Gwenifer Raymond – The Prince Albert, Brighton – 17th February 2019

Gwenifer Raymond – The Prince Albert
Photo by Jeff Hemmings

I’ve always enjoyed an afternoon gig. It’s a big reason I’m a fan of The Great Escape. Why should shows always be in the evenings? Well, judging by today’s sell out, no reason at all!

Tatty Seaside Town are local promoters of what could loosely be described as alt-goth-outsider-folk and today’s line up is a reflection of that.

Sairie are relative new kids on the block, made up of Emma Morton (from the short-lived folk duo Lutine), and Jon Griffin of Twenty-One Crows, with Thomas House on bass. A somewhat ghostly quiet folk proposition, Sairie’s music is dominated by Morton’s falsetto quiver, where Sandy Denny meets Joan Baez, aided by her autoharp playing, while Houses’ tremolo-laden, and melody-rich basslines provide the backbone. Songs include ‘The Gairdner’, and ‘Love Is A Clinging Vine’, both recently released as a single. There is a strong element of traditional folk in their sound, as Griffin gleefully announces a song about the sea, and drowning, “and all the good stuff.” These are early days, but there is loads of promise.

Markers are an electric guitar duo made up of Jason Carty and Jodie Cox, two musicians who have been playing with a plethora of math, doom, and progressive rock bands over the years. Deciding to keep things simple, their instrumental works are almost invariably slow, ponderous, and atmospheric, the guitars alternating between tangential workouts, and dual interplay. Seated and hunched over their guitars, it’s a mixture of the predictable, and unpredictable, where plucked strings, riffs, single notes, and atonal, jazzy rhythmic chords coalesce into a loud and visceral whole, with each note and sound allowed to ring out. Today, with a pin-drop audience at hand, they are a little nervous with such quietude, fearing any mistake may be amplified in such circumstances. They needn’t have worried, for this was pretty much a pitch perfect performance from a remarkable duo. Most of tonight’s material comes from their debut album out in a couple of weeks, Heaven in the Dark Earth, and they finish off the set with a cover of The Jesus Lizard’s ‘Pastoral’.

Headliner Gwenifer Raymond has been Brighton-based these last few years, hawking her ‘Primitive American’ music to an ever growing fanbase. Her debut album, You Were Never Much Of A Dancer, was released last year on Tompkins Square, and in May she’ll be on the bill for The Great Escape. It’s not hard to hear what the fuss is all about, despite the fact that all she has at her disposal is a guitar, and a banjo, which she alternates between. There are no vocals, and no other instrumentation, as she positively attacks her instruments, via a set that mostly includes material from that album (plus one new song), leading off with ‘Sometimes There’s Blood’. With a mix of alternative tunings, her music is rooted in the pre-war blues and Appalachian folk of America. However, it is never totally in awe of its purity, as hints of Arabia, rock histrionics (a little Jimmy Page, here and there), and music from around the globe seep in, all skewed towards a musical portrait of gothic Americana. Her set is mostly fast-paced, epitomised by the finger blur of ‘Bleeding Finger Blues’, and she says almost nothing in-between songs. It really is a case of letting the music do the talking and, in this case, it has plenty of good and interesting things to say.

Jeff Hemmings