Review: L2F closing night @ Lichfield Guildhall

A near sell-out audience turned out to see the final two concerts during a hectic and musically diverse L2F 2015 Festival.

Following Friday Night, all day Saturday and Sunday, something special needed to be pulled out of the bag, and the three hours of entertainment provided by Nancy Kerr, James Fagan and Blackbeard’s Tea Party made for a night to remember.

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan

Nancy Kerr and James Fagan

The duo of Kerr and Fagan are well known and had already played a full concert as half of the Melrose Quartet on Sunday afternoon. With James on vocals, bouzouki and guitar, and Nancy on Vocals and violin, they played very well received songs and spirited instrumentals from their many albums.

Drawing on the folk tradition, their music looked at the writers of the folk songs as much on the numbers that they wrote, with compositions such as Joseph Taylor being strong openers.

The Goodnight Ballad of Alan Tyne of Harrow was a song with a nasty ending, while The Teatree Waltz was a showcase for the delicacy of Nancy’s fiddle and James’ bouzouki. They lifted the pace slightly for the instrumental piece A Pearl Wedding/Nancy Taylor’s Wedding, before being joined by the bassist Tim Yates. He added strong, melodic bass parts to the closing trio of songs, If It’s Red, and the breezy I Am The Fox.

The encore of Never Even Lay Me Down was a showcase for the interlocking vocal prowess of the trio.

Blackbeard’s Tea Party offered music of a slightly more intense flavour. With electric guitar, bass, violins, two percussionists and melodeon, they were never going to offer a quietly reflective set. Drawing on the sea shanty tradition, celtic sounds and rock music from the 1970s to the present, the band led by the singer Liam Hardy ploughed through their energetic set with strong musicianship and an eagerness to put some spirit into folk music.

Starting with a taped soundtrack that included found sounds, dialogue and an air-raid siren, they soon started with the sea shanty Whip Jamboree, delivered at a faster pace than most other bands, while a number of other shanties were also covered, ranging from Roll Down, Let the Bulgine Run, and Chicken on a Raft. Although these songs were familiar, they also played their own numbers, ranging from the lively instrumental of The Purple Badger, to the blend of Russian classical music and ska that was I Want a Pizza and a Drink.

Their own songs were strong, with Leveller’s-like sounds during Stand Up Now, or the psychedelia of The Steam Arm Man, while the Valiant Turpin looked at how mourners had to be paid to attend Dick Turpin’s funeral.

With a soundscape that fused harmony violin and electric guitar, and a strong backbeat, this was music set fit to wake any audience, and although purists may baulk at younger bands tackling older songs with rock dynamics, Blackbeard’s Tea Party contain enough strong musicianship with an open minded approach and a way to attract newer audiences to music like this.