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John Bramwell / Ross & Ali / Maz O’Connor – Manchester Gorilla: Live Review

Newly crowned folk singer of the year Rioghnach Connolly, has sadly been ill. She missed the chance to accept her prestigious award and The Breath had to pull out of their homecoming headline show as part of Manchester Folk Festival. I Am Kloot frontman, John Bramwell, filled the slot at the last minute. He was more than ably supported by Scots duo Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton and the stunning Maz O’Connor.

In the short life of At The Barrier, Maz O’Connor has become a firm favourite amongst the team. Her new album, Chosen Daughter, is released on 25th October (read our review here). The chance to see some of these songs live was a mouthwatering prospect.

Decked out in a floral full-length green dress Maz O’Connor looked every part the folk queen as she lovingly shared a selection of songs from her forthcoming album.

The lions share of the set was made up of these songs including lead singles San Francisco and Cordelia. The stories that underpin the songs are as moving as the songs. Loved Me Better was a highlight of the set, which was just Maz solo rather than the lush arrangements that are contained on the album.

With Scotland as the international partner of the English Folk Expo industry event that runs parallel with the Manchester folk Festival and overlaps into the public events, Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton as a duo are a pretty potent pairing to represent their nation. After first encountering them about six years ago as part of the huge and imposing Treacherous Orchestra, they carry many of the qualities of that band of musical brigands.

Arriving as a quartet on one side stood Jenn Butterworth, straight off a plane from Canada, on guitar (who’d also accompanied them the last time I’d had an encounter at Damien O’Kane’s Folk Prostate Cancer fundraiser). The other side a drum kit and stool where the figure of Stevie Byrnes did a sterling job; a man of many talents often seen as part of Kate Rusby’s band, where he also kicks a bass drum while playing guitar and bouzouki, so no surprise, I guess that he’s adept at the full kit.

Playing music from their Symbiosis and Symbiosis II albums, they graced the converted railway arch with some most pleasant airs and tunes but when the foot went to the floor, not many would be able to live with, or hold a candle to the whirlwind that emerged. Like the  banjo, the bagpipes can get a raw deal, however, in the hands of two imposing Scotsmen, they are pretty irresistible. The driving guitar rhythms and addition of the drums was a masterstroke and despite being veiled behind a wash of hazy light, the passion and potency was totally infectious.

In the intimate atmosphere of Gorilla, the audience immediately warmed to John Bramwell as his set of I Am Kloot songs notably Fingerprints, I Believe, 86 TVs, Proof, Black and Blue as well solo material Times Arrow, cheered everyone on a wet Manchester evening.

His unique voice delivered songs that he admitted were all about “drinking and disaster” but his rapport between songs brought many amusing moments. Even though one or two audience members thought their voices more ear- worthy than the poetical thoughts of John Bramwell, which he rightly admonished them for, there were several lines of pure joy that should demand you listen carefully. to his compelling words.

Among the highlights on the night from a few of his songs were; ‘If Heaven is a place on your skin’, ‘You went and borrowed money from a poltergeist’, ‘You treat your mind like a cheap hotel’, ‘I have gathered in a slipstream the moments you can not keep’ and ‘When I don’t think, it helps me get through.’

Whether you find some of these amusing or poignant he sums up the evening’s songs and his performance as ‘frequently hilarious but the songs pull the other way.

We must thank him not only for rescuing the evening by standing in at the last moment but concluding a stunning evening of musical diversity and quality.

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Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.

Review written by the team of Dominic Walsh, Mike Ainscoe and Howard King.

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