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With elements of folk, rock, and virtuoso violin playing that took as much from Middle Eastern music as they did from traditional fiddle playing, the bands Merry Hell and Folklaw had a lot in common when they appeared at Lichfield Guildhall.
Playing to an appreciative audience, the strong musical talents and stage craft of both of the bands was in evidence.
Opening the evening were Merry Hell, consisting of bassist Nick Davies, drummer Andy Jones, keyboard player Lee Goulding, guitarist John Kettle, violinist Neil McCartney, harmonica and mandolin player Bob Kettle, vocalist Andrew Kettle and Virginia Kettle on vocals and acoustic guitar.
Much of the music came from their latest release, Bloodlines, an album of highly politicised folk songs, marrying pin-sharp harmony vocals to high quality and original musicianship, with numbers ranging from The Night Before, Rise Up, Rise Up to the singalong Bury Me Naked and the more delicate A Ghost in Our House.
They sang big songs about the small details that make everyday life, such as She Rises, which looks at the work that a lot of people do before we even leave the house, or the heartfelt ballad of One More Day Without You, which closed their set in touching and musical style.
Closing the night were Folklaw. Led by singer and fiddle player Nick Gibbs, Bryn Williams on vocals, guitar and bodhran, Martin Vogwell on guitars, banjo and vocals, they also feature a strong rhythm section of percussionist and backing vocalist Gaz Hunt and bassist Jon Dowling.
The band played an action packed set of their own music, which ranged from folk to rock soundtracks, spooky, squealing violins and strong harmony singing.
Some of the set came from their latest release Smokey Joe, while there was space for older songs which still had some resonance with the times.
Dublin City was a strong song, as was Talk To Me, about communication and relationships, but perhaps the strongest was saved until the encore. Cradle to the Grave was a story number that gave an opportunity for all band members to have a go at lead vocals.
This was another successful concert for Lichfield Arts, which showed that the future of folk music is still in the hands of passionate and committed musicians.
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