The Tooting Folk club meets at The Selkirk on the first Saturday of the month. The event takes place in the upstairs of a nicely refurbished pub, in a room that packs about 40 or 50 people in. It’s hosted by the engaging Ruth and Rupert, who also form part of the Bara Bara Band, who open the evening as a duo. There are floor spots and anyone is welcome. To much amusement, Ruth is at pains to point out that they aren’t simply doing this to give themselves a gig, but they play and sing very well together and there’s a lovely casual welcome about the whole set-up, which makes for a very pleasurable evening.
The whole event is without any amplification, which naturally demands total respect from the audience, which is freely given. It’s also something that suits Apple Of My Eye very well indeed. The six piece are on very good form, and their obvious strength is that all of them sing, although Arran Glass, who also plays some excellent guitar and Chris Rushbridge, who is equally adept on bouzouki, are probably the nominal leaders. That said, Kit Massey, who is an excellent fiddler, should also be mentioned for taking the lead on at least one song.
It’s together that they cook up some fine harmonies, from down-in-the-boots bass, to high tenor, they combine really well. There’s also a lovely natural dynamic to their instrumental work and Arran and Chris will tell me at the interval, that’s it’s actually a blessing not to have to rely on a monitor mix. Their sound is something unique and as I explain at one point, to collective bafflement on their part, I have mentally filed them next to Stackridge in my own musical pantheon. Although this means nothing to them, and why would it, others of my age might know what I mean, besides it’s simply a way of cataloguing the pleasure Apple Of My Eye deliver.
They play two sets filled with good humour and banter, which naturally enough major on their new album, Seven Tides, with its 15 self penned gems. It’s one of the most original and inspiring albums I’ve heard in a while and seeing the band in full flow only confirms that. There are some new songs, however, and they even open with one called Balloon. Whether this is inspired by the Bristol Balloon Festival I don’t know, but several of the band hail from the south west city, although all are now in London.
The set opens up with a superb version of Don’t Go To The Sea, which really shows the intricacy of their vocal arrangements, before offering another new song about one of London’s lost rivers, Hackney Brook. As they explain, the Thames tributary become so clogged with effluent, that it was eventually buried and Arran points out disarmingly, “So this is a song about sewerage.” It’s followed by another surprise and the one song plucked from the tradition, a truly lovely version of Low Down In The Broom, before the set ends with a feisty sing-a-long Jean-Michel and the nautical adventures of a cat in Greenwich Town.
The second set is book-ended with references to the south west, opening with Durdham Down (see video premiere below), a tale of youthful cider drinking and friendship and closing with Bristol, a direct homage to the city. In between therer are three more excellent new songs, Dug In The Clay, Brother James and the playful Escape Artist. They are mixed in with Easter Island, one of my favourite songs of the moment for its sly wordplay, Murmuration, which also ranks highly, having a hidden depth and another sing-a-long in Ghosts Of The Drowned. There’s also room for the equally clever Fiddle Song taken from their first album Devils.
In the interval Chris promises to send me a CD by his parent’s band, Thornbridge, which I’ll be delighted to receive. We have a good natter and I speak to all of the band, who just seem to be enjoying the chance to play. I tell them that the strength of the new material is hugely encouraging and in the context of the night actually more than that. It’s been an absolute joy to see, a real privilege to have seen and one of those memorable evenings where music affirms its overarching importance in my life. It was that good.
Live Review by: Simon Holland