Review: East Anglian hopefuls get their chance to support The Swarb

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Helen Meissner of Folkstock Arts Foundation has been opening opportunities for aspiring acoustic artists to fulfil their dreams all over the country. Last Sunday, March 30, it was Norfolk’s turn with 14 East Anglian hopefuls giving their best ten minutes live at Great Massingham.

Helen explained that all 14 were proven top-notch performers. It was now about how ready the winner was to move his or her career on to a higher level, via video and online showcases.

All the acts had indeed a unique talent and, at this level of sustained skill, it comes down to personal preference. The excitement and risk of youth – or the vintage performance craft of age and experience?

Dave Cooper, who closed the evening, once gave advice to Simon and Garfunkel (which they took) and represented an older folk tradition than Swarb himself. Matt Watson had the energy and guitar-thrash of a rapper or a young Billy Bragg.

In between we had everything: from an operatic duo in witchy-concert black making a canon of When I Was Horseback and Scarborough Fair – through the riotous pub-folk of The Broadside Boys; a flute and guitar folk-roots duo reminiscent of early Jethro Tull; assured young singer-songwriters and duos; Mike Prior’s anti-fracking anthem and heartbreak songs delivered with audience-charming ease – to the bowler-hatted Anto Morra, whose London Irish lament ‘Blood on the Shamrock and the Rose’ combined heart and guts with a melody you couldn’t stop singing on the way home. Andy Wall’s brace of folk classics were masterpieces of assurance and set the quality bar very high indeed.

But the worthy winner of the three song slot was the Yarmouth singer-songwriter Natalie Lake, bringing folk music hauntingly and excitingly alive for the modern voice and guitar. Swarb’s show will also feature two excellent songs from Steve O’Kane & Fiona McBain, two from Andy Wall and one from guitar and fiddle maestros Johnny Steinberg & Alex Preece.

nDave Swarbrick’s sell-out gig at Great Massingham Social Club on Saturday, April 12, is a Folkspot Radio special and on the night he will be supported by Said the Maiden – and now also by the audition winner Natalie Lake.