It’s TFI with a difference this week. For one, I’ve managed to write it on Friday, and for two, it’s a live review. And actually for three, it was quite a big trip: me and Jenny Wren, the strong and all too silent sat nav on a 140 mile round trip, winging our way to Brixton on a Thursday night in May.
Hurray for the Riff Raff came on stage some time after ten. Tonight, they were a pared down ensemble comprising of brother and sister pairing, performing without their usual backing band. Alynda Lee Segarra leads on vocals, guitar and banjo, with her brother (whose name escapes me) on violin. I was watching Alynda (in a non-stalker, interested way, I’d like to add) before she came on stage: she looked like a small and fragile bird. To watch her sing and play, is to watch her unfold and grow. Her voice and her presence is like something otherworldly. It isn’t just a voice that has soul, it reaches far deeper than that. An old spirit in a young heart.
Some of it just makes your heartache with an indiscernible sadness; and I marvelled at how someone so young can emanate such world weary wisdom.
“I was crying for you, wherever you may be
I was crying for you, ‘cause you once were me”
The set kicked off with the honeyed upbeat Slow Walk, and sauntered through a showcase of the first two HFTRR albums (of which a compliation of the two is available in the UK on Loose Records – buy it here), leading to a brilliant cover of Leadbelly’s Western Cowboy. Too Much of a Good Thing – what can I say? A little bit of new stuff (an inspired arrangement on Fiddlesticks), finishing with a Junebug Waltz.
So what should you expect from a HFTRR gig? Pure folk with a gothic undertone; something old showcased in something new; lovelorn tales that rise and fall, caught on the breath of a sweet melody and an irrepressible foot-tapping beat. Check out the album and find the extra padding of a band that lets these songs really waltz you around your kitchen floor and lends some of gypsy drama, reminiscent of DevotchKa – accordian, drums, banjo and the sweet violin.
You’d be a fool if you didn’t try and see HFTRR live. Nothing beats the intimacy of a small gig, listening to talented musicians create something magical, even seminal.
Ma and Pa Riff Raff had travelled over the water to support their children on their first UK tour. That felt so right. How proud must they be. Goddamn perfect.
Download Hurray For The Riff Raff – Slow Walk mp3 (from Young Blood Blues)
Download Hurray For The Riff Raff – Too Much Of A Good Thing mp3 (from Hurray For The Riff Raff)