What can be better than sharing a well drawn pint or two with some like-minded friends, whilst listening to a quality live performance from some of the finest musicians in the business? The Riverside Club in Staines has been attracting some of the big names from the music world to its humble riverside home of late. Last Thursday the club welcomed through the doors the undeniable talent of locally based folk-rock band Kindred Spirit. Folk-Rock is experiencing something of a renaissance recently – Fairport Convention and Pentangle are still with us charming the audiences… and now we have a new generation of groups like Mumford & Sons and Midlake to take us up to the next level, and some exciting and experimenting bands like Fleet Foxes, to reassure us the genre is far from dead.
Kindred Spirit (playing as a three piece at Staines Riverside Club) have those lush harmonies and emotional power that you come to expect from this kind of group. The violin from Gavin Jones is exuberant and fresh and the feverish pipes and flute (and sax) from Annie Parker leaves you tingling inside. Across this chiming, piping-hot, spiky landscape comes the lush and gently unassuming vocals of Elaine Samuels, whose voice is reminiscent of the late Sandy Denny.
The first half of the set (before the club’s obligatory raffle) was vaguely ‘horse related’ and the second half was ‘sea travel’ related. I do not know if this was planned or a happy accident. So, in the first half, we had such traditional-sounding delights as ‘The Galway Farmer’ (Devon folk duo ‘Show of Hands’ – 1992) with those scuffed and skiffling fiddles and ne’er-do-well jaunty pipes. And “A Horse with No Name” (‘America’ 1972) with those esoteric chords and the haunting sense of loss along with reverberant regret. In here too were some ambitious songs like Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ with some extremely enjoyable woven interplay from Annie and Gavin and Elaine’s voice perched high above – as teasing as a wood lark.
The second half incorporated plenty of sea-wall imagery. A perfect rendition of “Martha’s Harbour” (‘All About Eve’ – 1988) depicted the agony of waiting by the waves for a true love to return from across the churning sea. But this song was somewhat diminished by Kindred Spirit’s own composition “I’ll Always Love You” (from the “Dance of Life” album). This song reminded me of Fleetwood Mac circa 1977 (the band often plays ‘The Chain’ to great applause at gigs,) but once it started, it settled down to a lustrous and emotive folk-rock ballad. Annie’s flute was like a sea-bird fluttering in the sea-breeze, but the power and surge of the fiddle was like the sea-spray fiercely spitting into your face. Luckily, Elaine’s deliciously smooth vocals took you back to an altogether warmer, more friendly and infinitely more welcoming place. This was, for me, the high point of the evening.
Kindred Spirit’s own songs are full of mystery and magic. Their compositions are sometimes as haunting as a cold-dread phantom and at other times as fleet footed as a mountain gazelle. The clear articulation of Elaine’s vocals over and above the elaborate and intricate solos from Gavin and Annie, often leave you on the edge of your seat with excitement.
“Lady Eleanor” (Lindisfarne) started with an intro that reminded me of a (little slower) “Long Train Runnin “ (Doobie Brothers.) The original version had a more mystical East feel to it. The song immediately embarks upon a magical journey brought alive by the mysterious and foggy delights of Elaine’s silken, breathy vocals.
Lola (Kinks) was another popular cover. Full of teasing and almost giggling violin and flute. Annie and Gavin provided quirky backing vocals. On the original song Ray Davies played a steel bodied resonator-type guitar on this track… which gives the song more pinch, pluck and plonk – the Kindred Spirit version is more whimsical lyrically and smoother instrumentally, with a much softer guitar sound from Elaine.
Finishing off the show with an exuberant version of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, the audience was left stunned by a performance which was both truly refreshing and full of vigorous energy. An amazing evening.
You can see Kindred Spirit play with Blue Onyx (The Moody Blues Tribute Band) at The Leatherhead Theatre on Saturday 4 December. Or check their website for more local concerts. See links below.
The Eldon Arms Reading Sat 30 Oct
The Royal Oak Berkshire Sat 20 Nov
Leatherhead Theatre Sat 4 Dec