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Kit Hawes & Aaron Catlow - 14th March 2024


If there’s one thing that separates folk club performers from, say, jazz, rock or classical is their sheer conviviality. There are no posturing and preening self-appointed genius-heroes of the guitar; no two-hour god-bothering saxophone prayers to the infinite; no baton-waving tuxedoed and imperious conductors guiding watch-glancing orchestras through four nights of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. No... folk club performers are, in the main, people you would delight to have in your kitchen – they’re good fun!

And I certainly would delight in having Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow in my kitchen, for their sheer good natured and warm banter would make for a lovely afternoon or evening. Even my dog, given Kit and Aaron’s names, would flip his ears up in misguided anticipation of something to chase.

And this warmth was a fine setting for beautiful music.

If I casually toss around the notion of musical ‘arrangement’, I might think, oh, a bit of A minor here, then put a quiet bit of D major seventh in, then thrash out four bars of G major to finish. Nothing so crude with Kit and Aaron. To say their music is ‘arranged’ - in that fashion - would be criminal. I think ‘composed’ would be a better description. Tightly structured with the aural acuity of the finest composers, the guitar and fiddle danced with each other in my musical synapses, they embraced, they wrapped around one another, they lifted into the air and flew like swallows in flight, agile, gravity defying and full of life. So well-conceived and played were the compositions that you could hear right into the workings of the music so transparent was it.

And the music was refreshingly English. Yes, Celtic music is wonderful. Yes, I want to hear jigs and reels until time ends, but English folk music feels completely different and the palate was energised by its different flavours.

So, we heard tunes from Somerset, tunes learned from 1940s field recordings, small pipe tunes from the Borders and Newcastle, we heard an interpretation of John Barleycorn, we heard Richard Thomson’s Vincent Black Lightning; we even heard a tune inspired by an Aldi croissant!

As is custom with the folk club, the evening is bisected by the raffle. The musicians usually have a raffle- oriented anecdote or two at hand but the best raffle tale of the evening was from my friend Tom the fiddler. He participated in a raffle once and won a live rabbit.

In a cage, you might think? No, it was in a bag. Of course, Tom did the right thing and released the rabbit into a field on his way home. What’s even more curious is the first prize in his raffle was a car!

Words by Callum MacLeod, photos by Peter Salkeld

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