While I certainly know the output of Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar pretty well these days I was not familiar with Luke Jackson’s work at all. Jackson walks on to the stage and rich, bluesy, distinctive vocals immediately fill the room. With some dexterous guitar playing he gives a rootsy, acoustic blues feel to the contemporary singer-songwriter genre and is an immediate hit with the Cecil Sharp audience.
His often highly personal songs cover a range of topics on the trials and tribulations of modern life, from popping pills, drinking and fighting in Ain’t No Trouble, to the desperation of young suicide in the hauntingly beautiful That’s All Folks. Jackson is a prolific songwriter with three CDs of his material released already. A number of tonight’s songs are available on his excellent and highly listenable mini-album: This Family Tree. (Details here)
Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar then join Jackson on stage to provide lovely added harmonies on his final song. And after a short interval Russell and Algar return, sans Jackson, and we move from contemporary singer-songwriter to traditional folk duo. Winning the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 2013 (the same year Luke Jackson was a runner-up, incidentally, and how they first met) the duo appeared to arrive fully formed with an incredible degree of musical maturity at an impossibly young age. But they’ve continued to go from strength to strength and are now on to their third album. Russell’s rich and expressive voice simply oozes with character and passion while Algar’s fiddle-playing, always delivered with exquisite perfection, veers from the wildly energetic to the beautifully sensitive.
They are touring in support of their new album The Silent Majority, released just last month, and we get to hear a number of songs from that tonight including the title track itself, a cover of the Lionel McClelland song which serves as a warning of the tragedies that unfold when “the silent majority stays silent”. Another highlight is George, a great Glasgow-based drinking song, as well as a beautiful version of Rolling Down The Ryburn. It’s not just about the new album though and we also get some well-chosen favourites from their first two albums including The Queen’s Lover, written when a 17 year-old Russell was studying for his history AS level, and Away From The Pits, written by Ciaran Algar’s father, Chris, a homage to his native Stoke On Trent.
Luke Jackson, who was joined by Russell and Algar for the final song of his set, returns the favour and comes back on to accompany the duo for their last song: three talented musicians, two very different acts but one highly entertaining evening. Another very successful night for Cecil Sharp House.