The word 'suthering' means 'the sound of the wind through the trees', apparently. On the day that Storm Eunice battered her way through the country, there could have been no more appropriate band to headline our February show.

Indeed, at various times throughout the day, it looked as though SUTHERING might not make it. Julu Irvine and Heg Brignall, who make up the duo, moved to Devon from Bristol just before the March 2020 lockdown, and their corner of the world took a good bit of Eunice’s brunt. And then there was the milk lorry that overturned on the M5.

But make it they did, and the sizeable audience were glad that they did. Joined by Olivia Dunn on violin and Sarah Ricketts on double-bass, the duo were here to launch their debut album If We Turn Away into the world.

As the audience descended into an expectant hush after a rapturous, almost raucous, welcome Julu and Heg took them on a journey filled with tales both true and mythical… stories of the fantastic and the everyday.

Partners in life as well as in music, the chemistry between the pair was obvious from the first number, Blood and Gold, delivered unplugged and a cappella from the front of the stage. Their voices intertwining together with delicious crunchy harmonies a plenty, Julu and Heg showed that they are right up there with some of the very best singers treading boards of the folk clubs and arts centres at the moment. Each of them are great singers, but it’s when they sing together that the magic happens.

It’s not only the voices, though, as Julu (flute and guitar) and Heg (piano) demonstrate what fine instrumentalists they are too, as do the band that they’ve brought to accompany them. It’s a dream come true, they tell us, to have their own 'girl-band', and their sense of excitement is palpable.

The songs themselves are of an exceptionally high quality. Stand-outs include the first two singles from the album; Gather came to the pair when they were going through a dry songwriting patch after they’d first relocated, and speaks of attempting to overcome that sense of displacement, while Kingfisher is an ode to the bird that they’d spot during long lockdown walks and became sign of hope. But each and every song is a lovely thing. Don’t take our word for it, get a copy of the album!

Before Suthering took to the stage, the Downend crowd were treated to a glimpse of another rising star… and what an impression he made! DOM PRAG is about to launch a debut album of his own, Needle & Thread, and it’s another one that’s definitely worth getting hold of.

Dom’s short set included mostly traditional songs, with Oakey Strike Evictions a particular stand-out which brought whoops from the crowd, along with a self-penned song, Come All You Fine Young People and a nice take on Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, and prompted many of the folk club regulars to remark that he is the best support artist they’d ever seen in the club’s almost eight year history… quite an accolade and one that surely means that Dom will return for a headline show of his own in the not too distant future.

So, Eunice howled outside and battered the doors of the church, but try as she might she could not put a stop to the beautiful things happening within its walls.

Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Barry Savell