A week ago, I went along to Leicester’s Musician to see Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitors. It was a show promoted by a fine promoter, Jeremy Searle from Greenbird Promotions. I was reviewing the gig for the Leicester Mercury and my friend from eFestivals, Phil Bull, was lined up to take pics.
Immediately after the show, I rushed home and stayed up into the early hours pulling my words together. Copy submitted, I was assured it would be used.
But, I’ve not seen it published as yet. So, I thought I’d share it on Sonic Breakfast for all to see. The pics are courtesy of Phil.
Nancy Kerr is full of stories. In best schoolteacher fashion, she primly prefaces most of the songs from her new album, Instar, with a tale or two about how these tunes came into being. The crowd, well versed in the rules of cosy, middle-class folk club, listen intently and with appreciation at the Musician on Monday evening.
With plenty of plaudits in this folk world, Nancy and her band, The Sweet Visitors, waste little time in setting the scene. An instar is a transition and Nancy uses the concept to present a suite of songs about morphing social and political issues which matter to her. ‘Fragile Water’ is a song about changing gender identity whilst the spritely recent single, ‘Gingerbread’, recalls an austere time when pepper replaced ginger in the recipe of the day.
Elsewhere, there’s a focus on place and how it transforms. Nancy tells all that she’s currently living at the bad end of Sheffield where steel is stolen to make a slide in a community adventure playground. ‘Apollo On The Docks’ looks at the effect that the Olympics had on East London land and set closer, ‘Crows Wing’, describes her feelings when, stuck in a traffic jam amidst an urban sprawl, Nancy sees a peregrine falcon swoop towards a pigeon. The common ground between urban and rural is never far from the surface.
Musically, Nancy has done her time in the folk traditions and the Sweet Visitors help her to develop this vision. Thus, at times, the songs veer into prog-folk, folk-rock and a more poppier, radio friendly form of the genre. The five members of the band employ fiddles, double bass, drums and an array of electric guitars to make the noise. The singing, as you might imagine, is a delight with effortless harmonies breaking through. When band member, Rowan Rheingans, impresses all by plays the bansitar, a hybrid instrument sitting between a banjo and a sitar, it all makes sense. This is a mutated folk music for our time.
Never quite sinking under the weight of ideas presented, this is a fine introduction to the tunes and themes present on Nancy’s new album. Some might yearn for a more traditional approach but there’s no arguing that the delivery is impeccable. Solid and dependable, we’re left with no doubt that these times are a changing.