can tell how much they enjoy being on the stage together.

So, I shall attempt to say something clever and insightful about the evening:

"Nancy Kerr and James Fagan play nice songs, beautifully."

And they seem to be nice people as well.

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