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FOLKS / THE MERRYLEES @ THE DEAF INSTITUTE, MANCHESTER 02/02/13 – REVIEW BY SHAY ROWAN

 
In a city that prides itself in it’s appetite for all that is good in new music there is a buzz of expectancy about the Deaf Institute tonight. As the crowd begins to gather beneath the huge glimmering mirrorball, first to take the stage is a band whose growing reputation is spreading fast. Edinburgh’s Merrylees modest entrance gives no real clue of what is to come but as they launch into their set it is soon clear that the acclaim for this young band is much deserved.

“Farewell Dry Land” lays down clear markers for the unique sound that they have developed by drawing upon many seemingly disconnected styles and melting them down to recreate their own intoxicating blend. Shanty style melodies conjure up images of crashing waves, windswept decks and stories of the sea which feature much in their songs, this little tale being no exception with a hauntingly psychedelic guitar effect dancing across its bows. “Forever More” provides a much lighter and joyful change of pace with a jangling guitar sound plucked straight from the sixties (an era that obviously gives great inspiration to much of their sound) and in particular the Merseyside bands of that time. The Liverpool connection has, of course, been strengthened of late with Bill Ryder-Jones of the Coral having produced new single “For You”. One of the finest bands to come out of Merseyside in many years – the Coral’s early sound is clearly a huge influence on the Merrylees and “For You” is a wonderful reverb drenched composition with a nostalgically emotional sound that would sit nicely in Tarantino’s next Western epic with the inventive use of trumpet over the skiffle style drum beat. “The Coroner” continues the feel with the pace increased to a relentless gallop and on this – as throughout the set – Ryan Sandison’s distinctive lead vocals, the impeccable harmonies and the evident skill of the bands playing captures and maintains the audiences attention.

A finale of country classic “Ghost Riders in The Sky” – a song on which the Coral’s Lee Southall recently joined them at Cabaret Voltaire – brings to a climax a truly impressive set where the bite of the salty sea air combined with the gritty desert sands to leave us looking forward in anticipation towards the next time that Edinburgh’s finest saddle up and ride into town. www.facebook.com/TheMerrylees

With the crowd nicely warmed up, tonight's headliners - Manchester's very own Folks - take to the stage and waste no time in making a clear declaration of intent as opener "Skull and Bones" powers forward with a single spotlight illuminating Scott Anderson as he applies his moody vocal over a choppy rhythm that borrows unashamedly from the Beatles influence that is so clearly beloved by the band with "Day In The Life" style crescendos punctuated by Thom Fripp's howling guitar.

Introduced to the band's music by Luther Russell - the man who they formed such a close collaborative relationship with as he produced their debut album "I See Cathedrals" - it provided me with the first opportunity to watch a band who possess the ability to create and perform perfectly crafted songs switching effortlessly from those such as this - steeped in classic rock and roll influences to moments involving sweet emotive vocals poured over rolling drums such as in "Avalanche". 2nd release from the album and surely one of the singles of last year - the hugely infectious "Say Something" is followed by "Venom" with its luscious four part harmonies and relentless 'roller coaster' rhythm.

Initially the creation of vocalist, guitarist and chief songwriter Michael Beasley - Folks benefited greatly from the good fortune of the association that he struck up with Scott Anderson, a lead singer who in addition to possessing a great voice is also a captivating front man displaying the perfect amount of cool swagger without ever allowing it to stray into the arrogance that others mistake for style. In addition, Thom Fripp (guitar), Wil Ackroyd (keyboards), Elliot Barlow (drums) and Harry Gumery (bass) bring to the band not only quality musicianship but a range of their own diverse personal influences that helps to shape the sound of the band, refreshingly fleshing the rock and roll bones that lie beneath. Taking the pace right down - "Where Does the White Go?" showcases an ability to deliver a gentle ballad steeped in aching melancholy before a complete change of mood is displayed in the dark and almost sinister psychedelic atmosphere of "Four & Twenty Blackbirds".

Latest single and album opener "My Mother" brings the set to a close with another slice of energy fuelled 'in your face' rock 'n' roll. A return to the stage for "Nest" and "Dirty Words" brings to an end a perfectly crafted set packed with a balance of skill, aggression, warmth and honesty that marks out Folks as one of the finest bands that Manchester has produced in many a long year.  

www.wearefolks.com  / www.facebook.com/wearefolks

Review by Shay Rowan
Photos by Nicki Jaye- www.mcrphotographer.co.uk