There is something undeniably lovely about the quiet voice that has important things to say. On the first properly Spring-like evening of the year, two fantastic bands were gently insistent and spoke of the beauty around us. CHRISTINA ALDEN & ALEX PATTERSON and THE LOST TRADES effortlessly showed the best of contemporary folk song. 
Christina Alden and Alex Patterson have been playing together for twelve years and their natural connection is obvious. They also have a striking connection to nature itself, with animals, rivers and fens peeking their heads out repeatedly.
Their brand of folk spans continents, there's a hint of old timey Appalachia in Alden's banjo but Patterson's violin conjures sweeping English murmurations. When singing of their two-year old daughter, on Etta's Song, they are personal and tied to home yet The Fox Song tells of a journey that spans miles. They are local and global, rooted in England, keeping an eye on the world. 
Alden’s voice is gorgeous, it is pure, high and utterly infused with the world around her. She sings from the point of view of a 500-year-old shark on The Greenland Shark and tells tales of polar bears and foxes, reaching out from their environments and drawing people towards those animals. Her's is the heartfelt conviction of the gentle naturalist, the knowledgeable voice that needs to be heard.
Patterson's voice joins her for much of the evening, bringing lovely harmonies and confirming convictions. Time and again, they involve the audience too, encouraging singing of choruses and, by doing so, they make this folk music communal, making us part of their natural fascinations. There's anger too, though. Patterson takes (quite polite) swipes at Tories who allow water pollution and the heartless Daily Mail, people who wantonly destroy the good that is around them. On Waterways, the banjo, the violin, the harmonies, the singalong all converge to create an acoustic, peaceful beauty that protests with far more authority than louder voices. 
When Alden & Patterson look towards America lovely things happen. Bonny Blue Eyes is taken from an Ozark songbook from the 1920s and allows Patterson's violin free reign, as does the sea shanty Blow Boys Blow. The spirit of bluegrass, of the freedom of mountains and valleys, of high adventure is thrillingly evoked. Even better is a wonderful cover of Fleet Foxes White Winter Hymnal. They play it because it's "enjoyable" but it's just glorious.
The Lost Trades are from around these parts and have the relaxed attitude of a team on home turf. Folk-y in the very widest sense, they combine soaring Fleetwood Mac-style harmonies with great songwriting and win over Downend hearts with ease. Little Blackbird, taken from their latest album Petrichor, sees Tamsin Quin, Jamie Hawkins and Phil Cooper creating sunshine-filled magic. Doused in the natural world and with three voices that compliment beautifully they are perfectly dreamy. Three songs about the loss of loved ones dominate their short set, with Long Since Gone being the standout. The flutter of a heartbeat rhythm, acoustic gentleness, wonderful harmonies and a warming heart-hug. The Lost Trades have everything that you might need. 
Christina Alden, Alex Patterson and The Lost Trades may not be the loudest voices in the room but every single thing they say is worth listening to. Their love of everything around them is infectious and incredibly warming. 

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Chris Dobson


Our 10th Anniversary year rolls on with the usual high quality as one of the most highly rated young duos headline on Friday 19 April, in a concert that will also be live-streamed in partnership with LIVE TO YOUR LIVING ROOM.

CHRISTINA ALDEN & ALEX PATTERSON are multi-instrumentalists and songwriters from East Anglia. Their music is rich with intertwining harmony, sensitive accomplished musicianship and a creative song-writing style that is both delicate and moving. Deeply inspired by the world around them, they have a keen environmental eye to craft stories with the natural world at its heart, reflecting on the relationship between humans and the wild.

They have enjoyed touring extensively in the UK and Europe; including a twenty- three- date concert hall tour with Show of Hands (including Union Chapel and St David’s Hall Cardiff), a show at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for Celtic Connections, headline and main stage performances at some of the UK’s most prestigious folk festivals and performances in Norway, Belgium, France and Ireland. They have written and self-released four albums, composed music for a BBC Radio 4 documentary series and have had over a million streams on Spotify.

Opening the evening will be locally-based THE LOST TRADES, a folk/Americana trio with a cool Laurel Canyon vibe. With a sound that is reminiscent of the California folk scene of the late 60s/early 70s, their three-part harmonies have been described as "flawless", "spine tingling" and "magical".

After a global pandemic cut short their first tour after just a single sold out gig, the band retreated to their songwriting rooms to work on their debut album, The Bird, The Book & The Barrel. The album was released in June 2021 and was well received, spending eight months in the Official UK Folk Albums Chart. The follow up, Petrichor, was released in March 2023, and immediately followed suit, entering the chart at #31.

Tickets for the concert, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 19 April 2024, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door. Doors open at 7.00pm and the entertainment starts around 7.45pm.

There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and real ale from locally- based Hop Union Brewery. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/ mug/tankard, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the drive to be more environmentally aware; there is a 50p discount for those that do. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of the Radstock-based Great Cake Company, as well as a prize draw, which helps to fund the support artists for each concert. 

The concert will also be live-streamed in partnership with LIVE TO YOUR LIVING ROOMso if you can't make it to the venue you don't need to miss out... you can watch from the comfort of your own sofa! For further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or find us on FACEBOOKX or INSTAGRAM.


Of all the brilliant musicians that have played this wonderful place over the last ten years, there can't be many who are as constantly, determinedly creative as HANNAH JAMES
From extraordinary vocal trio Lady Maisery, to innovative new-folk with Sam Sweeney, from her Jigdoll Ensemble to an album of accordion and clog dancing with Swedish-Estonian musician Tuuklikki Bartosik, she seems to revel in collaboration, in creating magic with different people from different places.
Her latest collaboration is with French cellist Toby Kuhn. It is a musical marriage that is heaven sent and, tonight, they are remarkable.
In the Gloaming, from their 2021 album Sleeping Spirals, has a distinctly French feel to it. James’ accordion and Kuhn's cello weaving along wide boulevards, delighted to be in one another's company. Although there's only two of them, the sound they create is enormous. It's a room-filling buzz and thrum, the sort of thing that takes over your entire being. 
James spins feminine folklore on Jezerka, telling the tale of a Croatian lake. Her voice is the most beautiful thing, it seems almost incapable of a false step, impossibly pure as she twists a dark Carter-esque tale from thin air. Kuhn's cello is plucked, percussive, hypnotic, insistent. There are constant flickers, subtle contrasts between the two of them. This is complex and stunning, like a picture that unveils depths the more you look at it.
Kuhn's cello playing is, quite simply, astonishing. On the instrumental tune, Under Sea, it bubbles and eddies, builds from plucked to bowed as it surges through, overwhelming the senses. It’s a therapy. His playing may have folk roots but there's experimentalism too, a post-classical edge that glistens. Forest is slow, like breathing, and intense, Kuhn's part evokes a ravaged field of trees, burnt and scarred. On Jealousy, the cello raindrops, the patter of James’ clog dancing joining until it's a deluge. A massive, swirling, sweeping thing.
A sense of the epic pervades every corner of this evening. The sound that James and Kuhn create is, undoubtedly, huge but the stories tend that way too. James is a wonderful songwriter and it is, therefore, no surprise that The Giant is about to become a proper storybook. It is filled with lullaby twinkles (courtesy of a thumb piano) and a romantic swish. James telling the tale and then using her voice as another instrument, wordless harmonies chiming with cello and accordion. On The Ragged Woman, she shows that she and Kate Bush are twinned souls. They don't sound alike, but they live in the same world.
Two instrumentals effortlessly sum up the head-spinning beauty of this evening. Firstly, a new tune written for Peter Lord of Aardman Animations fame. It is a waltz that morphs (ha!) into a jig and is impossibly romantic. James’ wordless, swoon-y singing is hymn-like, a song of praise that reaches to the highest heights of this fine church. There is so much love in it. Secondly, Vine Dance is a flower-y, blossom-y explosion. It is music wordlessly sung on the sunniest of days from the happiest of hearts, music to twirl down deserted, sun-splashed European streets to. It is emphatic and ascendant. Utterly glorious.
There was a bit of a Derbyshire theme to this evening's proceedings. Not only does Hannah James hail from that part of the world, but the support act does too. SEB STONE is a traditional singer, whistle player and Uilleann Pipers playing his first Bristol gig. With a strong, warm voice he brings the old songs back to life. The pipes add a satisfying drone and nicely offset the simplicity of Stone's storytelling. Much like Sam Lee, he leans heavily into songs from the Travelling Community, lending his voice to those that are rarely heard. The highlight being a What Will We Do When We Have No Money?. Whilst not quite having the soul crunching intensity of Lankum's version (but what does?), Stone's is heartfelt and honest. 
Hannah James has long made some of the loveliest modern folk music around and her collaboration with Toby Kuhn seems to have unlocked yet another rich seam of creativity. Tonight was incredibly exciting, an epic adventure, a dizzying travelogue.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Chris Dobson