Great Live Review in Maverick
“The Carrivick Sisters and Naomi Sommers
The Live Theatre, Newcastle, March 25
One of the many joys of Maverick Magazine is its never ending ability to unearth new talents that would otherwise go unnoticed in the giddy world of roots and Americana Music. Tonight was a case in point; on paper I would normally have run a mile from a concert that combined English folk music with bluegrass overtones, but following a tip-off from Laura Bethell this gig was one of the best I’ve been to in several years.
The evening started with American singer-songwriter Naomi Sommers announcing that this tour was her first live appearances since their birth of her baby in August 2010 and she was very nervous. You wouldn’t have known it as she opened her set with Fine Morning that instantly evoked memories of a young Joni Mitchell. Naomi went on to sing songs dating back to her teens when she played guitar and sang with the rest of her family in the Sommers-Rosenthal Family Band (perhaps the marketing people could have a re-think on the band moniker?) and onwards to the current day with one she wrote for a college friend who had joined the Army and ended up being posted to Iraq. Naomi’s soft soothing voice carried this ‘protest’ song along without ever hitting the listener over the head. At the end of her short set she invited Laura Carrivick onstage to play Dobro on an enchanting version of Nanci Griffith’s Gulf Coast Highway then Charlotte joined the pair to play mandolin on Sea of Heartbreak.
As usual at Jumping Hot Club gigs there was just enough time for a pint and a wee before the headline act came back on stage. I’d met the Carrivick Sisters earlier in the evening and was staggered at how young they appeared but once on stage they didn’t exactly ‘age’ but gained a presence and confidence that bellied their tender years.
The Sisters opened their set with an intricate folk instrumental called Cuckold Hen which blended into a bluegrass song Waiting For Your Train; which set the scene for the evening. The Carrivick Sisters are from Devon but when they play bluegrass they can stand alongside the best of the best from the Southern half of the USA. Laura’s fiddle and Dobro playing are astounding and without seeing this tiny English Rose playing her instruments ‘in the flesh’ (as it were) you would swear the player was some old wrinkly from Kentucky who had been playing for 60 years! Don’t think for one moment that twin sister Charlotte stands in Laura’s shadow; she plays a pretty damn mean banjo and mandolin when the mood takes her! The average musician would give their left arm to be able to play instruments like these girls but the Carrivick Sisters can not only sing very well but when they harmonise…my legs went weak at the knees and they truly sounded like they had been singing together all of their lives (as twins I guess they have… hahaha!).
As I said earlier the girls blend the very best of English folk music with the very best of American bluegrass and the result is delicious/beautiful/astonishing (delete as appropriate). Songs like The William & Emma, Garden Girls and The Widows Daughter are all quintessentially English folk songs but disguised as bluegrass tunes—baffled? You won’t be. Most songs were introduced by Charlotte; who captivated the disappointingly small audience with her stories and attempts at jokes all evening.
For the last song and the resulting encores the girls invited Naomi Sommers back on stage and her warm voice only added to the sisters gorgeous harmonising on Down in the Willow Garden, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (which was spellbinding) and the finale Goodbye Grey Sky. In good old-fashioned folk tradition the three young women left the stage and were instantly followed by a steady line of newly found fans straight to the merch table; which was covered in a table cloth the sisters had bought at the Gooseberry Fayre especially for this purpose. As we speak both folk music and bluegrass are going through something of a renaissance so, I hope you get the opportunity to see and hear the Carrivick Sisters at one of the many festivals they will be playing during the summer. Go out of your way to find them; you won’t be disappointed.