The Jigantics are a band with a vision. Or, more precisely, back in 2010, Martin Fitzgibbon had a vision of being in a band that, quite simply, cheered everyone up, both the audience and the band. He’s been around the business long enough to mean that getting together a bunch of like-minded musicians wasn’t too tricky. So, along came fellow Colvin Quarmby member, Marion Fleetwood, and fellow members of blues/americana band, Sons of the Delta, Mark Cole, Rick Edwards and, last year, Lyndon Webb. Along with such experienced musicians came a wealth, and breadth, of potential material and, as Martin’s vision dictated variety over genre, The Jigantics were all set to turn vision into reality.
Their Allendale set opened with The Swimming Song, a Loudon Wainwright III composition that was given a real punch from Mark’s vocal and Cajun accordion, setting feet tapping and putting a smile onto everyone’s faces. In spite of its downbeat lyrics, Man of Constant Sorrow continued to build the goodtime feelings, with an arrangement owing rather more to “The Soggy Bottom Boys” than Bob Dylan and boosted by Mark switching to harmonica. It also gave Marion and Lyndon a chance to add backing harmonies. Next up saw Rick adding excellent slide guitar to a Chuck Berry style version of 13 Questions, alternating great solo breaks with Marion on fiddle. Ten minutes into the gig and already The Jigantics had showcased an enviable range of material and arrangements but as yet only Mark had taken lead vocal.
Marion’s vocals tend to provide quieter interludes but the power and emotion of her voice commands the audience’s attention and nowhere more strikingly than with her treatment of Jane Siberry’s The Valley, a poignant story of a ‘friendship’ between two women who never meet. Parallels here with today’s virtual friendships of social media but this song is from 1989. Marion also delivers rousing upbeat vocals, try out Bad Liver and a Broken Heart, not the soulful Tom Waits song but the fast-paced tale of hard drinking and hard loving from Texan Hayes Carll with which they closed the first set.
It’s tempting to say that the second half was more of the same, but in The Jigantics world that means more changes of lead vocal, more changes of instruments and more sources of material including songs from Tom Waits, Buddy Miller, Robbie Robertson and the band themselves. So, Martin moved in front of the drum kit to show he has both the voice and the legs to deliver the traditional Louisiana song, Lakes of Ponchartrain. Marion’s mandolin was passed to Mark for his own composition Key to your Door whilst for Big Bill Broonzy’s Key to the Highway, Marion took over bass from Lyndon and he switched to electric guitar. In no way is all this undertaken just for effect. In The Jigantics we have five musicians who have the talent and flexibility to deliver rousing performances across an astoundingly diverse range of material and the band configures itself to get the best out of each song.
The final song was another showcase for Marion’s more lyrical voice, Black Mountain Lullaby, a rather sad, true tale of the loss of a child in a callous mining accident in the mountains of Virginia. The song, by Caroline Herring, was a product of the EFDSS’s Cecil Sharp Project (read the FRUK album review). As a lullaby, Marion suggested in her introduction, it was a suitable song with which to finish the night. But, after such a rousing night of upbeat music I suspect that was something of a tease. Sure enough, for an encore, we were treated to a second Buddy Miller song, Hole in my Head, a splendid country rock number that gave everyone in the band a last chance to shine and let the audience set off for home with a catchy refrain in their heads.
Many of the songs were taken from the band’s debut CD, Daisy Roots, and there was a brisk trade in these at the end. Saturday’s gig was advertised as a fundraiser for The Wimborne Folk Festival in June, the connection being that The Jigantics will open the festival on Friday night with a bill that also features Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies and Little Johnny England. What a night that promises to be, I’ll certainly be there and, after this great performance, so, I suspect, will most of Saturday’s audience.
Review by: Johnny Whalley