Kane Welch Kaplin @ Folkus Room

By Severin

Kane Welch Kaplin (Keiran Kane, Kevin Welch, Fats Kaplin) @ new Folkus Room; Sunday 15th Feb

Pete Hayes introduced me to Nashville based Keiran and Kevin via the CD they recorded live in Melbourne and they’ve been amongst my most-favourites for a couple of years now. So I was very bouncy-thrilled to get to see them last night right here in my home town.  It was truly spooky for me, not having seen any photos before I went, Keiran looked as I’d imagined from his voice, & it was exactly like they had climbed straight out of my CD and onto the stage just with even classier songs and arrangements, and Fats on fiddle and guitar. Musicianship to die for.  Happy happy joy joy.

Just to orient you, the promotional description of the style is “This remarkable group melds folk, country, & blues when singing & playing string instruments with a jazz musician’s spontaneity & freedom. – As songwriters, performers, innovators and founders of the influential Dead Reckoning record label, Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch have made a career of letting the song lead the way. In the process, they midwifed a new genre of American roots music, blazing a trail for other artists to explore and develop. Yet their modus operandi remains the same to craft and compose with no goal other than to let the song realise itself….. The sound is simultaneously sparse and towering, at times echoing the plaintive modal sound of traditional Appalachian balladry while rich with Kane’s and Welch’s uniquely contemporary sense of poetry.”

The songs carry simple stories and there’s such an easy relationship between Keiran and Kevin  (what John called ‘the unspoken light and shade flowing between them’) yet I sat on the edge of my seat with shivers for much of the concert. Like most of us I do really want a band to play the tunes I know and love – these guys didn’t do that till the encore and yet it didn’t matter a jot for me! All of it was so good and the new (to me) ones combined diversity and classic K & K so well that I was satisfied without familiarity.

Welch’s song Millionaire is being played by Soloman Burke and was a crowd favourite early on, Jersey Devil lifted the energy in the room a number of notches, Fats Kaplin wrote lyrics for a very old tune and made ‘Monkeys in a Handcart’ or similar title (which I hope Dr Stovepipe or another local lively band might consider covering!). They didn’t often introduce the songs by title so I’m not sure I can accurately recommend any of the ones I jotted down a line from. But “Falling in love will tear you apart, if you fall in love with an unfaithful heart” has a lot of sing-a-long potential. Some of the lines could be cliché’d or schmaltzy but mostly they just aren’t, they work. Another fave is “Don’t let the cold wind blow till I’m too old to die young”. An octave mandolin features.

The classics 4 Questions and Train to Birmingham were sublime encore songs and sent me out flying high; I just had to manage without hearing ‘8 More Miles’ live this time round.

Keiran Kane produced a 6 song Cd for the Australian tour which I bought in addition to the Kane Welch Kaplin Cd, just for the song ‘Don’t try to fight it’ which has unexpected shades of Leonard Cohen and early Lou Reed, wasn’t sure if it was a parody early on. Bill Arnett & crew must be thrilled with the new venue, such a big step up for Folkus after Mawson. Well done!  It’s got a good vibe, lots of flexibility as a space, well stocked and subtle bar, nearby eating spaces (advertised as both open in the promo but one was closed and one was full when we got there at 7). Large round tables made it dignified rather than rollicking this time but maybe that’s what the performers wanted. I like a bit of dance space myself, but as it happened it would’ve been only me using it!

I was lucky enough to be sitting with John, another besotted fan and Matty who loved it too and who tapped his toes, so at least I could share my enthusiasm. I assume the rest of the audience (big room nearly full, wildly skewed to the over 40s) also came to enjoy it but its hard to tell by looking – it always astonishes me how so many people can sit so still to toe-tapping music, barely a jig of shoulders or a bounce of the head from most of audience, its very polite but not very responsive… I’m sure they were into it too but.

I was really regretful that more local musicians weren’t there for the inspiration and to soak in the heritage and beauty of musicians who’ve been working together for a long time to hone the craft and the relationship. K & K come every year (except last year) – I recommend you keep an eye out for the next concert and buy their CDs online.

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