Live at Korks (Otley) on Friday, 19th September 2008
What Otley has rightly become used to when the Duncan McFarlane Band plays the Folk Festival there, is a glowingly satisfied home crowd with a similar reaction from visitors who know the band's sound - and amidst all this, many new listeners simply astounded at the quality of Duncan and his musicians. Well, this year even those most familiar with the work of the outstanding folk-rock six-piece were impressed beyond their expectations. Through a festival weekend that featured fifty acts at a dozen venues, the band played on three different stages - twice with the full electric line-up; once in its acoustic guise (in addition to Duncan's solo presence at two songwriting events) - and all with hardly any repeated material from gig to gig.
It was the electric sound, full of eagerness and in prime condition that rocked Kork's wine bar in the early phase of the festival on Friday night. From its opening chord, going into 'Rakish Young Fellow' (with potent additional flavouring to acknowledge International Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day) and for the next hour and a half, beautifully governed playing and singing earned the description 'immense' from a crowd including plenty of other musicians.
It was success in a variety of styles and tempos, and no simple matter of established repertoire for a guaranteed effect: new and distinctive songs were introduced and acclaimed, including the remarkable 'For Jane' inspired by a most unusual view of the applauding Leeds street crowds at Jane Tomlinson's funeral. And a wide range of other pieces variously allowed centre-stage attention for Anne Brivonese on fiddle and vocals, Geoff Taylor on lead guitar and Steve Fairholme on melodeon, in addition to Duncan's own guitar and vocals and the drums of Nick Pepper and bass of Tony Rogerson.
The very high standard of the sound was in some measure due to the growing ability in recent years of musicians and sound engineers to get the delivery right in surroundings of many types and sizes. Otley's Rod Holt is an acknowledged master of these skills, and his team played their part to perfection.
By the time Otley Folk Festival comes round again (for the eighteenth year) the Duncan McFarlane Band should be recently returned from facing very large audiences indeed at the Shrewsbury Festival, where thousands will have the chance to enjoy on a grand scale what Otley had the good fortune to receive so intimately, as expert writing and playing show just how much Rock can go into Folk without losing touch with a traditional character.