Kings Place is a plush new contemporary arts venue near Kings Cross. Situated underneath the Guardian/Observer HQ, my gig partner for the evening described those present as a “classic Hampstead dinner party Guardianista audience”. That meant they were possibly a little bit restrained from when I last caught Fay Hield & the Hurricane Party, at a Great British Folk Festival appearance at Butlins. But she and the band went down well and they were called back for an encore at the end.
Fay Hield was the main mover and shaker behind The Full English, the folk “supergroup” that was put together to delve into the new online archive of early 20th century folk collections and which recently scooped prizes at the BBC folk awards. Two of the songs from the Full English CD, sing-along The Man in the Moon as well as the lovely Awake Awake were performed tonight, some of the highlights from both the album and tonight’s performance. This wasn’t a Full English performance, though, so Hield delved elsewhere into her wide traditional repertoire. Naughty Baby is a traditional lullaby which goes into great detail about threats of beating, dismembering then eating the subject of the song if it won’t stop crying. (With lyrics like that this could only be either a traditional English folk gig or a Norwegian death metal gig). For some unfathomable reason this song fell into obscurity compared to other popular lullabies which we still hear sung to young children today. But Hield delivers a memorable version of the song’s gruesome lyrics. Other songs tonight include Grey Goose and Gander, King Henry, both from her first album.
Hield has a strong, characterful and distinctive voice, perfect for traditional material of this type. Her blunt Yorkshiresque banter between songs goes down well with the audience and she also has a fine band of supporting musicians. This includes the hugely talented Sam Sweeney on fiddle. One niggle about tonight’s performance is that the band, although they got to perform a number of instrumentals, never got the benefit of a proper introduction. I hope that’s put right next time.
During the show, however, Hield did announce she will be returning with the Full English line-up for a tour in the Autumn – and that will certainly be something I’ll look out for.