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Monday, 24th April 2017
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Zoe Mulford at the Midway

Folk Music Zoe MulfordZoe had been down the Midway on a singaround night so I knew the level of performance we could expect on a guest night.

If you haven’t encountered her so far, let me do a short précis. Zoe hails from the North American ex-colonies but has escaped to take up domicile in deepest Manchester. However the Merrycans keep pinching her back for tours and special performances. She writes exquisite songs covering all aspects of life, plays a stunningly beautiful looking Yairi guitar, as well as banjo and sings with the sweetest, clearest voice. On top of all that if you go to YouTube you can see what is just possibly the definitive interpretation of RT’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.

At The Midway we didn’t just get Zoe we got the ZM trio. Young (impressively so) Tom Fairbarn and Sam McEvoy filled out the songs with superb bass, violin and percussion.

There is a precision about Zoe’s song choices that gives a remarkable coherence to the performance. There are her own songs that are astute observations on life’s encounters, songs from the tradition that root both her songs and the few carefully chosen ones from other writers.

Her self-penned compositions gave us a visit to the North Pole to view Franklins ill-fated expedition through the eyes of one of the members, marital frictions, the world that can be opened up by a singers songs and family history through the passing down of treasured items. The last was the achingly beautiful Elegy (Crystal Glass) -  a subject that I think would apply to most of us in one way or another. I certainly have such a set of glasses in a cupboard.

Mark Knopfler got a tribute form his Shoes song and a superb Wind and Rain represents the tradition.

All of this was underpinned by the accomplished contributions of Tom & Sam. Such was strength of the chosen set list there was no need to bring out her version of 1952, Vincent or her superb Ballad of Eddie & Pete, a song I’ve heard her do on a singers night. Her All of his Songs were Road Songs is honestly, one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

I would compliment all performers in the genre field we all devote ourselves to. If they are good enough to be booked by a club then they are good. However here we have a performer whose qualities go far beyond that. There is a polish to Zoe’s skills as a performer that goes to much higher levels than we may normally encounter. Polish in this case means much more than shine it means a rich patina. I was totally in thrall to her abilites by the time of the encore.

As ever at the Midway the night was more than ably run by Pete Hood who kicked proceedings off with a tune in the company of Grant Baynham, who yet again proved that there is nothing he can’t play. John Keighley put together a group of songs reflecting the Summery weather in the first half and Grant kicked off the second the second with his wry Ballad of Percy Bland, Steady as She Goes and a hilarious car maintenance recount.

Keep an eye on Zoe’s web page calendar dates to see if she’s on near you and take yourself to see her.

- Stuart Cook


Zoe Mulford
Midway Folk Club

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