Artist: Will Pound Band
Venue: The Square Tower
Date: 23rd May 2014
I arrived early to find that the band had been delayed on the M25 and were still setting up and sound-checking. Prep was in full swing and, despite the travel, the lads were clearly up for a good night – and boy did they deliver!
The Square Tower hall is a 500yr old barrel-vaulted room with 20ft thick walls and room for 100 people. There’s a great bar with good ale, cider, wine and soft drinks and very friendly staff. It is one of the best and most unusual locations I have been to for a long time and the acoustics are excellent. Will and the band commented on how great the place is and I have no doubt they’ll be back.
As the doors opened, the ongoing checks and balances provided a taste for the audience and the sense of anticipation in the Tower started to grow. Then the band came on and, true to form launched into a cracking triple-decker to get the place moving. Soldiers Joy, Floating Candle and The Duchess is a great three-tune work-out for the band and the response from the audience was a huge cheer of approval. That set the tone for the evening as the band went through many of the tracks from their superb album “A Cut Above” and one or two extras.
The band features Will Pound on harmonica, Henry Webster on fiddle, Chris Sarjeant on guitar and John Parker on double-bass, but that’s too simple. Will is an astounding player coaxing the harmonica ever further down the musical path, Henry is a match on the fiddle, teasing some great sounds from the strings, Chris’ guitar work is sublime and dexterous and John mixes slap and slide bass with beat-box vocals and a big smile. They obviously adore the music and are all exceedingly good at what they do.
As the band put their instruments through their paces it is clear we were in for a treat. Will introduces each song with a few words and a joke, he’s frequently interrupted by a bit of banter from Henry or Chris (John smiles and hugs the bass!) and then off on another musical workout. The talk and the jokes and the obvious friendship between the players only serve to add to the music. They chat to the audience both from stage and when signing CDs or autographs later – everything shows these are musicians playing the music they love to audiences who appreciate their skill. There is no hubris or showing off in their music or their manner. They are simply great musicians.
Every song was a treat but I particularly like the quirky “93 Not Out” and the story of the old fellow still playing harmonica until his mid-90s. White Jock is also a jaunty little number with strong folk and morris roots like so many of these songs. These provide an interesting counter to the faster jigs, reels and shanty-influenced songs. All of them allow the ebb and flow of harmonica and fiddle to shine through with the constant sparkle of Chris’ guitar and John’s exuberant bass providing constant rhythm and texture.
Chris took the lead on the lovely Bay of Biscay from his excellent album “Heirlooms”, coaxing the tune beautifully from a temporarily reluctant sound-system but this only served to demonstrate their individual and collective skills as each adjusted play to ensure none were drowned out. After that it was back to business with classics from the English, Irish and Americana traditions all given a thorough work out with the audience clapping, tapping and foot-stomping. Banjo and folk-players will recognise stalwart tunes like Old Joe Clarke and Morgan Rattler but one of the highlights has to be Amazing Grace played like you’ve never heard before.
Will and John started so slowly that it was clear many people couldn’t quite get the tune – it was just beyond recognition and the audience was absolutely still wondering what was about to happen. Then as they play into it the tune dawns on everyone with Will getting faster and faster and John breaking into slap, drumming and beatbox-vocals – a stunning version of the traditional song. It really is live music at its best and both lads clearly love playing this tune.
Finally the show-stopper, Clinch Mountain Back Step is a joy to listen to. Fast, playful music that is just great fun and leaves you wanting more.
These lads are already at the top of their game and they pulled out the stops tonight. If they are playing near you go and see them. If they’re not, make an effort and go find them, you will not be disappointed!
As for audience comments afterwards. There are too many to put down but they are perhaps best summed up by a lady who came along on spec who simply said “bloody brilliant” and strolled off into the evening humming a tune. Can’t say fairer than that.
“So…folk harmonica, eh ? An interesting concept, but Will Pound and his band definitely exceeded expectations at The Square Tower this evening. A virtuoso quartet with guitar, violin and bull fiddle, led by Will on a gob iron that he made sound like bagpipes, accordion and occasionally like a harmonica, playing a mixture of original and trad. folk tunes in an inspiring and well-paced set…” (Dan Ogus)
“That was brilliant….actually no, it was f***ing brilliant!” (Anon Lady!)
(Photo’s courtesy of Donna Brown © 2014)