Concert Review – Jamie Smith’s Mabon

Concert Review – Jamie Smith’s Mabon – Lichfield Guildhall March 23rd 2013

Reviewed by: Ben Macnair

Jamie Smith’s Mabon, one of the country’s most critically acclaimed instrumental groups returned to play a well received set of energetic, original music when they appeared at Lichfield’s Guildhall as a date on their ‘Windblown’ tour.

Jamie Smiths Mabon

Led by piano accordionist, composer and singer Jamie Smith, the rest of the quartet was Oliver Wilson-Dickson on Fiddle and vocals, Adam Rhodes on Bouzouki and vocals Matt Downer on electric and upright electric bass, and Iolo Whelan on Drums and vocals. Although the group’s previous recorded and live outings consisted of purely instrumental music, for this album, they had ventured into the world of song-writing and harmony vocals.

With complicated tuneful music, always underpinned by a strong sense of rhythm, there were traces of bands such as the Penguin Café Orchestra, and also composers such as Aaron Copland, as well as the expected celtic music, as well as traces of their native welsh music, and Cajun in some of the more energetic pieces. Much of the music came from ‘Windblown’, and started of with ‘Huzzah’ an upbeat instrumental, whilst ‘Lady of the Woods’ was a song that featured a singalong chorus for the audience. ‘Tunnag’s tunes’ was a four-piece suite, named in honour of a cat, and started with the slow aire of ‘Mr Nibbles Cheats Death’, before becoming the Penguin Café Orchestra like ‘Farewel Tunnag’ with its driving percussion, and simple motif.

Jamie Smiths Mabon

‘Summer’s Lament’ was a slow, popish ballad, that featured some fine harmony singing, and support from all five members, whilst ‘Gareth and Aoife’s’ was a touching ballad piece, written as a wedding present. ‘The Gordano Ranter’ was an atmospheric piece, full of shifts in time and chord progression, featuring unusual sounds, such as e-bowed bouzouki, whilst ‘Yes we sing now’ was both a pop-folk song and a manifesto.

The set ended with the energetic ‘Whiskey Burp Reels’ another four-piece suite that included many shifts in time signature and mood. An encore of ‘File Under Biddley’ started of as a duet for accordion and fiddle, before the rest of the band joined in.

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