“We only play castles…exclusively castles” jokes Greg Russell as he takes to the stage in a fantastic double-header event at Kenilworth Castle on Saturday evening. The evening, organised by Lewis Smith and Charlotte Thomas in aid of Kenilworth Arts Festival, is one of a number of fantastic events taking place in the glorious stables building that dates back to 1553.
The evening gets underway with a performance by Will Pound and Eddy Jay, currently riding high on the back of their groundbreaking album ‘Ignite’. Once again, any reservations amongst audience members as to whether whether a harmonica and accordion act would ‘work’ are well and truly put to bed. Will and Eddy open with the catchily named Swedish tune ‘Eklundapolska No 3’. After about a minute the percussion kicks in (from where?) and from that point on Will and Eddy have the Kenilworth audience in the palm of their hand…
As the duo weave their way through the varied set of tunes from their album, it seems like the audience reaction is getting louder at the end of each tune. The initial momentum for the Pound/Jay act was the youtube video of them performing ‘Floating Candle’…a flawless performance tonight again leaves the audience (as well as Will and Eddy) gasping!
One of the highlights of the set is ‘The Reckoning’, a tune inspired by listening to fiddle players Martin Hayes and Stuart Duncan that gradually builds into an uplifting crescendo, while the intense musicianship on ‘Rachenitsa’, evident by the focus on Will and Eddy’s faces, is outstanding and brings rapturous applause. Will and Eddy bring their performance to a close with ‘The Clinch Mountain Backstep’…”We’re gonna play you this then go and collapse in a heap!” Will jokes. The tune brings a really tremendous set to a close and leaves a palpable energy in the room.
With a buzz in the room still left over from Will and Eddy’s set, it’s time for multiple BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar to do what they do best. Greg and Ciaran are on a long tour and it shows in their relaxed and effortless performance. After opening with the striking ‘Did You Like The Battle, Sir’ they perform a wonderful version of ‘George’, both tunes taken from their new album ‘The Silent Majority’. George is a song about a Glaswegian who would start fights every weekend in the hope that he’d get arrested and hence get a fry-up in the morning…”I’m guessing that doesn’t go on in Kenilworth?’ Greg jokes.
A collection of tunes mid-way through the set provide the platform for Ciaran’s awesome fiddle playing that he makes look so easy. After a climactic finish, Greg responds with a fairly straight ‘Well played Ciaran’ and then turns to the audience and says ‘He’s grade three violin you know?’
The protest song and album title-track ‘Silent Majority’ notches up the intensity of the performance with Greg’s engaging vocals driven along by fiddle and stomp box, followed by a rousing performance of ‘Away from the Pits’ taken from the duo’s 2014 album ‘The Call’.
Ciaran dedicates the final track, a set tune taken from their collaboration with the Mischa Macpherson trio ‘The Tweed Project’, to the Football Manager team he’d playing on his laptop back-stage. Greg, as he often does, looks at Ciaran, shakes his head and just carries on with the song’s introduction. The comedy in Greg and Ciaran’s interaction is a integral part of their show and the audience love it…”You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t follow us in real-life, we get enough of that!” The inevitable encore is a performance of ‘Rolling Down the Ryburn’ with Greg in fine vocal form.
A truly magical evening of music and many congratulations to Lewis and Charlotte for organising another belter of an event (and a special mention to Mike on sound who did a great job). The next event for Kenilworth Arts in September will feature Rachel Sermanni, Luke Jackson and Kitty Macfarlane…I’d recommend early booking for that one.