I must confess it to be true, darlings, that my little heart goes all aflutter for those folksy bands that strum so very tenderly and sing so very sweetly (let's call it my Fanfarlo syndrome). So, naturally, I was deliriously delighted to venture out and see what Stornoway, the latest of such Brit folk exports, could do live and in person. As it happens, this group of Oxfordians and South Africans managed to warm the cockles of my cold, black heart. Well, maybe not totally. But they sure did manage to give it quite a thaw.
MINI RECAP: Stornoway = Splendidly Sweet! Overall Score: B+
The set began with a mournful, chilling intro courtesy one violin, precluding what was to come in a beautiful, yet rather sad way. Stornoway claims to be influenced by the sea, and you can definitely hear it in their music. Their moody, passionate folksiness conjured up images of small, coastal towns stark and lovely under endless drizzling grey skies, dark waves crashing along the craggy coastline for miles with churning relentlessness. "Boats and Trains" was a favorite, aching as it was, and for some reason reminding me of Van Morrison. I got a kick out of the fact that, like Elbow and their great song/album "Asleep In The Back", the jaunty, grand strut of "Beachcomber's Windowsill" wasn't on the debut record, though the record is in fact called Beachcomber's Windowsill. I loved the almost violent instrumentation, though of course the band was never anything but pretty.
"Fuel Up" was full of thos earnest, folktastic vocals that I suspect Stornoway will become known for. It struck me that there's something rather pure and unsullied about this band. And oh my, those harmonies were magic. During "I Saw You Blink" I had the thought that there seems to be something rather traditional about their songs, but given a trendy folk twist. But not in a put-on kinda way or anything. Even the way singer Brian Briggs addressed the crowd was endearing, a sort of hesitant shyness that was adorable and enchanting. After charmingly relaying a yarn about some Yorkshire folks that were stuck in a pub for 8 days and drank the place dry, the band launched into "On The Rocks", "a wintry song for you," quoth Briggs. And indeed, 'twas very wintry indeed, the chill of their seaside-inspired tales comign across all gorgeousness. "November Song" was probably my favorite song of the night, Briggs and his acoustic calling to mind trad folk of days of yore. It was quite a captivating moment in time.
They came, they saw, they folked it up. If you, like me, get the yen for some folktastic brilliance every now and then, friends, you might just want to check out the boys of Stornoway.
mp3: Fuel Up (Stornoway from Beachcomber's Windowsill)