The Furrow Collective

Cluny 2, Newcastle

23 September 2015

I know exactly how long it takes me to walk from the Cluny to Monument Metro, and if I don't leave the venue at exactly 11pm I'm walking 14 miles home.

So when the Furrow Collective start an encore at 11pm, I'm a little concerned.

But the encore — Blow Out the Moon from their new EP of the same name — is so beautiful it's worth a 14-mile walk. A traditional lullaby with four voices and sparse instrumentation. Which really sums up what the Furrow Collective are all about.

(And anyway, I'm writing this on the Metro home so everything worked out.)

But I'm starting at the end, and I should be starting at the beginning

I'm always nervous (on the band's behalf) when I walk into an empty venue. Ok, I was early, but the seats filled very slowly, while I overheard the guy on the door saying advanced sales had been very slow...

But before the band came on, the place did fill up enough that almost every seat was occupied and though it's not a big venue it was a respectable crowd.

The Cluny 2 is a high-ceilinged room in the basement of a converted industrial block, so it's all steel pipes and concrete. It's not acoustically perfect by a long shot, and the support act (who was actually excellent, and I'm embarrassed to say I've completely forgotten his name) was over-amplified I thought. But Phil the sound guy (how is it I remember his name?) managed a good mix for the Furrow Collective, not too loud, and letting every voice and instrument stand out distinctly, no-one overpowering anyone else.

Because the Furrow Collective is just that — a collective. All four members sing with equal billing, alternating who takes lead on different songs, and there is no lead or solo instrument (between them they play viola, banjo, concertina, guitar, harp and violin). They also don't feel the need to cram every voice and instrument on every song. Each song is arranged to use exactly the combination of instruments it needs, no more and no less. Whether it's four unaccompanied voices on I'd Rather Be Tending My Sheep or a solo voice and guitar on Skippin' Barfit through the Heather. Every song has a completely different quality.

This is the band's second gig in support of their new EP, and I think they probably played every song on it. Though I haven't heard the EP yet, it didn't matter because the tunes and songs are instantly accessible, enough for you to sing along with all the choruses on first listen. (And you'll likely know one or two songs anyway, as it's all traditional folk music, though not necessarily in arrangements you'll be used to.)

The larger part of the (almost two hour) set, however, was drawn from last year's debut album, and they included all of the things I would wish them to include, so I came away very happy, singing Hind Horn all the way home.

That's all I ask from a concert.