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Review: Nancy Kerr at the Lichfield Guildhall

One of the leading voices of the contemporary folk and roots scene Nancy Kerr led her band The Sweet Visitors through a set that encompassed pure folk, light jazz, hoe-down, and their own songs.

Nancy Kerr

Nancy Kerr

Accompanied by a sterling band of singers and musicians consisting of Tim Yates on double bass and vocals, guitarist and singer Greg Russell, and Tom Wright on drums, electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitar and vocals, Nancy led from the front, with her distinctive vocals, guitar and ethereal violin.

The award-winning singer played numbers from her storied career, with the release of her latest album, Instar, showing that she is developing as a song-writer of great depth and poise. Tackling themes such as poverty, gender identity, sexuality, human rights struggles and the effects of austerity laid down by government after government, the messages in the songs would have been hectoring from musicians of less stature.

The light jazz and shuffle rhythms of the bass and drums leant some weight to the songs, while the often angry guitar sounds that Greg Russell used were shown to fine effect in many of the pieces.

Much of the material came from the Instar album, but there was also space for older material. Where The Trees Grow and Instar got the concert of to a fine start, with their darkly brooding atmosphere, before the electric guitar drone that backed their arrangement of William Blake’s poem The Garden of Love showed Kerr’s voice to fine effect. The sweet love ballad Seven Notes showed another side to the ensemble’s sound.

Not many songs that fit into the folk idiom provide a platform for pedal steel guitar, but the virtuoso playing of Tom Wright during The Defiance of Mountains shows that it is a combination with plenty of space for development.

The second half of the concert started with the acapella The Great Selkie, before moving into the heavily political Fragile Water and Kingdom.

Where Jackaranders Grow was a nature ballad, as was Written Upon My Skin, a song about the damage that man-kind is doing to the planet.

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