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SHOW OF HANDS WITH THE URBAN SOUL ORCHESTRA - Making The Waking: Live At Shrewsbury Folk Festival (DVD)

SHOW OF HANDS WITH THE URBAN SOUL ORCHESTRA - Making The Waking: Live At Shrewsbury Folk Festival (DVD)
Hands On Music HMDVD03

The festival footage is the Beer/Knightley/Sykes trio supplemented by Matt Clifford on keyboards and as conductor/arranger of the fiddles and cellos of the Urban Soul Orchestra and, on one of the eight pieces, guests Phil Henry (slide guitar) - some exquisite use of picked and slid harmonics incidentally - and Hannah Martin (violin).

Coincidentally arriving on the day I went to see SoH, the excellence of their current ‘Hand in Hand’ trio show derives much from the two-part showcasing of their ‘self-supporting’ individual skills separately before appearing together in the full group combination. By contrast, this very professionally filmed concert (with plenty of well composed angling, sharp close-up detail and clever use of overlaying techniques) tends to centre on Steve Knightley and his songs, accompanied by Phil Beer (on cuatro and guitar, more so than fiddle) and Miranda Sykes’ double bass, but with less display of Phil’s multi-instrumental brilliance and Miranda’s enchanting voice as seen and heard on the present tour. The additional backing provides a grander sense of scale and orchestral atmosphere although, perhaps ironically, the pared-back Exile simply with Steve’s voice, cuatro, and keyboards is especially powerful.

The Mark Tucker film, a track by track account of the recording of the Wake The Union album, sequentially documents the inspiration and background to selecting and setting all the tracks on the Anglo-American themed studio album. It mainly involves direct accounts to camera by Steve and Phil about the pieces, intercut with snippets of live footage from recording studios and festivals and includes contributions from the several celebrated project guests (Seth Lakeman, Cormac Byrne, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting, et al.). Sound enough generally in its editing and variety as entertainment, the film’s most interesting aspect is probably the range of insights offered into the musical sensibilities in arranging and producing the pieces – their structure, lyrics, melody, tones, chording, rhythms, textures etc.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.