A Boy Band and the Young Pretenders

Although I suspect he would be too modest to admit it, Peter Knight’s place in music is the stuff of legend – or at the very least, well established.  In 2013 Peter left the safe haven of Steeleye Span after more than forty years, and Gigspanner blossomed.   Along with Roger Flack on guitar and Vincent Salzfaas on Congas & Djembe, they produce a blend of music that is impossible to place in any one single box – but then why should we box up our music?

Peter’s ‘boy band’, as he likes to refer to Gigspanner, shared the stage at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh last night with Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin – winners of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards as Folk Duo of the Year in 2014.  No, not the support act, all five shared the stage.  Henry & Martin at times blended into Gigspanner whilst at others Peter, Roger and Vince became their backing musicians.

For their one piece as a duo, Henry and Martin chose Sam Salt’s The Nailmaker’s Strike.  A song written in 1862 about working conditions for the nailmakers of Bromsgrove and dedicated, to hearty applause, to the Junior Doctors of the NHS.  I’m not a great historian, but I suspect beatbox and Reggae were not heard in abundance in the Worcestershire back then – they were in Aldeburgh last night!

The patchwork quilt of styles woven by these five blended together beautifully, all coming together for the encore – King of the Fairies, or Rí na Sideog as we Irish know it.  The tune dates back to the mid 19th century and certainly pre-dates modern jazz. Yet close your eyes and you are hearing Stephane Grappelli, open them again and be mesmerised by the duelling guitars of Fleck and Henry, whilst through it all Salzfaas maintains a solid beat.

It takes a very special inner peace to have the confidence to do what these five musicians did last night.  There were no egos, no pretentions, no nonsense – it was music from the heart presented by five top class performers for the sheer pleasure of it.

Folk music has a certain image.  Many purists wish to retain that image lest their beloved style of music becomes nothing more than “music for the masses”…   Em, excuse me, us folk are the masses.  The mill workers, the miners, the milk maids, the call centre agents, the junior doctors, the web designers, the fast food servers…   Ordinary folk whose life struggles are recorded in song, lest we forget.




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