Wildwood Kin, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 4th March 2018

Wildwood Kin were opening this City Roots Festival gig for Ward Thomas – who would go on to give their expected high gloss pop-country set with only one real surprise to it, that it ran for a shade less than an hour. Wildwood Kin however did their half an hour with as little fuss as possible – the three piece of sisters Emillie on guitar and Beth on bouzouki and keyboards with their cousin Meg between them on a stripped down drum kit suitable for playing standing up. Championed by Bob Harris, Wildwood Kin have toured and recorded with folk hero and fellow Devonian Seth Lakeman, as well as taking support slots with the likes of The Stereophonics. As well as playing to Wildwood Kin’s striking combination of instruments ‘Warrior Daughter’ also showcases their forceful harmony vocals. There’s an instrumental swap around for ‘The Author’ bringing in keyboards and electric guitar – which chips in here and there but is definitely backing rather than lead. The overall feel is something like a cross between Smoke Fairies and a modern folk band in the style of The Luminaires laced together with Laurel Canyon multi-part harmonies.

‘Run’ is Wildwood Kin’s love ballad, alongside images of braving the unknown in the dark there’s a repeated promise of commitment “I’ll hold you close to me I promise I won’t let go”. Explaining why they are covering Steroephonics ‘Dakota’ Meg humorously reveals that they received some constructive criticism after a previous tour that maybe they “talk too much between songs”. This leads onto a discussion of whether this will be solved when the band is big enough to bring a guitar tech’ along and they won’t need to cover the time needed for retuning. The consensus veers towards probably not. Acknowledging their good fortune to be selected for the recent OGWT-one night only they reprise one of the songs they had played on that appearance: ‘Steady My Heart’ features big piano chords and electric guitar which rocks more wildly than anything so far on this evening lighting up what is one of the finest songs of the set.

‘On and On’ is also distinctively different from what has preceded it, featuring a staccato breathless vocal tapping out short phrases. There’s a spiritual yearning, a desire to connect with eternity and hold onto the memory of those who have gone from the world. Not as morbid as it sounds, there’s a world of hope in the repeated coda of “infinite in you”. Returning to the original musical line-up for the final song ‘Take It Home’ Wildwood Kin let the bouzouki rip-loose with ringing notes, giving the song a strong Celtic folk vibe. Wildwood Kin certainly have a distinctive look and sound as well as an engaging personality – whether they quite live-up to the hype is debatable, but there are currently some gaps in the poppier end of folk music that they can certainly aim to fill.

Set List

Warrior Daughter
The Author
Steady my heart
On and On
Take it home

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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