The Fay Hield Trio consisting of Fay Hield, Sam Sweeney and Rob Habron had the Congregational Church as their stage last night in Wiveliscombe, Somerset. A fitting venue some might have felt as the sun poured in through the window as they took to the stage in front of an admiring congregation. The songs that followed were not the kind you might find the local Reverend singing however…anyone who has a knowledge of English folk songs will know that many songs dabble in the pools of witchcraft, folkore, murder and mayhem! Fay didn’t let us down!
The set opened to the rousing and appropriately titled for the venue Wicked Serpent, an old American folksong about a rattle snake poisoning which features on Fay’s new album ‘Orfeo’ (read our review). Sam Sweeney and Rob Habron were on top form and played along to Fay as if they had been doing it for years, born naturals. They really are the cream of the crop when it comes to playing fiddle and concertina although their musical talents reach beyond their instruments of choice as they demonstrated on the night with equal prowess on guitar and nyckelharpa.
Fay demonstrated her uncanny knack for finding songs in the unlikeliest of places from a lamentable Spanish Civil War poem she came across at a Forest School Camp Little Yellow Roses to Mad Family (Roud 19704) which she found in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes by Iona and Peter Opie. Fay is a gifted storyteller and the introductions she gave to each song built the curiosity of her audience without giving away the whole plot as she demonstrated on Kemp Owyne in which the heroine of the song is turned into a dragon who could only have the curse removed if she was kissed by the prince three times, “Snow White without the dwarves”.
One of the highlights of the night, and there were many, was when Fay left Sam and Rob to play a duet. Their first was Bagpipers followed by Nobody’s Jig which Sam pointed out was in fact not a jig. Rob later played one of his own compositions called ‘Down to the Beach‘ which was beautiful, the balance of song and instrumentals was perfect and a very nice touch.
Fay, as many of you will know, has been singing in folk clubs for many years (read our interview to find out more), one of her greatest strengths, apart from having a remarkable voice, is her ability to project the emotion of a song, her rendition of Rudyard Kipplings ‘The Looking Glass‘ really highlighted this, it was one of the most moving and emotional songs of the evening. Another moving moment was her rendition of Bert Lloyd’s ‘The Lovers Ghost‘ (Roud 179) which also opens her new album ‘Orfeo’. Before singing Fay admited her penchant for the grizzly and gruesome and her attachement or fondness for the line: ‘and the worms and creeping things’. This fondness for darker lyrics was deomnstrated again with ‘Naughty Baby‘, another song from folklorists Iona and Peter Opie who Fay has a fondness for. The song will scare any child into sleep:
‘Baby baby if he hears you
as he gallops past the house
Limb from limb at once he’ll tear you
Just as pussy tears a mouse’
Amongst the scary there was also the rousing and Fay got her congregation to join in on quite a few including ‘King Henry‘, and for her finale, from Peter Bellamy’s repertoire: ‘The Fox Jumped Over the Parsons Gate‘ which features another great tune from Rob Habron.
It was a great night and if it wasn’t for the resereved setting of the church I’m sure the audience would have been drinking and dancing! Best save that one for Sidmouth Folk Week or Shrewsbury when she will be joined by the larger entourage of The Hurrican Party!
More Tour and festival dates here: www.fayhield.com