Live at New Roscoe on Monday, 20th January 2003
Hmm.... the New Roscoe you say? Isn't that where the tribute bands play? Well yes I suppose it is, but periodically they offer a night over to a group of performers who can really write songs and play them without pretending to be someone else. So whilst previous 'Roscoe' bands are worrying about whether their wig looks authentic Bon Jovi mullet or whether the pink spandex pants are 'Iron Maiden' enough, the pre-gig Duncan McFarlane band are relaxing and chatting and getting to know their audience prior to flooring them with a knock out show.
This six-piece folk rock band were formed for a one off gig in Otley during one of the folk festivals and proceeded to take the place by storm. Mr McFarlane himself a highly accomplished singer/songwriter/guitarist with a long history of music in the Leeds area, has now been establishing himself as a folk artist with an infectious degree of enthusiasm for his subject material. Taking the stage he was accompanied by a competent and obviously talented team, Geoff Taylor (an old band mate from the 70's rock era) on lead guitar, Anne Brivonese on electric violin/vox, Tony Rogerson and Nick Pepper -Bass & Drums. The one person missing was Steve Fairholme -Melodeon and squeezy things - on his holidays.
The set was made up of originals and traditional material, all arranged to reflect the strengths of the band. Songs like 'Can't Go There' a McFarlane song about showing yourself up whilst drunk and never being able to return to the scene of the crime (If that's the case then Shane McGowan must be housebound!), sit alongside songs like 'Benjamin Bowmaneer' a traditional piece rocked up. With lots of imaginative intros and arrangements this band were tight! Duncan's acoustic guitar playing provided the platform for the band to drive the rhythms and melodies along, his inspired use of mainly C modal tuning adding an extra dimension to the tunes whilst echoing Martin Carthy's technique and dynamic.
Duncan himself appears to find inspiration in the oddest of tales...hence 'Bed of Straw' a story of two men hounded by a press gang in Leeds many years ago.
This ability to make stories visual through song is the very essence of folk music and Duncan does this without pretence or cliché, recording past events with the narrative of an innocent bystander at the time.
The band kept their energy right to the end of the set, with great harmonies and even better playing this is a band hopefully destined for a wider audience on the festival circuit.
Hmm... With that in mind it would be wise to catch them now, or you could wait till the tribute band forms!