RURA, one of the most popular folk based bands, are currently on tour promoting their third album “In Praise of Home”, and tonight was their Edinburgh show at The Queen’s Hall.
Formed in 2010, the band consists of the following musicians
FIDDLE - Jack Smedley
PIPES/WHISTLES - Steven Blake
GUITAR - Adam Brown
BODHRÁN/FLUTE - David Foley
As you would expect for a new album tour, a lot of the music played was from “In Praise of Home”, and set one pretty much was the whole album, and there are some interesting contrasts in the music. This is my first introduction to the music of RURA, and yes, they can obviously do the foot tapping, hand clapping traditional style music that we would expect of any competent folk/Celtic based band, but there is something different happening here, something that I hope will allow them to move into other areas of music and cross over to a far wider audience than many similar bands achieve.
An interesting use of pre-recorded audio speech of two band members’ family – grandfather on the opening track of the album, and this set - “In Praise of Home” and grandmother on “I’ll Never Forget” made interesting additions to the tracks and with some added introductions, brought a level of humanity and audience identification to the music. RURA were obviously trying to get as close as possible to the studio sound of their new album with other pre-sequenced sounds, and at times that did give the set a bit more of a “pop band” feel to it and possibly inhibited a little bit of the freedom to just let the music take them where they wanted. A little bit of a trade-off here, as presenting the album as close as possible to its studio sound was always going to be a bit of a compromise in some areas.
I may not be the typical RURA audience base as I have a strong liking for this band when they move away from what is expected of a traditional folk/Celtic band a little. The reason for this is that, although this is the sound that they have built their multi-award winning reputation upon, there are just so many hugely talented musicians/bands playing this circuit at the moment. Few however have the ability to break outside of the genre without losing their core audience. I think RURA are capable of doing just that. The new album is maybe moving a little in that direction already with songs like “Forged”, and “Lust”. The last song of the album, “Horizons” was played towards the end of set two, and is maybe my favourite from “In Praise of Home”.
Set Two, with the new music set out of the way, saw,I think, RURA as a far more relaxed band (there is always a sigh of relief from any musician/band when the new songs have gone down well), and a return to some of their older music from previous albums saw them return to a perhaps slightly more “on your feet and join in” style of music on many songs. Some very good songs here in this set with “Lowground” and “The Lasher” (from the “Despite The Dark” album) being obvious audience pleasers.
RURA are all about the energy and vitality of traditional music, and they bring both of those elements vividly on stage with them in any performance but, for me, my true liking of the band’s music is when they slow things down a little and get into slower melodies. To be fair to RURA, I need to listen to a lot more of their music to form a more balanced opinion of their songs, and if the opportunity arises soon, pay another visit to one of their live shows.
I am not convinced that a fairly small venue with great natural acoustics like The Queen’s Hall actually needed the level of amplification used tonight though. I have heard similar instrumental line ups play there with minimal, or even no amplification and this space just lets the natural sounds of the instruments work their own musical magic. Sometimes (as tonight) that amplified sound can get a little indistinct towards the side walls of the venue.
Here is the track listing from the new album.
IN PRAISE OF HOME
1.In Praise of Home
6.I'll Never Forget
Review by Tom King