Small Town Jones, Keston Cobblers Club @ The Lantern, Bristol, 23/10/2016

keston-cobblers-clubKeston Cobblers Club bring their effervescent brand of classic folk laced with modern pop sensibilities to Bristol’s The Lantern on the next stop of their Notes From the Road tour.

Accompanied for tonight by Devon’s Small Town Jones, this tour marks what has been a highly successful 2016 for the five-piece, having already completed one sold out tour and made a mark on the charts, as they flirt with mainstream recognition.

Playing to a room already nearing capacity, Small Town Jones demonstrates his full repertoire of thoughtful, engaging folk music underpinned by strong musicianship from himself and accompanying guitarist Dave Little.

In contrast to the searching, soulful sounds of the support act, Keston Cobblers Club immediately bring a breezy energy and simple joy to the stage, flying through some thumping opening numbers with carefree abandon.

Fittingly named after an 18th Century shoemaker and the town hall dances he inspired, the quintet quickly invoke the same carefree joy and spirit with their own music. Fronted by siblings Matt and Julia Lowe, the five-piece do everything they can to get the crowd moving, something their Mumford-lite melodies and acoustic instrumentation seem tailor-made for.

The jaunty "Heights of Lola" encapsulates the quintet’s inimitable sound, both whimsical yet knowing in its lyrical delivery. Alongside this, cookie-cutter folk-pop tracks "You-Go" and "Wildfire" induce a degree of foot tapping in the crowd.

Led by the talkative Julia, the band engage in an offbeat brand of audience interaction – even diverging into a bizarre but enjoyable mime-interpretation of the story behind "Giraffe Junkie". Yet increasingly, the sheer musicality of the band comes to the fore.

Whether flitting from keys and accordion to coffee-soaked harmonica (thanks to an unfortunate pre-gig spillage) or introducing healthy servings of tuba and trumpet to proceedings, it’s clear that Keston Cobblers Club are at their best when they push their sound into new directions.

This versatility is what makes them stand out in an increasingly crowded folk-pop market, and elevates what could have been a fairly mediocre gig into something more memorable.

This is no more clearly demonstrated than with their penultimate song, a stunningly evocative rendering of Bob Dylan’s "Mr Tambourine Man", performed acoustically among the crowd. For all their efforts to get the crowd on their feet for the past 90 minutes, it is this moment that really makes you sit down and take notice. The sparse instrumentation and gentle melodies give new life to an old classic.

With that, the near 250-strong crowd spills out into the Sunday night with the band’s hooks and thumping rhythms still buzzing around their brains. As they now go on to end the tour with homecoming shows in Keston, they’re keeping the Cobblers’ legacy thriving.

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