Review - The Familiars at Fincham Social Club (Gareth Calway)

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Folkspot radio continues to broadcast hidden gems by and for all sorts of folk– what producer Jane Knights calls ‘music worthy of a wider audience from any genre’.

Groups, duos singer-songwriters drop in from national tours or Norfolk bases to provide free concerts for West Norfolk audiences in return for live streaming to the world. The Familiars, led by Joanna Swann, who hail from Norwich, made the most of their spot.

The band self-describes as an ‘uncomplicated vaguely pagan-folk duo… offering rearrangements of pagan-themed folk songs ancient and modern.’

This understates their uniqueness. They are a trio – with excellent violinist Vincent Maltby adding plangency throughout. And the interplay between Swann and her virtuoso guitarist Tom Conway– from the equally original group Koi Paragu - is magically complicated.

I’d call it syncopation but it’s earthier than that.

Conway writes and arranges Swann’s lyrics. In performance, they explore remote keys, themes and emotions, with Conway lost in the trio’s dancing and contorted rhythms, foot drumming out a tattoo. Rarely has so self-effacing a musician been so compelling to watch.

Fortunate that Swann is such a powerful presence mid-stage, hauntingly singing narratives of the estranged and lonely from remote times, places and emotional states, even of a dolphin unable to communicate with other dolphins, a song she explains is about Asperger’s syndrome.

52 Htz of silence
Never knowing why the cry

Goes unanswered

Brilliant playing, astonishing creativity, old and new at once. Not to be missed.