This review was originally written for the Londonist
Our previous experiences of entering the Magpie’s Nest have been boozy pub affairs (with fantastic live music) and so we went along to this expecting more of the same. Held at Cecil Sharp House in partnership with the English Folk Dance and Song Society, this was a very different kind of night, but an interesting one nonetheless for anyone into all things folk. It was a sit down, hushed concert featuring four upcoming musicians on the scene.
Jo Burke started the evening, playing alone with her fiddles and at the piano. Her sparse music and mournful voice told desperate tales of betrayal and death. Next was the lovely Robin Grey, whose songs give shape to an alternative London and rally against the destruction and gentrification of the urban spaces he holds dear. His uplifting Ballad of Hawkwood managed to get the quiet audience singing the refrain with gusto.
Lizzie Nunnery’s gorgeous, lyrical tales and accented voice were creatively accompanied with drums and a guitar played with a bow that was both dragged across and beaten on the strings. The final act of the evening, Gavin Davenport, was very traditional. He told compelling tales about his grandfather and a north Sheffield council estate which helped bring his haunting music to life.
This was definitely a concert rather than a gig, though the venue was more like a school hall than anything else. There were classes going on elsewhere in the building which meant the pounding feet of a group of country dancers made the ceiling shake throughout the first act. Quirks aside, if you’re interested in exploring traditional folk music and storytelling, and how modern musicians are keeping them alive, seek out Folk Rising.
Folk Rising returns to Cecil Sharp House on the 10th March and the 13th April. You can buy tickets online through the EFDSS website.