Brum Live has form with this engaging, often beguiling Welsh Folk-Beat band 9Bach (with a relish of Trans-Dub these days!) and it goes way back to Green Man Festival 2009. Through a fug of the previous night’s weapons-grade indulgence in Crowbar-in-the Coccyx local cider, a late morning chill-out in the Far Out Tent with 9Bach was a must. It was several numbers in to the set before ascertaining it wasn’t the DTs but that they were singing in Welsh. You may have also caught them at Moseley Folk Festival, 2001 where this Brum Live reviewer blushingly noted that…
“…We caught up with alt.Druid/Nu-Welsh Folk Language Trad-doom, harp pluckers 9Bach. Lead singer, Lisa Jen, has only to pronounce the name Caernarfon more than once to set any sentient male aged between 12 and 55 all wobbly in the linguistics. Their harmonies and chiming cadences are to die for: a similar fate that becomes many of their balladic characters but it’s all done with bewitching charm.”
And it’s just got better all the time. Their 2014 album, Tincian, was winner of the coveted Best Album in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015. Now, they’re touring newly released Anian (Real World) described by The Guardian’s Robin Denselow as ‘…a cool, classy set…’. Their horizons look well beyond Offa’s Dike (no, don’t, just don’t!) including Greek rembetika* songs and an indigenous Australian poem about slavery (Plentyn).
But first – tonight’s brief opening set welcomed back to Brum the harp & fiddle duet Twelfth Day, they also played Moseley Folk last year. This evening was in front of a derth ofpaying punters, though bless them for being there. How can this be? (It picked up later somewhat.) They played a delightfully enchanting set of consummate musicianship and shimmering harmonies. Their pending debut album title track ‘The Devil Makes Three’ is a deceptive lullaby intro mantra, drawing on traditional Scottish airs that builds to a climax of fiddle and harp-dueling interplay. Worthy of the midnight witches’ pursuit of Tam o’Shanter.
By now there was a decent enough footfalls to make the gig what a pant-wetting PR intern might call ‘cosy/intimate’. 9Bach stepped-up to the mark and won over hearts, broke them once or twice then mended them with Faerie gossamer enchantments. Many tracks came from the new album and, by agreement; Lisa Jen gave a brief anecdotal context to each one, a story to be told, peoples’ lives to unfold. She has the disarming ambience of Druidic calm, the natural world impacts strongly in her songs as does social justice but this gig was no heart-wrenching Hippy polemic.
There are plenty of chortles though we do suspect that the bands’ touring miles might stretch the novelty of the Brummies’ accented pronunciation of ‘pigeon’ to its limit. Dazzling musicianship all round is taken as default. The occasional tom-tom drum roll from Ali Byworth had this reviewer time-capsuled way back to Pentangle’s 1968 line-up with drummer Terry Cox. Told you this band had form. One has the suspicion that just maybe 9Bach made a detour through the Elan Valley reservoirs and dropped a little elixir into our drinking water supply. It might explain quite a lot about tonight.
9Bach Set List:
Twelfth Day Set List:
To Wait to Find
Devil Makes Three
Words: John Kennedy
Photographs: Ian Dunn