It may be stripped down and laid bare compared to its international predecessor, the Eisteddfod, but the Llangollen Fringe has much to offer. After the big guns of Alfie Boe, Kaiser Chiefs and Van Morrison took to the stage at the Pavilion in front of hundreds last week, this week sees a host of much smaller, intimate events happening across the scenic Welsh town. One of those I had the pleasure of sitting in on on Saturday, as Americana took to the stage in the quaint, modern setting of the local town hall. “Americana” is a term that stretches across a large part of the music spectrum, encompassing a number of similar, overlapping genres. Here, we had the opportunity to hear some country, with local band Blue Genes, and folk (of a kind), with headliners Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards.
In all honesty, it was the supporting act, Blue Genes, that caused me to purchase a ticket for this event. Being a country music fan, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hear live this local trio who I first came across via YouTube. Consisting of mother, father and daughter, Blue Genes can most definitely be described as a family band. And perhaps it is that family connection that makes their voices blend together beautifully to create some stunning harmonies. In particular, their cover of ‘I’ll fly away’ was wonderful to listen to, the red and yellow lighting proving to be the perfect visual accompaniment. Their individual voices are not bad though either. In particular, daughter Megan’s are amazingly mature considering her tender age of 14 years. When mum Kay first announced this fact, you could hear the shocked whispers in the audience. Her voice is certainly well beyond its years. Evoking the likes of Alison Krauss and Cam, it was a pleasure to listen to her solo performances on ‘Tomorrow’s Due’ and ‘As Long as I Breathe’. This latter song was simply breathtaking, whilst the cover of Cam’s ‘Burning House’ was a brave choice but it was pulled off with aplomb. If you want to hear a star of the future, look no further. (A solo album, it seems, is already near to completion.)
Blue Genes were the perfect warm-up act for the headliners, Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards. Hailing from Boston, MA, it was their first time in the North East of Wales, and they received a rapturous welcome from the audience. It was an applause that was well-deserved as they served up some fabulous original material. All four members were kitted out with their chosen stringed instrument – a cello, bass, and two fiddles – with all four offering a sweet vocal sound that, when blended together, had the potency to melt even the hardest of hearts. There was, though, a distinct punk edge to their music too, which produced a feeling of strong-willed feminism beneath the gently flowing tunes of their folk songs. What I really enjoyed as part of their set was the stories they told in between. It was very conversational for a music gig, and all the better for getting to know them. By the end, you could sense the genuine warmth in the room for these four girls who, as a finale, called for the lights to go out so they could sing their final song acapella in amongst the audience. It was beautifully intimate and the perfect way to end the night.
To talk of Laura Cortese and The Dance Cards as a folk group is potentially problematic. This is because they push the boundaries a little with their physical expression and punk edge. In that sense, Americana is perhaps a better tag. But it doesn’t really matter what category they fall into, other than one labelled “excellent music”. These ladies are fabulous and will hopefully gain a large UK following as a result of their festival appearances this summer. Like Blue Genes, they certainly deserve wider recognition. And recognition must also go to the backstage team who put on a very professional and superbly produced evening. Don’t be fooled by the bright lights and star names appearing at big arenas. Sometimes, it is the simple touches made by a small band of enthusiastic and committed local people that provide for a wonderful night. The Fringe team certainly delivered in that regard. So if you have some free time this week to catch a show, I would most certainly recommend it. If the music is anything to go by here, the rest of the programme is shaping up to be fabulous.
Click here for more info and tickets.
Featured Image) Llangollen Fringe Home Online