LIVE REVIEW: Cath & Phil Tyler @ The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle (04.03.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A first visit to the Bridge Folk Club, the oldest continually running folk club in the country or some such, to see a vanishingly rare appearance from austere folk titans Cath & Phil Tyler. It was a big turn-out for a cold Monday and there was a lot of talent in the room – artists like Sam Baxter, Alasdair Paul from Pons Aelius and Tim Dalling took their turns at a floor spot, usually with an interesting digression about a song’s origin or relevance (notably, it was the 40th anniversary of the start of the Miner’s Strike). There was plenty of banjo, penny whistle, stamping and a capella singing, often with much of the audience joining in to powerful effect. We also got a couple of songs – Kedron and Northfield – from an ad hoc gathering of sacred harp singers (including Cath and Phil plus the likes of Mark ‘Kenosist/Noise Bear’ Wardlaw) that was as powerful as sacred harp always is.

It’s always an absolute thrill to see the Tylers live and while Cath might have started out a little unsteady, it was lovely to watch her grow in strength and confidence as they worked through a two-part set that included pretty much everything I’d have hoped. We got Our Captain Cried – a song so utterly heartbreaking it’s almost difficult to listen to, especially when Phil shifts to the minor key in the middle – and The Old Churchyard, The Song Of The Lower Classes and King Henry. There was a gorgeous Blue Sky Boys song, a version of Knife In The Window and their cover of Mehmed Nâzım Ran’s anti-war classic I Come & Stand At Every Door, their contribution to a Gaza benefit album. The whole thing was very special indeed – Phil is probably the best guitarist in the city, Cath has that Appalachian folk thing in her very bones and together they conjure something utterly magical together. They finished with a rousing Now Our Meeting Is Over/Land On The Shore with spirited participation from the rapt crowd (it’s making my skin tingle thinking about it). We don’t get many chances to see the Tylers these days, and those chances must be treasured. 

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