Smoke Fairies at Castle and Falcon

Smoke Fairies + Samana @ Castle and Falcon 9th February 2022

Smoke Fairies and Samana

Smoke Fairies

I was encouraged to get to the gig early to see Samana, support for Smoke Fairies tonight. It was good advice as they are one of the most enigmatic support acts I have seen. As I enter the venue, Julee Cruise’s song Falling is playing which is apt as Samana could easily be a band that frequents The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks with their backlit presence and atmospheric sound. Samana are Rebecca Rose and Franklin Mockett who have captured the attention of Guy Garvey with their tranquil and ethereal approach to music. The majority of their thirty minute set consists of songs from the new album ‘All One Breath’ which is due to be released on 11th March and well worth purchasing if their live set is anything to go by. The opening song is Glory Of Love that encapsulates a lazy country blues vibe with its slide guitar introduction and Rose’s dreamy glissando vocals throughout the chorus.


The depth and richness of sound created by the trio (the duo are joined by a keyboard player) is phenomenal for a small venue which is supported by the presence of the band on stage. Rebecca stands in the centre with the other musicians seated either side like an alternative take on the Holy Trinity. Samana use vocal reverb for maximum effect to produce a celestial essence with a hint of eeriness complimented by the simple lilting piano chords in the magnificent song All One Breath which was the highlight of the set. This was a song you could have listened to for much longer, a sign of a great piece of music. The last track of the set is Live For The Road which returns to the alt-country genre of the opening song. As Rose explains it is a song written to mark our return to freedom and the repetition is like an ever-stretching road. I have been exploring Samana’s back catalogue since the gig which shows what impact they have had and for those who arrived later, you missed a treat.


Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies were one of the last bands I saw before lockdown and their gig at The Sunflower Lounge was magnificent. So much so, that Katherine Blamire, one half of Smoke Fairies, notes it was a highlight of the tour remembering the whiskey being passed forward through the crowd. Needless to say, the duo are on equally fine form this evening, starting their set with three tracks taken from their latest album, Darkness Brings The Wonders, beginning with Super Tremolo. Super Tremolo is a track that evidences Katherine and Jessica’s complementary vocal ranges supported by the interplay of guitars which underpin the essence of the Smoke Fairies’ sound. It is a well-constructed piece that gathers volume and intensity as it progresses with its increasing use of drums and lead guitar as the vocals swell towards the end, which is fully appreciated by the increasing audience.

Smoke Fairies at Castle and Falcon



Don’t You Want To Spiral Out of Control? begins with a quirky and delicate guitar riff and interesting lyrics about a complex relationship. “If you’ve got a hole to fill, you’ve got to find the will”. The pair choose to accentuate some of the lyrics by both singing which adds another layer of dynamics as the driving bass of John J Presley pushes the chorus further. Coffee Shop Blues is a slower pace piece that illustrates how adept the Smoke Fairies are at producing songs which bridge an array of genres. This song’s strength comes from the hauntingly beautiful key change which plays out for the rest of track as Katherine’s soprano vocals float over the top of Jessica Davies’ alto lyrics.

Throughout the set, you can clearly see the enjoyment that Blamire and Davies have playing and creating music together with the relaxed conversations between songs as they tune guitars, joking about once having a man who used to do this for them, bringing the audience into their musical space. A space that includes a more traditional folk element by returning to some of their earlier catalogue with Sunshine and Summer Fades with emotive words and shadowy music, songs that dance on the edge of darkness with glimmers of the light. These are interspersed with the compelling Out Of The Woods, where Davies does a bass swap with Presley, who is a solo musician in his own right and it’s definitely worth exploring his work, as the backlighting pounds with the rhythm of the song enhanced further by a guitar solo that has increased distortion compared to the recording.

Through Low Light and Trees

The heaviness of the latest album is seen with the more well-known tracks, Elevator and Disconnect, both of which received welcome airplay on 6 Music when they were released. Elevator, with its stabbing accents contrasts with the chorus and its squealing guitar solo heading towards an abrupt ending. Whereas Disconnect’s catchy chorus and Sean Fallowfield’s drumming produces a track that wouldn’t necessarily be misplaced on a Desert Sessions album. The main set finishes with a return to the album Blood Speaks with the awesome The Three Of Us. An immense display of slide guitar that crescendos into an affective chorus before returning to the main riff which sees the crowd move their heads in unity especially as the phenomenal instrumental kicks in to draw the performance to a close.

There are calls aplenty for more songs, a testament to the calibre of the hour long set that has just been witnessed. It is just Katherine and Jessica who return to the stage for the final two songs, When You Grow Old and River Song. These songs are from their earlier body of work and have a beautiful delicacy about them, drawing on their blues influence and skill at harmonising. During the performance, often the pair will turn to face each other as they play, communicating timing and dynamics and this ability to feel where each other is going musically is apparent and is their strength. Every time I see the Smoke Fairies perform, I am always so surprised that they aren’t a massive band as they are such talented songwriters and musicians but then again I welcome the intimacy of the gigs in small venues. This was a tremendous evening of music from start to finish.

Photographs: Ian Dunn

Review: Toni Woodward


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