Lunatraktors – Horse & Bamboo, Rossendale; The Met, Bury – 16th & 17th September 2022
Lunatraktors are in the North West. A rare hunting ground for them – it’s some trek from Margate – but after their acclaim at the 2021 Manchester Folk Festival, they were due a return. With an imminent switch of base to Ireland there’s the promise of appearances in the North West becoming a more regular and most welcome occurrence. Let’s hope so, for they do things that other folk musicians rarely do. Not that they necessarily see themselves as folk musicians. Folk music just happens to be the starting point for their crafting and creating adventures.
The Hazard Bears – some not too distant relatives of the Addams Family’s cousin It but fashioned from more contemporary materials – sees the pair shuffle onstage and offer a striking first impression. A sign too that they’re not just going to sing a few songs, we’re going to get a performance. “A great look but very impractical” is the honest opinion as Carli Jefferson casts off the cloak and dons a lace cloth alternative; much easier to see and play her range of percussion. “We’re all about transparency,” she adds from under the cloth. Alongside Clair Le Couteur , they’re a pair who prove most endearing – without being patronising or condescending – with a philosophy that includes a commitment to the skill of improvisation and a dash (and the thrill) of winging it.
“Honesty’s all out of fashion,” they sing in Rigs Of The Times which adds a range of current topical observations and ad libs. It’s perhaps a clue that Lunatraktors mission is to add an avant-garde flourish to what started life as traditional folk music yet once through their filter gains momentum either in the deep baritone reverberation in the delivery of Black Raven or what could be their signature tune, Jim Jones, or in the stark rhythm driven additions that accompany the songs. The style of their topical reworkings is at its sharpest seeing Unquiet Grave acknowledge Elaine Christian, driven to an ignominious death over a fit-to-work assessment and the threat to her benefit payments.
Those sources too run far and wide. From the ‘was that really from Mary Poppins?‘ wonder of the and playfully delivered Feed The Birds to the book of Ecclesiastes and Elizabethan tunes/creepy love poems of the 1500s. Clair’s richness also takes us down home with the Delta bluesman while the skitter of wood on wood percussion could easily be at home on an Adam Ant album.
While they practice the awkward shapes in what’s become known as the Truss bow and set off in giddy Holy Grail (…Monty Python’s version…) gallops, there are also spiritual moments of reflection as we remember absent friends while they set off on improvised accompaniment on tuned percussion and the shruti drone – all very organic – “we don’t want to seem contrived” while even Madonna might struggle to match the array of costume changes, albeit on hugely differing budgets.
The suggestion in the delivery of Maggie May that even Elvis in the building leaves a final reminder of how the art of subversion is alive and well. Archival folk music given an anarchic and striking coating.
Categories: Live Reviews