Scottish fiddler John McCusker brought his folk suite and other treats to the Southbank Centre over the weekend. His assembled folk supergroup performed their collective work Under One Sky. The evening was divided into halves, the first half consisting of the performers essentially doing as they pleased and the second was a performance of the record.
Anglo-Swedish fiddler Emma Reid performed a waltz she had composed for her great-uncle (aged 100). Roddy Woomble sang a tune from his solo folk record. Jim Causley sang Amy Birch's rendition of "Royal Comrade," as well as sharing how his belief that Birch had died was debunked when he saw her singing in a pub. Graham Coxon sang a song he first heard as a teenager but never knew the name of, only to rediscover it a few years ago (we appreciate the irony that we didn't catch the name of it and thus the mystery continues — unless anyone here knows). John Tams delighted as much with his annecdotes as with his gorgeous voice. The first half rounded out with a couple of rousing jigs.
Perhaps the best way to get people excited about an album that hasn't come out yet is to play it for them in its entirety. McCusker's collabortions with the artists dazzled in their diversity, from Tams' delicate lullaby to Causley's heartbreaking 'Will I See Thee More.' Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis stunned with her song, which she said wasn't as sad as most folk songs because 'no one dies, but a man does go off and never come back.' Coxon played a reworked version of 'All Has Gone' from his 2001 album Crow Sit On Blood Tree, but with electric organs swapped for violins and accordion. The evening ended with an encore led by Tams of "Only Remembered."
One could imagine that the evening when performed somewhere like the Glasgow Fruitmarket would have been more energetic on the part of the audience. The crowd at the Southbank Centre didn't sing along or dance in the aisles when encouraged. No matter. McCusker assembled a group unparallelled in their talent and chemistry. Perhaps we're too uptight to sing along, or perhaps such a performance was just too captivating to participate.
If you didn't make it on Saturday, you can get a vicarious experience when the album is released in January on Navigator Records.
More photos at Flickr.