Katie and the Carnival, Lambing Season, The Yeuts, Joel Cathcart
"Hello, we're two thirds of what used to be Albrecht's Pencil", says Joel Cathcart early on into his set. "We've been abandoned here by the other third", he shrugs before launching into another lovely wee song.
Stripped down to cello and guitar the two-piece managed a nod to all the acoustic greats (Neil Young, Nick Drake et al) without becoming bogged down in cliche - 'Inkblots' sounds like a lost Jeff Buckley tune, minus the vocal histrionics. If fault can be found it's in their somewhat bleak world view, but the band are handling their transitional period well, and we look forward to the new rebirth of Albrecht's Pencil, Mk 2.
Sadly, with The Yeuts, the spectre of 'white-boy funk' looms across the Black Box. And when we're talking 'white-boy funk', we're talking the likes of Incubus or (shudder) Sting. There's essentially nothing wrong with this band, all clearly talented musicians, save for the singer's put on East Coast, USA accent during the songs, but there's very little to get excited about either.
One song runs into the other, each more tasteful than the last until they come to their final song. 'We can do this in the jazz-fusion way, or the indie dirge way' he says, before settling on an indie-jazz-dirge fusion. Think the first band on the bill at WOMAD.
Talk to anyone from the country and they'll tell you that the lambing season isn't all smiles and sunshine and little baby sheeps. It's a life and death struggle with all sorts of complications. The aptly named Lambing Season come across as a bit twee but have a hidden depth to their music.
With a seven piece line-up (including brass) it would be easy to get lost in the wall of sound, but the bass and guitar are unobtrusive, the songs carried by the voices and some very talented drumming. The Lambing Season are what The Arcade Fire would sound like if they were from Summerisle, the creepy island from the non-Nicholas Cage version of The Wickerman. The band sound great here and would sound even better in a sunny field somewhere. Festival bookers take note.
Katie and the Carnival close the night. The fear returns when the stage is dressed with various props, but it's tastefully done, enhancing the atmosphere instead of resembling a tiny Stonehenge. Musically they have an admirable restraint and a subtle poise, improvised instruments contributing to the songs, without clamouring for attention like a hyperactive child.
The band are pinned down by Katie Richardson's admirable set of pipes, showcased by the bands clutch of Weimar-esque torch songs. Her warm and smoky voice works off the double bass, drums and classic rock guitar to create a sound to wrap yourself in and indulge.