REVIEW: The Be Good Tanyas St George's, Bristol 9/10
THE Be Good Tanyas formed in 1999, when founding member Samantha Parton joined up with Frazey Ford and Trish Klein while planting trees in the Canadian city of Nelson, British Columbia. Starting off where most folk groups do, busking, the trio began to tour the country in 2001 with the release of their debut album, Blue Horse. A follow up, Chinatown, soon followed and the band began to tour not just their own country, but the world over, achieving cult status in the UK. In 2008, the band dispersed, claiming that the stresses of touring had worn out their enthusiasm, but two years ago, they played the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and began to hit the road once again. It has led to the band touring the UK this winter, the Bristol leg of which saw them play to a sold out and wildly enthusiastic crowd at St George's this past Wednesday night.
It's difficult to describe the sort of music that The Be Good Tanyas actually play. Lead vocalist Frazey Ford has an ethereal, almost ephemeral voice that's hard to grasp. It's like a voice that's heard on a record from another room, where its indistinctness evinces a dreamy, eerie, almost otherworldly air. It's something that plays well against the rootsy, old-timey folk that accompanies her, with double-bass, banjo or steel guitar, and whether it's on their self-penned songs, covers of Neil Young and Prince, or the ones that were written by artists decades ago.
The evening saw the group in good humour too, with Ford donning a sequinned cocktail dress in honour of the Michael Jackson concert film she'd seen on the tour bus while travelling to Bristol. It led to a moment where she wondered if The Be Good Tanyas should employ similar dance moves to the Prince of Pop, whereupon they somewhat reluctantly demonstrated what they had quickly choreographed in rehearsal.
For fans of folk music, and especially the kind that evokes a kind of Americana that's almost impossible to replicate here in the UK, The Be Good Tanyas are among the very best. Their appearance at St Georges in this week only cemented that reputation further.
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