Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
Sunday 2nd April 2017
Barham Village Hall, nr Canterbury
Doors 7pm for 7.30pm start
£14 on the door
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar met in 2011. Soon after, the duo were signed to Fellside Records and in July 2012 released their debut album, The Queen’s Lover. Numerous tours followed as the duo developed and honed their stage craft, becoming one of the most sought after young acts on the English Folk Scene. “The press coverage and folk club reports have been glowing and rightly so” (R2 Magazine).
In January 2013, the pair picked up the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk award. Following the award win, Russell and Algar toured the country in April and, after completing school and University Exams in May, began touring again at the beginning of June - a schedule which saw them play venues and festivals such as Cambridge Folk Festival and Fairport’s Cropredy Convention as well as appearing live on Mark Radcliffe’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Show.
After recording their second album in November 2013, Russell and Algar received the Horizon Award for Best breakthrough act at the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. The second album, The Call, was then released in July receiving 5 Stars in fRoots, 4 Stars in both R2 Magazine and The Telegraph and a host of other brilliant reviews, Bright Young Folk describing it as an “outstanding show of maturity” with “enormous promise”.
The duo come from musical households and both began to develop their musical skills long before joining forces. Algar, originally a member of TRI became All Ireland Champion, and All Britain Champion on numerous occasions before the age of 16 and Russell had begun a career as a solo musician supporting acts such as Karine Polwart and Lau, amongst others.
Fatea – Folk in the Barn Concert Review 2015
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar have done brilliantly over the past few years. BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winners 2013, BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award winners 2014 and BBC Radio 2 Best Duo nominees in 2015.
It is easy to see why. Greg is blessed with a wonderfully powerful and expressive, archetypal folk voice and is a very tight rhythm guitarist. Ciaran is simply a superb fiddle player and along with his breathtaking speed and dexterity, he is a sympathetic accompanist. I thought his supporting lines, fills and swells under Greg's vocals were outstanding and brought an added depth and emotion to the songs. The full and expansive sound they create is very much a case of the two of them together being far greater than the sum of the parts.
Greg and Ciaran were touring in support of their just released third album 'The Silent Majority'. Accordingly, several songs from the new CD were featured and they all sounded very strong.
Greg and Ciaran are great interpreters of both traditional and modern folk songs and bring an almost ageless quality to them. Within this, their song choices also have something contemporary to say and a clear relevance to the here and now in both a social and political sense.
They set out their stall with the opening song 'Did You Like The Battle, Sir' which featured all of the above. A sparse, muted guitar introduction, a very stately vocal that suited the song content perfectly and some beautiful fiddle from Ciaran.
Of course, the crowd were also treated to several tunes which inevitably featured some virtuoso playing from Ciaran, some splendid rhythm from Greg and lots of clever syncopation, particularly when making the transition from one tune to another, all of which the pair made look completely effortless. As would be expected, these sets were received noisily by the crowd!
For me, other standouts were 'The Silent Majority' and 'Rolling Down The Ryburn' from the new album and 'The New Railroad' off their first CD 'The Queen's Lover'. I remember the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk finalist's weekend back in 2012 when all the acts played two songs at a lovely concert presented by Mike Harding. I recall being completely blown away by Greg & Ciaran's version of this song, it was so powerful then and I thought tonight's version surpassed even that.
One of the pleasures of live music of course, is witnessing the acts interactions with one another and relationships they build with the audience. Greg and Ciaran are very funny and in a few short years this humour seems to have shifted from jokes and puns to an almost 'Reeves and Mortimer' type surrealism. Greg has a dry, acerbic sense of humour whereas Ciaran is more anarchic and uncontrolled. An added twist is that at times it is difficult to tell whether they are on the verge of 'falling out' on stage as Greg gives his adult 'enough is enough' look, which just seems to incite Ciaran to further errant behaviour. Of course, their winning of the Young Folk Award and Luke (Jackson, also on the bill) being a runner up was also fuel for much banter, the best of which I thought was them announcing 'he couldn't travel to the gigs in the same car as them as they kept their winners trophy on the passenger seat'!
As has seemed to be the case all through this tour judging by the number of videos taken, the last encore song reached new levels of beauty. The three took the stage together and performed a marvellously arranged version of Damien Rice's 'Delicate'.
Everything about it was breathtaking, subtle guitar and bouzouki from Greg and Ciaran respectively, Greg and Luke taking turns with the verses and some wonderful harmonies from all three where each voice blended perfectly as a whole, yet remained distinctive in its own right.
This all seemed about as good as music gets really.
Paul Jackson for Fatea
- Date Added 18/02/2017