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Roving Reviewer: Strange Little Mini-Folk Fest

February 16, 2013

Alister & Leon Green‘s strains were what I heard as I ascended the stairs up to the band room at Gertrude’s Brown Couch last Thursday. They provided a nice, stable ‘Aussie Acoustic Duo’ sound – in quintessential terms. Gig headliner Joe Forrester greeted me at the door, which comes as a bit of a shock to see muso’s being their own door clerk these days! Nevertheless, a pleasant surprise.

Back to Alister & Leon, who breezed through their set with a clear Aussie Rock influence sitting beneath a bit of bluesy/folk grunt up front. Strong vocals, with great depth and clarity emerge from both of the brothers, who finished with a rousing rendition of House of the Rising Sun. In describing their vocal as strong, it shys away from what most people would expect after I’ve labelled them as an ‘Aussie Duo’, as there is (thankfully) a sheer lack of Jimmy Barnes-esque interpretations.

The night’s show piece then takes her place on the Gertrude’s “stage” (admittedly, floorboards raised possibly 3mm above the actual level of the rest of the complex) a lot earlier than I would have expected, but the quirky and beautiful Bernie Carson strummed her first chord on her full-body guitar that we joke about later on – neither of us knowing quite how she manages to wrap her hands around, given her pint-sized stature.

She smiles as she introduces her saddest and darkest song, Hurt, and admits to the audience that she doesn’t quite understand why she’s smiling and laughing so much as she recounts a horrific moment of her life.

Her powerfully emotional vocal cuts right through ears and heart; asking questions of everything that exists deep inside anyone’s being. The true listeners stunned at the sheer power of sound coming from such a small frame.

She delivers entertaining anecdotes before each song, which my written word would not do any justice to; yet the audience at Gertrude’s Brown Couch – in stitches – certainly did.

Sam Banks & India Flynn shared the next line-up slot and presented with it a nice twist to the tale with a trip down yonder path to a southern-influenced, “true folk” setting. An eclectic mix of twangy country in Banks’ voice, with the guitar and banjo stylings used swaying it more toward elements of traditional folk.

Flynn’s accompanying vocals and percussion are spot on from the get-go. We’re introduced to harmonica by the third song, where Banks reverts to a finger-plucked guitar style and shows us a more rounded aspect to his vocal arrangement.

As with any folk artist, the intent with Banks & Flynn is to tell stories through their words, through their lyrics. A keen ear is required to take in the plot, but with so much going on musically, it is hard not to marvel at the arrangements. How often do you see that word finish consecutive sentences?

India then moves centre stage and moves the set away from its south-western roots into a truer example of folk songwriting. A steady and controlled voice, full of feeling (not to be confused with Carson’s emotion), coupled with some complex and forthright guitar accompaniment. Roles are quickly reversed, seeing Banks take control of the mouth harp and backing vocals.

Her original tunes weep at one’s soul; her stories seep within you. She takes control of this set rather quickly, putting her own stamp on it.

Joe Forrester – lucky last – takes the stage after an eager wait from the moderately built crowd. He impresses from song one, which you can tell he sings from the heart. He powers through an impressive guitar interlude, combining skilled chords with individual and accentuated string plucks.

One thing to note – however odd – is Joe’s annunciation of each word. Careful and with full shape, he brings a unique approach to the “Melbourne Singer-Songwriter” that we all know and love. I’m not too sure I can corner any other which shares the styles that protrude from Forrester’s instrument and voice. I mean, for one, he’s rather clean-shaven.

It’s almost something from the Emo days of old (scared to give it an unfavourable tag), but it is more involved than that; both musically and in his general storytelling and delivery. His guitar is a strong conductor and in song structure, overall the best comparison I can make is to Mumford & Sons with a much more unique vocal delivery.

Forrester is certainly a hidden gem in Melbourne’s vast array of singer-songwriter performers. You can lose yourself in a haze of things that are a much of a muchness, but this guy brings a unique and refreshing flavour to the guitar/vocal performance.

This line-up has impressed, and those not there to witness it may feel themselves at a loss. Take note of each name in this review, as either individually or together, you will garner something out of seeing a performance from any of these incredibly talented artists. I challenge you to not be able to walk away with warmth in your heart. – 4.5/5 Melting Pots full of Greatness

Melting Pot’s Roving Reviewer rocks up unannounced – where will he be next? Find out by checking back in each week to find out about some of the other brilliant acts skating around this magnificent musical city of ours.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.

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