Hardy and Wilson – The Cluny 2 (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK – February 13, 2014)
I bought a ticket for this show primarily to see Ross Wilson (Blue Rose Code) again, even though I saw him fewer than 2 weeks ago as part of Celtic Connections 2014. As I said in that review, North Ten’ was probably my favourite album of 2013 and he was fantastic both times I’ve seen him. I was interested to see how he was going to play with someone else, and how they’d interact on stage and play each other’s tunes.
I am not familiar with Bella Hardy – other than the fact I bought Rachel Newton’s debut album off her at Rachel’s Celtic Connections show just before going to see Ross play around the corner…it’s a small world! A quick search and I found out about her records and her various musical projects. I heard one complete song, ‘Three Pieces of My Heart’, that was beautiful and made my anticipation go up even further.
I will admit that I tend to be wary about very traditional folk music as I don’t really like the singing style that often accompanies great, interesting music. Thankfully, Bella represents the best of traditional folk music by taking that tradition and performing it in her individual, respectful yet modern way that removes my particular issues immediately.
As far as the performance, both Bella and Ross were excellent playing their songs individually or as a duo. You could tell that this was new for both of them and they are still trying things out. There was great on-stage banter and you could see Bella singing along to Ross’s tunes and him singing and tapping his foot along with hers. Ross told a great story where he cheekily asked Bella if he could open an Edinburgh show for her and she said “No”, and now this tour is his folk apprenticeship.
For those unfamiliar with Blue Rose Code, Ross’s music has elements of folk, country, jazz, blues, and Americana, but is not old-timey or traditional. Two good ‘listen-if-you-like’ references would be early Van Morrison and John Martyn (who they cover tonight).
Bella is more traditional, playing the fiddle on her tunes and even singing an acapella tune. I especially loved her self-penned songs ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the previously mentioned ‘Three Pieces of My Heart’ – or ‘Three Pieces ‘o My Heart’ as Ross called it –with this being a duet. I bought ‘Night Visiting’ and ‘Battleplan’ from Bella and I would heartily recommend them – I will be getting more and will be going to see her play at Sage Gateshead in June.
Ross played songs from his first album and did fantastic versions of ‘Whitechapel’, ‘From Wester Ross to Nova Scotia’, ‘Julie’ and my (and Bella’s) fave ‘Acquainted With The Night/Silent Drums’.
In a word, awesome.