NAMED for the Outer Hebrides town, with shades of a fey, vaguely Celtic mysticism, yet hailing from Oxford’s dreaming spires, lyrically yearning pop-folk rockers Stornoway unveiled a preview of their forthcoming album Tales From Terra Firma last night.
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Less celebrated in the nu-folk firmament than Sunday’s Grammy winners Mumford and Sons, they nevertheless might prove more enduring.
Regaling with tales of ghostly hauntings and opening with three successive songs about seabirds, as is their wont, new single Knock Me On The Head was whimsical yet earthy, with Brian Briggs’ clear, hopeful voice making an impression. The jaunty The Bigger Picture has echoes of Donovan and was followed by the elemental ebbs and flows of The Cold Harbour Road, the band’s sound swelled with a multi-instrumental array that included the sawing of wood. The rousing Fuel Up added momentum, but Stornoway know how to vary a mood, with the urgent, teasing new track A Belated Invite To Eternity, followed by the scurrying intro of You Take Me As I Am. The catchy Zorbing remains their most exciting tune, especially after the moody vibe of Farewell Appalacia!.
But they can truly cut loose and move you, with a couple of unplugged songs, November Song haunting in its chill beauty and The Ones We Hurt The Most straining for and achieving poignancy, the whole group crowding together to deliver it in a cosy semi-circle. With a touch of soul, the superlative ballad I Saw You Blink was the pick of the encore.