March 31, 2010 / 11:16 AM / 9 years ago

Folk-rock stars get their kicks as Feast of Fiddles

NETTLEBED, England (Reuters Life!) - Add up all the years that the band members of British folk-rock group Feast of Fiddles have been playing and you are back before the days of Columbus — 520 years ago.

Which is not inappropriate given that much of the music played by the band harks back centuries, albeit sometimes by way of Hollywood.

Feast of Fiddles, currently on a British tour and releasing their first studio album, is something of a folk supergroup, a 12-man who’s who of folk rock legend.

Among them are Steeleye Span fiddle virtuoso Peter Knight, Show of Hands’ Phil Beer, Fairport Convention’s Chris Leslie and drummer Dave Mattacks, whose credentials include work with the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Rosanne Cash.

But before a packed audience at the Nettlebed Folk Club in rural Oxfordshire this week, the goal was not to so much cementing a reputation as playing for kicks.

“We are not in this to become rich and famous,” band leader and feverish melodeon-player Hugh Crabtree told Reuters. “We are just trying to have some fun together.”

With as many as seven of the 12 members picking up a bow at any one time, the effect of their music is akin to being hit by a Phil Spector-like wall of sound, only it is a wall of fiddles.

The band’s roots in folk, including ceilidh and morris dancing, show through in a series of rural tunes such as “Ivor the Knight” and the melodic “Still Shadow.”

But from the opening cover of The Tornados’ 1960s hit “Telstar” to Leslie’s haunting violin rendition of “La Vie en Rose,” there was much more.

How about a full-on reel incorporating the theme of “The Magnificent Seven,” renamed “The Magnificent Several” for the purpose? Or the “James Bond Theme,” complete with grown men singing scat lyrics something like “baba ba babada?”

And if you like your folk really rocky, what about listening to Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” morphing into traditional jigs via Deep Purple’s “Black Night?” It becomes the title track of the new album, “Walk Before You Fly.”

Not everything the band does is quite so in-your-face, though. A highlight of the recent Nettlebed evening was Knight’s rendition of “Sitting On Top Of The World,” a fiddle blues magically plucked rather than bowed.

Judging by the smiles on the band members’ faces, they achieved their goal of having fun. Or maybe it was the prospect that night of their annual general meeting.

Post-fiddle curry and beer were rumored.

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