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STEVE KNIGHTLEY - Live in Somerset

STEVE KNIGHTLEY - Live in Somerset
Hands on Music  HMCD33

Concurrent with the enduring venture that is Show of Hands, both Phil Beer and Steve Knightley regularly undertake their own solo tour projects. I’ve had the memorable pleasure of seeing several of Steve’s performances over recent years. Possessing a singular and distinctive form of showmanship, he is always a powerful live presence with an admirable ability to connect with, magnetise and involve his audience. Communicating the story and emotion of the songs very directly, in a stirring, often captivating way is central to his technique.

This concert, recorded in Somerset in December 2010 captures the spirit and essence of his performances. Largely on his own, singing a cappella twice, and with his own stringed, mainly guitar, accompaniment, there is also some pleasing and sensitive support from young Somerset musicians Philip Martin (dobro/harmonica) and Hannah Martin (fiddle) adding welcome balance.

The set list draws mainly from his deep wellspring of celebrated song-smithery (although there is also some new material), including witty, poignant and insightful sociological observations on West Country life, and plaintive songs of longing and love (the wonderful Hook of Love for instance). Some carefully selected covers (Dick Gaughan and Brian McNeill’s song about 18th century clockmaker John Harrison, Dylan’s The Girl From The North Country,and Springsteen’s Downbound Train – the “unashamedly American” moment displaying, too, Steve’s rockier edge) are interspersed with some traditional songs (The Oakham Poachers, All Things Are Quite Silent, Reynardine and Burns’ Banks And Braes). Recorded with great clarity, minor vocal imperfections and all, it is easy to sense and feel the live atmosphere. Except for the introduction to the encore Now You Know, with its rousing Dougie Maclean-like chorus, there is little spoken commentary so this, for some, unwelcome element of live recordings is not really an issue. So, in short, another great live show of hands and voice; this time for keeps!

Kevin T Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.