Bunch Of Fives – Paul Smith | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The frontman and chief songsmith of one of the North East’s most prolific bands, Maxïmo Park, is to curate and host a special one-off concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Saturday 7th September. Paul Smith & Friends will bring together some of the leading lights of the region’s music scene and will champion the art of the duet, ranging from folk songs to blockbuster pop hits. Centred around Teesside’s own Paul Smith, guest singers will bring their own distinct musical personalities to famous duets and the occasional cult curio. Before taking to the stage Paul gives us his Bunch Of Fives.

Today’s theme is the five guest singers and artists that I will be performing duets with on September 7th at Middlesbrough Town Hall. I met all of them here in the North-East and have gone on to become friends with them all, too… which made it easier to assemble them for this unique show!

Field Music
Narc readers will probably be familiar with the brilliance of Sunderland’s Field Music. I wouldn’t be doing my upcoming duets concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall without them, because I can’t think of a better backing band to reinvent the songs we’re going to play together. The first half of the gig will be more folky and rootsy, before we cover some big hitters in the second half. Thankfully, Field Music aren’t musical snobs, so we will be retaining most of the famous hooks in the more poppy ’80s songs, highlighting their greatness instead of flirting with karaoke! I first saw Peter and David Brewis performing in pubs around Newcastle and was both envious and awestruck at their ability. I feel very moved by their songs and I have total admiration for their uncompromising, self-sufficient work ethic.

Kathryn Williams
I first saw Kathryn Williams in the Tyneside Irish centre doing a gig to raise funds for asylum seekers, so I knew she was a good egg from the start! I’d read about her in the NME and was excited to have moved up to Newcastle so that I could see more new and established bands like her. In some ways, it is strange to find someone so humble who has such an extensive back catalogue of musical riches, but, then, it’s also very apt when you listen to her unaffected, pure voice, and honest lyrics. When she sings other peoples’ songs, she puts so much of herself into them that I forget the original source material. 

Rachel Unthank
I met Rachel backstage at Middlesbrough Town Hall when we performed at the same Africa Express concert, so it will be fitting to come full circle and perform there again, only this time together. I’ve loved traditional folk music for a long time and it will be interesting to see what people make of us singing in harmony. We’ve just made a record with David Brewis engineering it, and I love working with Rachel. I remember seeing her on TV, before the Winterset became The Unthanks, and being mesmerized by her voice and its clarity. It feels like there’s very little distance between her and the song she’s singing.

Mara Carlyle 
Mara is another singer I met in the North-East, but this time, as a touring musician at Sage Gateshead on the same bill, the week before it officially opened. We were part of a so-called ‘tuning weekend’, where the acoustics were being tested. I was blown away by her unclassifiable voice – singing seemed so effortless to her. We stayed in touch via emails where we swapped songs that we thought the other person wouldn’t have heard before. We both have reasonably eclectic taste and I would hear something classical one week, and then something electronic the next. As well as singing with the likes of Plaid, she is also adept at playing the saw, so we will see if we can crowbar that unlikely sound into some songs!

Ross Millard 
I’ll finish my Bunch Of Five with another Narc darling! Readers will be well-versed in his Futureheads exploits, which I experienced close-up when they asked Maxïmo Park to support them back in early 2005. It was a treat to watch Ross rocking out so much that he had to constantly adjust his glasses – very cool and un-‘rock’! But, I wanted to highlight his work with the Summer Streets Festival in Sunderland, which I was honoured to play earlier this summer, in my solo guise. To have a free community festival in a sublime coastal setting, that featured a range of artists, from Roxy Girls to the Royal Northern Sinfonia, was ambitious and, yet, totally successful. I think Ross’ community-minded attitude stems from his roots in DIY culture, and it feels good to have his spirit and edge incorporated into this unique, one-off gig.

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