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The Imagined Village, Freerange, Brighton, May 23
Initially a loose collective of artists, The Imagined Village have reassembled as a band: a formidably talented ten-piece dedicated to infusing traditional songs with a modern sound.
The group is fronted by three of the current folk scene’s biggest hitters: Chris Wood, Martin Carthy and Eliza Carthy. The group dynamic suited them all. Wood, a subtle and quiet solo performer, was able to unleash the considerable power of his voice, Carthy senior’s precise guitar lines picked their way through the arrangements, and his daughter’s passionate and thrilling fiddle playing lit up the room.
But there is more to The IV than this. Sitarist Sheema Mukherjee’s considered, stylish playing added a British Asian flavour to the mix, as did Johnny Kalsi’s raucous, brilliant dhol drumming.
The music briefly stopped so the crowd could participate in a video project of the band’s. We were invited to offer a two-fingered salute to BNP leader Nick Griffin, whose party literature encourages the co-opting of English folk. The invitation was enthusiastically accepted.
The band’s set ended with a barnstorming version of traditional nightvisiting song Cold Hailey Rainy Night, for which The Young Coppers, the latest generation of a family who have been singing in Sussex for at least 200 years, joined the group.
The encore, a melancholic mass-singalong of Slade’s Cum On Feel The Noize, further illustrated the group’s range and reach. As a concept and as a performance, it works beautifully.