Eliza Carthy

Milkmaid Folk Club

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Whatever the genre, a full blown twelve piece band is a rarity on stage.  Rarer too in the world of folk, but such is The Wayward Band and their unmistakeable front woman, Eliza Carthy.  Some say the Waywards have taken on the big folk band mantel, from the much missed Bellowhead.  In terms of numbers yes, but in terms of sound they are completely different.

This was my third time seeing this lively group.  On the first two occasions I was photographing the events and always felt that, whilst trying to concentrate on the shot I missed the performance.  This then was an opportunity for me to see the show, deliberately foregoing the photo pass and leaving my camera gear at home.

Every folk band should have two percussionists, a brass section, two accordion players and a string section all wrapped up with electric lead and bass guitars.  Then add a good old fashioned 17th century song about killer custard and you begin to get an understanding into why this band are ‘wayward’!

And then came the realisation… yes, I had missed so much while concentrating on the viewfinder.  There is so much happening!  The Sam Sweeney string section having a light-saber-esque duel with their bows, symbolically cutting the throat of a prone Saul Rose – take that mere melodeon player!   And bouncing!  There was more bouncing up and down on stage than I’ve seen at a rave in a warehouse!  If you could harness the energy that this band project you could power a small town for a week.

Just after playing the haunting “I Wish That The Wars Were All Over” Eliza had a message ( her words, delivered with passion).  She spoke of the place setting for the ‘uninvited guest’, of a  willingness to accept, of not believing the diet of fear being fed to us – and then played ‘You Know Me’.  Amid all this chaos and silliness there beats an open, homely heart, of which there are many in this country of ours.

This renaissance painting of a band (Eliza’s words, not mine), do nothing by halves whether they are playing a soft lament or a romp like “Turpins Hero”.  It was the last date of the tour but that took nothing from their performance.  Indeed it may have added to the mayhem, which included dance lessons from Ms Carthy, who joined the audience and whooped up her own band from the public side of the stage’s crowd barrier!

Opening for The Wayward Band was their cello player, Barry Morse-Brown.  His ingenious use of the loop pedal, especially during his final number “Greetings Hello”, proved him to be an excellent proponent of the technique.  Seldom will you hear one man with a cello and a voice fill a room with such a beautiful sound.

Note: The Milkmaid Folk Club is moving. From January 5th gigs will take place at The Station Hill Social Club, 1 Station Hill, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP32 6AD