WHAT a treat for folk fans in the south west when Fay Hield and her Hurricane Party band blew into the Wiltshire Music Centre at Bradford-on-Avon on the night after the launch of their new album, Old Adam.
Still elated by the excitement of the launch party, the band was in high spirits for a full and appreciative – but strangely static – audience, playing all the songs on the new record with some nods to the Full English repertoire, too.
Fay, whose day job is as an academic folklorist but whose evenings have clearly been spent collecting songs from the finest practitioners around the country, is an engaging performer. Her singing style is sometimes reminiscent of the great Norma Waterson, but with some of Maddy Prior’s pzzaz and a developing Tickellian rapport.
You couldn’t ask for a more compelling instrumental lineup than the Hurricane Party. Across the stage there is the virtuoso Sam Sweeney with his fiddle, viola and nyckelharpa — and his toy lion. Then comes Rob Harbron who can make his plangent concertina cry and sing, Roger Wilson on guitar, fiddle and vocals, Ben Nicholls on bass and Toby Kearney, former percussion winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, on a memorable collection of drums.
The sum of the parts would be enough, but together they performed a set that sent the audience dashing for albums and even tea towels in the interval.
Old Adam is one of those rare albums that continues to excite after several newly revelatory listens, and it is even better live.
My own favourites are the progressive Anchor Song, with words by Rudyard Kipling and music by Peter Bellamy, Queen Eleanor’s Confession – a song about celebrities messing up, says Fay – and The Briar and the Rose, in a version made by Tom Waits. But the album hasn’t been off the CD player since it first arrived.
It certainly deserves classic status.