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Review: Jamie Smith’s Mabon @ Lichfield Guildhall

Jamie Smith’s Mabon, one of the country’s most critically acclaimed instrumental groups, returned to play a well received set of energetic, original music when they appeared at Lichfield’s Guildhall as part of their Windblown tour.

Led by piano accordionist, composer and singer Jamie Smith, the rest of the quartet was Oliver Wilson-Dickson on fiddle and vocals, Adam Rhodes on bouzouki and vocals, Matt Downer on electric and upright electric bass, and Iolo Whelan on drums and vocals.

Jamie Smith's MABON

Jamie Smith’s MABON

Although the group’s previous recorded and live outings consisted of purely instrumental music, for this album, they had ventured into the world of song-writing and harmony vocals.

With complicated tuneful music, always underpinned by a strong sense of rhythm, there were traces of bands such as the Penguin Café Orchestra, and also composers such as Aaron Copland, as well as the expected celtic music and Cajun in some of the more energetic pieces.

Much of the music came from Windblown, and started of with Huzzah – an upbeat instrumental – before Lady of the Woods featured a singalong chorus for the audience.

Tunnag’s Tunes was a four-piece suite, named in honour of a cat, and started with the slow aire of Mr Nibbles Cheats Death, before becoming Farewel Tunnag, with its driving percussion and simple motif.

Summer’s Lament was a slow, pop-ish ballad that featured some fine harmony singing and support from all five members, while Gareth and Aoife’s was a touching ballad piece, written as a wedding present.

The Gordano Ranter was an atmospheric piece, full of shifts in time and chord progression and featuring unusual sounds, such as e-bowed bouzouki. Yes We Sing Now was both a pop-folk song and a manifesto.

The set ended with the energetic Whiskey Burp Reels – another four-piece suite that included many shifts in time signature and mood.

An encore of File Under Biddley started of as a duet for accordion and fiddle, before the rest of the band joined in.

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