It would seem that Christmas had indeed arrived early to Old Portsmouth’s Square Tower, as a sold out crowd soaked up the unique atmosphere of this stunning venue in the company of two bands at opposite ends of the Americana spectrum.
Wood, Wire & Words
Portsmouth-based Wood, Wire & Words opened the evening’s festivities with a typically heart-warming set. A beautifully relaxed sound with acoustic bluegrass at it’s epicenter. This talented local trio impressed with a full complement of self-penned songs, augmented by a fine version of “Wagon Wheel” which stayed true to the down home sound of the Old Crow Medicine Show version of this oft-covered (and coveted) tune.
Driven along by Clare Rozzell’s rolling double bass, husband David’s straight-ahead vocal style is augmented by his own acoustic rhythm guitar and Pat Francis’ sweet dobro and mandolin pickings. Proving the old adage that you can never have enough train songs, their own “Riding The Rails” rattles (and hums) along relentlessly and brings the first half of the show to a suitably rousing end.
A Curst Christmas
Willi Kerr, Curst Sons charismatic front man, boldly declares “you can turn your phones on and make a noise, we ain’t no folk band!”, and the band storm straight into “Murder”, immediately getting the audience’s feet stomping and toes tapping – Speccy Dave tossing out banjo licks for fun.
With an extra wide aisle left for those who felt the urge to move their limbs in an organised (and in some cases disorganised!) fashion, it wasn’t long before a plethora of gyrating bodies edged their way toward the front of the stage at the request of Mr Kerr, who was conducting proceedings with his impressive rhythm pole, laying down a thumping beat.
Songs like “Time Bomb”, “Graveyard Dirt” and “Blood Of Jesus” tell their own stories – tales of murder, death and destruction set to an irrepressibly infectious beat. No surprise then that the aisle was soon full, and even people sitting down were compelled to get up and boogie in their own private spaces.
“Bang Bang Billy” slowed the pace a little, with Willi displaying a nifty line in jews harp style – the story of killer Billy carried along on the back of Tim Dunkerley’s precise mandolin reveries. Then it was the turn of one lucky lady from the audience who was cajoled onto the stage and handed triangle solo duties on the sing-along “Wild Country”. The combined power of banjo, acoustic guitar and shuffling washboard beat soon had the crowd clapping and singing along with the band.
And all too soon, the band are hurtling headlong into their last number “Put Your Name Here” – the only song that I know that deals with the subject of tattoos! Cue much noise from a clearly enthused and inspired audience, and a singular encore of “She Is Gone” , then once more the Square Tower slowly returns to normal as the crowd remain behind to grab a chat with Willi and the boys.
The Curst Sons somehow fashion a highly contagious sound and identity from the vestiges of bluegrass, hillbilly and rockabilly – call it “Curstabilly” if you will – with a no compromise attitude that just reaches out, grabs you by the braces, slaps you round the face in a Tango fashion, and says – “you will enjoy this whether you like it or not”! We did and we can’t wait to have them back!
(images courtesy of Donna and Ken Brown ©2013)
“A brilliant night – thoroughly enjoyed it!” (Maurie Houghton)
“Had a great night – thanks for putting it on!” (Vince Baldacchino)
“Wish we could bottle the atmosphere at your gigs!” (Rob Masters)