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Music review Folk maestros Faustus in fine fettle

THERE’S a full house for the last knockings of Faustus’s autumn tour, which has included a first visit to Germany, where an award for best folk album of 2017 generated a fair deal of recent interest.

The audience, mostly older than the three members of the band, lap up material from Death and Other Animals, the recording which delivered that German accolade.

There’s a fine rapport and easy musical understanding between Paul Sartin (violin), Saul Rose (melodeon) and Benji Fitzpatrick (guitar), borne not just of years on the road but of a mutual dedication to the integrity of what they are doing, in a group without an individual driving force. That’s easy to see in the division of labour, with each member sharing the load of storytelling, singing and general chit-chat, even at the merchandise stall during the break.

Between songs, their interventions are witty, informative, never too earnest and, thankfully, rarely accompanied by that bane of the folk music scene, endless instrument tuning.

Energetic and absorbing, if only rarely exhilarating, Faustus also produce an impressively tight live sound that amounts to a lot more than the sum of its parts — so much so that it’s difficult to avoid searching for an unheralded fourth member, perhaps just offstage, adding to the mix.

The pre-interval set and the even stronger and more lively second half include songs based on fragments left behind by folklorist Ruth Tongue that have been plucked by the band from the archives at Halsway Manor in Somerset, where they were artists in residence last year. 

Those four songs are featured on Death and Other Animals and they’re strange and fascinating lyrical offerings — False Foxes and The Death of the Hart Royal in particular. They are also excellent additions to a live set, as they inject some mischief into the band’s standard fare of tales about the woebegone and disenfranchised.

There’s an element of sameness to Faustus’s material but that presents itself more on record than live. On this night, there’s variety aplenty and, after a vigorous rendition of encore Og’s Eye Man, the crowd departs satisfied and stimulated.


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