Kadia’s business card states that they perform, ‘Uplifting melodic folk music’ – and this fantastic young band do precisely that, and so much more besides, as ably demonstrated at this fantastic live performance.
Dorset seems to be gaining greater prominence as a folk-music-force thanks to the stunning Ninebarrow, but – watch out chaps – Kadia are not far behind… The band are Lee Cuff on cello and vocals, songwriter and guitarist Chris Bailey and David Hoyland on mandolin, percussion and tenor guitar. Their strength is in the trio’s musicianship and singing, although on this occasion Chris was suffering from a cold so chose not to struggle through his lead parts.
Lee ably stepped in to lead on a few extra songs. In fact, it’s he who started off the gig with a solo acapella version of the traditional Old Brown’s Daughter, which he learnt from Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day marathon back in 2010. Lee performed another Boden-inspired traditional song, Rose in April, in the second half.
After a captivating performance, Lee is joined by Chris and David for a new song, Open Sea. It’s about a 13th-century mayor of Southampton, the rather wonderfully named Benedict Ace. Performing together showcases what’s special about Kadia, the fantastic playing and singing enormously enhanced by the sheer joy they exude performing together.
Chris, although limited in vocal contribution this gig, adds fine finger-picking guitar and a delicious Spanish flavour through his strumming. Meanwhile David – initially introduced to the band as a percussionist – is a superb mandolin player, reminding me of the late great Dave Swarbrick at times. Meanwhile, Chris’s melodic vocals have a hint of Greg Russell.
The majority of the set is taken from their 2015 album, East of Alexandria and their EP from last year, The Outlandish Collection – a mix of traditional and trad-sounding original material. Alongside three fab new songs (and the promise of a new release soon?) the trio performed an eclectic mix of covers.
Born out of necessity, Kadia have a few pop hits up their sleeve to draw in the non-folkies at festivals. Closing the first half is Katy Perry’s Roar. Lee explains that it usually proves a big hit with younger members of the audience but some of the older listeners at the Barn seemed to enjoy this guilty pleasure (myself included). And it was a proper Kadia arrangement, featuring plucked cello, cajón and fingerstyle guitar.
By way of contrast, David used his solo slot to cover Josh Ritter’s towering Another New World, a song about a disastrous polar expedition, inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe poem Annabelle Lee. It’s a mesmerising performance, David summoning the crack and bite of the arctic winds with his mandolin. From my seat, I could see Lee loving every moment of his bandmates’ exquisite rendition.
Another leftfield cover was Vance Joy’s Riptide, which seemed to slot seamlessly amid the traditional material. But the most fun was reserved for the closing set of covers. Freely admitting stealing the idea from The Axis of Awesome, Kadia performed a series of songs that all use the same four-chord sequence. Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus morphed into Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, then to Adele’s Someone Like You, Maroon 5’s She Will Be Loved and on and on, taking in Shaggy, Aloe Blacc… Apparently, they have a 17-minute version in case they need to stretch out their encore. Gulp.
As it happens, the enthusiastic crowd’s applause after the last song failed to prompt an encore – they’d performed all the songs they could with the limited vocals. So, the band merely offered a heartfelt thank you and started a chorus of Happy Birthday to audience member Alan. Happy birthday, Alan! And thank you Kadia, for keeping us all very happy, birthday or not…
The concert was part of a series of intimate Sunday lunchtime folk gigs at the Riverhouse Barn in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. And coming up at the Riverhouse is Walton’s first ever (as far as can be ascertained) folk festival. On 6 May there’s a fab lineup of Kim Lowings & The Greenwood, The Outside Track, Kitty MacFarlane, Jack Cookson, Suntrap and headliners The Urban Folk Quartet. See you there…
Get tickets for Walton’s first Folk Festival on May 6th here https://thelittleboxoffice.com/riverhouse/event/view/74314