March 08, 2014

Burning Bridget Cleary at First Friday

I trekked down to New Haven last night to see the group Burning Bridget Cleary at CT Folk's First Friday concert, continuing my side project of seeing Falcon Ridge Folk Fest Emerging Artists in featured concerts.

I loved the short set the group played at Falcon Ridge, from what I heard from the merch trailer, sufficiently to buy their two CDs for myself and for Zippy, my folk-fest dog-sitter who is a big fan of celtic music (via WWUH's Celtic Airs and associated concerts). When I saw they were coming to town, I scooped up three tickets, for me, Zippy, and our friend Pat, an Irish emigre who resides in a convalescent home, and for whom a concert trip is a real treat.

And what a treat, for all of us. Burning Bridget Cleary is a foursome consisting of two fiddle / vocalists (Rose Baldino and Deirde Lockman), a guitarist (Lou Baldino, Rose's father) and a percussionist (Peter Trezzi). It's really the Rose and Dierdre show - and I'll get to them - but a first shout out to the men who provide such a solid frame for the vocals and fiddles. Peter coaxed many different sounds from his djembe, using finger, palms, knuckles, and brushes - abetted by a floor tambourine and a few small cymbals. Lou's guitar playing is deceptively simple and clean - and a very judicious effects pedal set-up (never intrusive) let him play a bit of bottom string bass that at times sounded like a bodhran. At no time did the men step on the delicate flowers of fiddle and vocals, and at no time did they fail to provide just the right level of backing that often seemed to come from more than two musicians.

And now to the women. Rose seems the leader, and her auburn pixie cut, bright eyes, and big smile make her the perfect front for a celtic group. She played up the allure, at one point asking for the names of  "three men who want to marry me" to include in a song. Charming and delightful. Dierdre is a great match - they are an amazing tag team in terms of vocal harmonies, amd fiddling lines that intertwine and balance. Each of them took a turn at center stage with solo fiddle pieces. I'm not enough of a fiddle aficionado to know what roles each plays in the music, but they seemed to trade riffs and parts easily and seamlessly throughout. At the finale, both women moved through the audience (freed by wireless fiddle pick-ups) and ended up standing on chairs and trading riffs over our heads.

The group plays more traditional reels, jogs, airs than I expected, along with a good balance of vocal pieces (some traditional, some modern). A delightful surprise was Richard Shindell's "On a Sea of Fleur de Lis" which they played a bit more uptempo - I prefer Shindell's somewhat more wistful and soft version, but it was great to hear another take on it. Rose noted that "Richard is playing nearby this evening (at the Kate)....but thanks for coming to see us". And when they started Jay Unger's Ashoken Farewll, a tune that's been ingrained through multiple viewings of Ken Burns' Civil War, well, it was awesome. Rose and her dad started, both playing so simply and cleanly that the audience was perforce brought to rapt attention, and Dierdre picking up a counter line mid-way through the tune. I do not think I've ever heard that song played so beautifully. Both Fleur de Lis and Ashoken are on their "newish" CD Pressed for Time which for some reason I had not picked up for myself at Falcon Ridge. That's been rectified.

CT Folk once more shone (shined? excelled?) with a successful First Friday concert - the large audience forced them to "take the tables out" (I was a little disappointed, I do like the coffeehouse / cabaret feel of the space with tables, but success has its price!). It was CT Folk Executive Director Alice-Anne Harwood's last official concert, and we can only hope the board finds someone to fill her shoes in this active and exciting folk music organization.

A bit of a haul for me - my driving circuit from New Britain - Hartford - Windsor- New Haven - Windsor - Hartford - New Britain to fetch Zippy and Pat made for a long evening. But with such delightful music in the center of all that driving, it was worthwhile!

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