Concert Review – Fret and Fiddle

Words by Ben Macnair – Photography by David Jones

With a repertoire that ranged across jazz, an engaging stage presence, and energetic musicianship the five-piece ensemble Fret and Fiddle played to an appreciative audience when they appeared at Lichfield Guildhall.
Popular and regular performers at the Guildhall, the quintet of violinist and vocalist Sally Minchin, guitar,banjo, and bouzouki player Andy Bole, Simon Smith on double bass, pianist Rich Hughes and Steve Street on Drums played a set that ranged from the gypsy jazz of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, to the music of George Gershwin, Leonard Cohen, and some fine interpretations of blues songs.

Although the violin did much of the musical heavy lifting, ranging from Rhapsody in Blue, to fleet-fingered greek playing, or the swing of such standards as Anything Goes, or Minor Swing, the rest of the band proved more than capable, switching from high velocity gypsy swing, to mood poems, to pop and jazz songs, with the strings of Andy Bole and the piano and Hammond Organ forays of Rich Hughes being particularly effective.

The banjo led Chocolate Jesus gave new light to Tom Wait’s song, whilst the swing-waltz timing of Leonard Cohen’s Dance me to the end of Love showed a more frivolous mood to the song. The blues songs of Willie Dixon in I’m Ready, and the traditional blues song Make Me a Pallet on your Floor were also well received, with the vocals hitting the right tones. Riding the Rails was a rambunctious bluegrass tune, full of audience participation, whilst the latin tinged Tico Tico which closed the show gave all five musician time in the spotlight.

The group had saved some musical fire-works for the encore however, where the inventive and fleet Bouzouki playing provided a solid rhythmic background for some adventurous, and experimental violin playing, in a piece that mixed greek chordal patterns with a swing back-beat.

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