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Review: The Willows at the Lichfield Guildhall

The fast rising folk ensemble The Willows performed an action packed set of music when they played to an enthusiastic audience at Lichfield Guildhall.

The Willows

The Willows

With a stage littered with a number of instruments and a set list that drew on a number of different genres, the six piece provided no end of both musical virtuosity and variety when they played.

The group, led by Jade Rhiannon on vocals, also included Cliff Ward on banjo, guitar and vocals, Ben Savage on guitar, dobro, and vocals, Katriona Gilmore on violin and vocals, with double bassist John Parker and Evan Carson on bodhran and percussion.

The music ranged from dobro-based ballads, to rhythmic banjo-led bluegrass and country songs, with elements of jazz and dance music in the shifting percussive textures.

With a voice that was a cross between Sandy Denny’s and Kirsty McColl’s, Jade Rhiannon’s contribution was important, but did not over-shadow the prowess of her band-mates, who all bought the songs to vivid life.

Since forming in 2010, the group have been honing their sound on the live circuit, as well as releasing two very well received albums, from both of which the set drew. Whether it was in the ballad Absent Friends, with its dobro lead lines and lullaby like chordal accompaniment, or Shores, a song about immigration, a lot of ground was covered both musically and lyrically.

Some of the themes were universal, but others were more specific about loss or death at sea. The Outlaw was a fast paced, dynamically challenging workout for both the audience and the band, while This Book of Ours was a delicate ballad which showcased the group’s vocal prowess to fine effect.

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