Sea of Bees, aka Julie Ann Bee ‘Jules’, opened with a gentle, heart and soul on sleeve confessional set of acoustic songs. At times the autobiographical delved towards intense, vulnerable catharsis. Which was exactly her intention. Unsettling for some, embraced by others, as post-gig salutations made evident. Low voltage vignettes for crystal healers maybe, but such sincerity had an innocent charm to be savoured.
Now, with a name like Smoke Fairies all sorts of assumptions come to mind and the cynical might suggest it’s but a gossamer wing’s brush from being hippy Tinkerbell twee. Far from it as you’ll see. Generating all kinds of accolades and, having worked with mentors to die for, this duet of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies are touring the UK to promote their Will’o the whisp, ethereal, faberge egg of crafted songs principally drawn from their debut album ‘Through Low Light And Trees’. Smoke Fairies being Sussex dialect for Summer hedgerow mists, so now you know. OK, perhaps a bit hippyish then.
The band’s web-site home page presents a sepia Victorian emporium shop front outside which stands the proprietor alongside whom is the Forbidden Planet’s Robbie the Robot. Just to lend some additional imaginarium enigma there’s perched a raven pecking at the window, these images being hyperlinks. I just know I’m going to like this band.
So, well met by full moonlight fair minstrel wanderers of the night. Demure, Katherine Blamire, elegantly evening dressed, is the taller and strum-plucks electric guitar and co-harmonises with all the panache of the mark about to wryly, double-bluff bamboozle the TV series ‘Hustle’ team. Fellow harmonist, guitarist, is Jessica Davies, whose somewhat startled concentration lends the suggestion she’s concerned about not having finished her homework. That is, however, until she sings alone with her slide-guitar. Then those Americana, bourbon fumed references come to the fore with riffs and phrases so moodily mesmeric that rattlesnakes in Death Valley side-wind surrender, begging to have their tummies tickled.
They open with ‘Summer Fades’ a plaintive, nuanced Celtic air that had touches of ‘Grantchester Meadow’ swans’ feathers brushing the heart. Listen, these ladies get to you very soon. Resistance is useless. ‘Devil In My Mind’ followed with an altogether laid-back kick drum swamper led by Rob Wilks and introduced their signature thematic use of subtle hurdy gurdy style dronal pitch. When Neil Walsh, with Sgt. Pepper double-breasted jacket and mustachioed cool brings in viola flourishes one inevitably thinks of Fairport Convention’s pre Liege and Lief days where USA West Coast influences, Airplane/Country Joe, were impacting on British bands. And there’s plenty more besides. These ladies have been places and their eclectic magpie absorption embraces, amongst others, traditional/electric Folk, Blues, jigs and guitar jangle Pop. Oh, and there’s a smidgin of Zeppelin and The Whicker Man just for good measure. With ‘Strange Moon Rising’ Katherine Blamire mentions that it’s a full moon as bassist, Kris Harris, lays down a pact with the Devil Gumbo groove that culminates in something to the intoxicating effect of Enya doing a cover of Beefheart’s ‘Safe As Milk’. They say full Moon fairies can put a spell on you: evidently so.
Breaking with the tedious convention of an encore the ladies sort of mooched around whilst the lads scampered back stage. Davies, somewhat sheepishly suggested that it all seemed a bit silly really when they’ve got to come back anyway. ‘Perhaps if we get famous!’ ‘Feeling Is Turning Blue/Frozen Heart’ opened with dark, brooding slide-guitar riffs that, for this reviewer at least, recalled those visceral un-plugged sessions by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. An outstanding evening embraced by the Glee Club crowd who set their expectations high and were mightily rewarded. As ever, a warm reception from Rebecca and the Glee Club team.
Set list: Summer Fades, Devil In My Mind, River Song, ‘New Song’, Gastown, Erie Lacawanna, Living With Ghosts, Blue Skies Fall, Strange Moon Rising, Storm Song, Hotel Room/ Encore: Felling Is Turning Blue, Frozen Heart.
Review – John Kennedy