Fred’s House, Cara Winter, and Tom Pearce, live at Grapevine, Bedford’s Norwich, 24 July 2013
Through a combination of of unfortunate clashes with other gigs I was already committed to, and general unavailability it has taken me way too long to become a regular of Steve Howlett’s monthly Grapevine nights at Bedfords in Norwich. Having said that, I have become quite well acquainted with Steve, and even more so his reputation, which as a promoter of fine and upcoming musical talent is second to none. I mentioned this to him tonight as “subjective quality control” and stand by this. Tonight’s performers were all top class, accomplished, varied yet connected by an underlying melancholy in some of the lyrics and excellent storytelling. Talented artist, and as with all the acts, in it for the purest and best of reasons.
Walking towards Bedford Street tonight I happened to bump into Steve himself, and the members of Fred’s House whom he had rescued from a “satnav malfunction” on the last leg of their journey from Cambridge to Norwich. This was a minor detail and delay however, and also gave me a chance to acquaint myself with these lovely people.
First on the bill however, was local singer-songwriter-guitarist Tom Pearce. I’ve seen him a few times before, and probably most recently at the beginning of the year at the Bicycle Shop. A gentle giant of a young man, I remembered his voice as a tad gruffer than it sounded tonight. I think he is a very fine lyricist and storyteller, and the songs are very well introduced. Particularly memorable were the songs about the wartime conscientious objector, and the traveler meeting on the train “Jack”. Tom is an excellent performer, playing and singing well and an easy comfort with the listening audience, I have no issues with his voice but will be interested to hear how it develops and gains its own identity and uniqueness. As I recall it was sometimes ‘gruffer’ last time and to my ears this had an even greater personal identity to the stories, and a storyteller he most certainly is, the listener follows the lyrics closely and he expresses them with great feeling.
The next act was Cara Winter whom I’d spoken to a couple of times before she took to the stage, she has an easy and relaxed, and very warm presence. I gather she is a bit of a regular and favourite of Grapevine, and it is easy to see why. She has a great style and expressive singing voice, ably accompanied tonight on percussion. Unfortunately I was only able to afford to buy one of her CDs tonight (Peter and the Whale) but she also had another available, beautifully packaged and with string wrapping. On the disc I purchased her Kate Bush influences are very evident, more so I would say then in her stage performance set tonight, but that album was released in 2008. She is someone I would definitely wish to see and hear again, her songs are captivating and she herself is highly enchanting, with a very relaxing presence. Definitely one to watch and follow. She told me the other CD is “sparser” and I find myself wishing I had dashed to the cashpoint so that I could have bought that too as I am now itching to hear it! Catch her at the forthcoming Cambridge Folk Festival, she plays Thursday evening (25th) on the Den stage.
The final act of the evening were Fred’s House, another act who came across extremely well as people before they had even entered the venue. Despite being a “member down” due to vacations, they adapted extremely well and I was highly impressed with their set, vocals, and musicianship, and was moved enough to also buy one of their CDs. They shall soon be returning to Norwich (cheers, although there was a slight but audible groan when it was revealed that the venue would be The Waterfront – it’s not just me!!) – in a support slot. They performed a short but delightful set which included a couple of covers, one of which was a delicious “Norwegian Wood”. I enjoyed them very much and they are clearly yet another band motivated by soul, integrity and the joy of performing music. This will always come through loud and clear to the listener and any artist knows the value of integrity and artistic purity. Vikki and Griff have voices which compliment each other so well, ably accompanied tonight by Gafyn on bass, guitar and percussion their folksy, harmonic and melodic blend of catchy folk-pop-blues works beautifully.
The evening, once again, passed all too quickly, great music lovingly presented to an attentive audience in a gorgeous venue with superb sound, engineer Stuart doing an outstanding job which is well worthy of a particular mention.
words and photos by richard shashamane 2013