Watching Sky Arts highlights of this year's Cambridge Folk Festival reminded me of three things: particular artists, one Nick Mulvey that I am reviewing here, and two Rhiannon Giddens - her album Tomorrow Is My Turn already reviewed very briefly here - and third how live performances provide more than credibility to the impact of an artist because they can also enhance the appreciation of that artist.
Mulvey's nylon-stringed guitar-played songs are essentially very simple ones, their overall impression established through the repetition of each core melody, and any accompanying, rising orchestration and/or other musical support. A song like Juramidam on the album is illustrative: neatly but not virtuoso plucked guitar and a melodic line that has pace over memorable tune, increasingly foregrounded guitar work in the slap rhythm as well as playing of harmonics, and the background electronics that push along with that pace. Interestingly, this song is immediately contrasted on the album with Cucurucu which begins as a stripped back acoustic track, though this too then grows with the increasing beats, electronics, orchestration and multi-tracked vocal.
I mention all the above because the live performance I watched of second album track Fever to the Form makes it so much more impressive, the simple repeating melody also made more engaging through the live vocal which is honest and true - no more, but that is enough - and the tight band with particularly cello, but also very precise bass playing. This is a classic crescendo song, rousing on record as it rises, but that live rendition trumps. Indeed, I had rather ignored this album as sounding somewhat generic on a first listen, but the live versions have pushed me to this greater appreciation.
Rhiannon Giddens didn't require a live performance to signpost her excellence, but nonetheless the clips shown last night did reveal the tremendous joy and energy of her live singing, as well as the inventiveness and skill of her band. Outstanding.