At The Toff in Town
Sep 25th 2014 | The Dwarf
Stepping into The Toff is like stepping back in time. A small group of tables lit by candles arranged before the stage with curtains drawn. Around 20 people fill them comfortably in what is a very intimate setting, allowing the audience to get up close and personal.
Dan Parsons is the first to start, delighting with his brand of alt folk. The curtains draw back to his humble warm smile and with a friendly welcome to the night he starts. Just a man and his guitar singing about life, death, love and travelling. Dan embodies the spirit of story telling wearing his heart on his sleeve giving an impassioned performance reminiscent of the lyrical bounty of Neil Young with the guitar work of Nick Drake. He has great patter between songs, sharing stories about touring New York with Kate Miller Heidke and a rich bottom end to his vocals. The audience slowly doubles in size during his set as he soothes everyone with stand out tracks 'On The Way Downtown' and 'Close Your Eyes and Let It End'.
With no time to waste Burnt Letters hit the stage. Made up of Kinch Kinski and Lou Pine and the welcome addition of new letter, in cellist Bianca. Lou has an angelic blues quality to her voice and Kinch has great vocal range. They combine to show how much can be done with so little. 'Blues Everywhere But No-one Left To Sing' ended in an upbeat section filled with tight harmonies and counterpoint melodies. The inclusion of covers 'Kisses Sweeter Than Wine' by Jimmy Rodgers and Roberta Flack's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' were inspired original renditions, leaving the thought that this duo certainly has a touch of June Carter and Johnny Cash. The cello in 'Sweet Face' was lush and played to perfection. Burnt Letters ended with their best original track 'Talk To You'. This was a well-crafted set from a promising group.
The night clearly demonstrates the tradition of blues and folk music is alive and growing in Australia. This is evident as multi instrumentalists, The Acfields, brother, Dan, and sister, Hannah take to the stage. Joined by Dan Parsons on drums and slide guitar, Drew on Korg and Lance on double bass. Launching the crowd funded album Grabbed Me By The Heart, The Acfields breathe new life into the art of folk story telling. 'Lighthouse' is a song about the love between their grandparents with a beautiful sentiment and equally beautiful chorus as it opens up with stunning harmonies, delicious pads from the Korg and Drew adding an additional vocal line. This was a high point of the set.
The Acfields capture a realness through song, sometimes sad, deliberately happy and constantly mesmerising. They tactfully use each instrument to its full potential, from the mallets on the drums to the bowed double bass. 'We Are Young Again' is simple perfection with just brother and sister on stage and with a tongue in cheek song about the family car, a 1974 green Mazda, the night ended, just like the car, “wanting more”. Expect to be hear a lot more of The Acfields as nothing of worth comes without hard work and this duo have definitely put in a mighty effort to produce a fine record.
At the Retreat Hotel
Apr 5th 2014 | Andy Hazel | The Music
Tonight's show takes place in the sardine-tin of the stage-less front bar rather than the spacious band room. What the place lacks in space and sightlines though, it more than makes up for in vibe, and teaches us that's what it's all about.
Folk duo The Acfields are one of the least pretentious bands you're ever likely to see and, playing to a room crowded to temperature- and humidity-bolstering capacity, their set seems like an accidental victory. The brother-sister combination of Dan and Hannah Acfield pen songs about their grandparents, car and each other, each offering leavened by their sterling harmonies. Freely chatting to the audience between (and during) songs, they trample all over the line between audience and band, giving instruments to the crowd and starting conversations. Songs such as After You, Taking Your Time and Green Mazda earn rapturous applause from a chipper crowd.
Opening a set with a sing-along of the traditional Down To The River To Pray is an ambitious move for an alt.country duo such as Burnt Letters. If, however, you've brought along members of the Melbourne Mass Gospel Choir, it turns out to be a smart one. After turning the pub into a church, singer-songwriters Lou Pine and Kinch Kinski replace the choir with a backing band (spontaneously named “The Roughshod Angels” by Kinski), and rip the tarp off a stellar set.
Quick Against The Moon, Sweet Face and Split In Two (introduced by Kinski as a song about “The sort of women that stay up all night talking politics and drinking goon”) show off the duo's songwriting skills and harmonies. The band acknowledge their influences both local and legendary (the rowdy East Brunswick Club) and demonstrate atmosphere-building skills (Knotted Pine), but it's their crowd-rousing take on Son Of A Preacher Man that gets the biggest response. A sense of humour and humility combined with excellent songwriting and vocal talent is rare. To see Burnt Letters generate such an enthusiastic response is cockle-warming, like a small-town welcome. Closing with Talk To You, the opening track from the debut EP they launch tonight, the choir returns and Burnt Letters give us another emphatic example of inclusive warmth.