REVIEW: Oysterband fabulous at 40 at Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017

PUBLISHED: 15:15 11 August 2017

Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange.

Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange.

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Oysterband at Bulverton Marquee, Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017

Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange. Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange.

Despite the rain and mud, Tuesday night saw Sidmouth’s Bulverton marquee packed with an audience of all ages and musical persuasions to welcome folk legends Oysterband.

Currently touring the UK to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their formation, the band in their various incarnations have notched up five BBC Folk Awards, as well as more than 20 albums. On Tuesday they wowed the FolkWeek crowd with some much-loved numbers from their back catalogue (The Oxford Girl, Another Quiet Night In England), as well as their latest, My Country Too.

Oysterband’s trademark mix of strident political anthems and poignant interpretations of traditional songs has been variously described as electric folk, folk-rock and folk-punk, but it’s primarily acoustic instruments that create their distinctive sound.

Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange. Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange.

Ian Telfer’s soaring fiddle, Alan Prosser’s distinguished guitar and Adrian Oxaal’s haunting cello were firmly underpinned by the stomping backline of Al Scott’s bass and Pete Flood’s percussion, but, as always, it was lead vocalist and melodeon player John Jones who was firmly in the driving seat.

Whether leaping into the audience to lead the fist-pumping chorus of anti-globalisation anthem Here Comes The Flood, belting out the indie-rock chart version of the traditional Cornish Hal-an-Trow, or tugging the heartstrings with the poignant Dancing As Fast As I Can, Jones maintained a commanding stage presence without detracting from the musicianship of the other band members.

For Mississippi Summer, the lead vocal passed to Prosser, who mesmerized the audience with his elegantly picked accompaniment, and there were star turns in the form of solos from Oxaal, Scott and Flood.

The monumental set culminated in a finale, including a rousing version of We Could Leave Right Now that did full justice to Oysterband’s heritage, and received an ecstatic response from a very happy audience.

Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange. Oysterband. Picture: Paul Strange.

Definitely a highlight of FolkWeek 2017.

Delia Pemberton

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