Friday, April 29, 2011


Chapel Arts Center Bath April 15th

That damn woman with the nasty sister. She gets about, doesn't she? This time the bad sister throws the good one in the sea rather than in a river, and it's three minstrels who fish her out, with no miller in sight. She still gets dismembered and recycled as a harp, and the harp limits itself to singing "Lay the bent to the bonny broom", as opposed to "bow and balance to me" or "oh the dreadful wind and the rain" or (more helpfully) "my sister dunnit".

"You obviously like songs about death and doom and killing" said Jaqui McShee after the very enthusiastic ovation that the song elicited. Well, yes, possibly: or possibly the audience were (like me) giving their approval to a very traditional song, given a very satisfactory make-over, without losing any of its narrative drive.

Pentangle were, of course, one of the very biggest names of the second (or was it third?) folk revival of the 1960s, and more or less invented "jazz folk". This group is, in fact "Jacqui McShee's Pentangle", with Ms McShee's astonishing unearthly voice being the only link with the original group. This incarnation seemed more jazzy than what I've heard of the original: several numbers had longish sax and flute interludes which sounded (to me, and you really shouldn't pay much attention to anything that I say) like fairly traditional jazz riffs.

I associate Pentangle with "jazzy, tinkly versions of old songs" and I could have wished for a little more of that this evening. The opening number, with a whirring, droning undergrowth over which McShee's crystaline voice comes over, first with a traditional number, then with a self penned piece about the very important subject, life, thrilled me with its strangeness.  But over the course of the evening, I felt perhaps I had had as much "ethereal" and "jazzy" as I needed, and would have liked some more, er folk songs.