Cloudstreet - hot harmonies & beautiful
ballads. John and Nicole's performances are packed with vitality,
humour and excitement, as they breathe new life into some of the
great songs of the Australian, English and Celtic traditions and
carry the tradition forward with original songs and tunes.
Driving guitar and Irish flute support their enthralling vocals. Their
trademark dazzling harmonies and their impassioned presentation
are leavened with humour and great tales from their travels.
Cloudstreet makes their audience feel that they are the privileged
viewers of something very special.
(A "cloudstreet" is a row of thermals marked by cumullus
clouds. When gliders fly from thermal to thermal by following the
clouds, they "fly the cloudstreet", staying aloft for
Nicole is a full time musician and visual artist. Her long musical
and performing career has seen her in many different bands and ensembles
in Townsville, Melbourne and Brisbane, ranging from the exacting
combination of vocal and instrumental music which is Cloudstreet,
to pantomime and celtic concerts with Baldrick and the Cunning
Plans, anything from celtic to country with The Pirate Brides,
acapella harmonies with the award-winning Gritty Pearls,
and Drunk on the Moon; and irish pub rock with Rockin'
Molly and Hot Toddy. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist,
she has concentrated on trad music, harmony work and songwriting.
She has run a festival choir in Townsville, taught a group of over-50s
to play tin whistle (for which they gave her rave reviews), and
participated in a Bulgarian choir for the Brisbane Festival.
Nicole plays flute, tin whistle and guitar and violin, and is an
accomplished writer of songs and flute tunes.
Nicole's musical journey started in Melbourne. As a child, she
remembers being alarmed by the highland piper playing in the New
Year with Scotland the Brave in her grandparents' house.
At four, she moved with her family to Townsville, where her early
days at school brought a more structured introduction to music.
She performed in amateur theatre productions and was introduced
to Irish whistle and tunes.
Encountering the music of the seminal Bushwackers at school,
she soon discovered the influences of Steeleye Span and Fairport
Convention. With friends in Townsville she performed with the
popular local band, Rock Wallaby.
Moving back to Melbourne to study art led her to the famous Normandy
Hotel sessions in Clifton Hill. Flung into the world of the all-night
kitchen session, she was inspired by the marvellous players of the
Melbourne folk scene.
Nicole returned to Townsville in 1994. There she was a founding
member of the Yabby Pump Quintet, the a-capella disco trio
(yes, really!) Echolalia and what was to become one of the
North's longest surviving bands, Rocking Molly. It was in
Townsville that she met John Thompson, through the long-running
folk club at the Sovereign Hotel.
In 1996, Nicole was invited to Brisbane to join Hot Toddy,
a folk-rock six-piece in residence at Dooley's. With characteristic
enthusiasm she also threw herself into the Brisbane music world
and several groups evolved, including Drunk on the Moon,
with a growing emphasis on vocal work..
Baldrick and the Cunning Plans (a band so cunning you could
pin a tail on it and call it a weasel) became one of her enduring
projects. Ranging from a three-piece to an eight-piece, and working
as a concert band, pantomime troupe, and irish session crowd, Baldrick
has featured at both the National and Woodford festivals in recent
In 1997, John Thompson moved to Brisbane and Nicole and John began
to share their music in the duo which became Cloudstreet.
As well as regular festival appearances with Cloudstreet,
Nicole has sung at the Brisbane Festival 2000 in Legs on the
Wall's production of Homeland, as part of the Bulgarian
choir, with Mara! World Music Ensemble. More recently, she
has developed a schools music program with a female acapella trio
called The Gritty Pearls, exploring world music styles, and
performed with country/swing/folk fusion trio, The Pirate Brides.
John's earliest musical memories are of sing-alongs around the
family piano in the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka. As a result, a
disturbing number of music-hall favourites formed his early repertoire.
In 1975, John joined the St. Stephen's Cathedral Boys' Choir in
Brisbane. Singing with them for over six years, he developed a love
of harmony singing and unaccompanied vocals. After leaving both
the choir and school in 1981, John's life was relatively music-free
until he walked into the New Exchange Hotel one Saturday afternoon
in 1983 to find a traditional folk session in full swing. He stayed
on and has maintained his involvement in Brisbane sessions ever
John's next musical move was into busking, with the madness of
Contraband in the Queen Street Mall. Away from the street,
John joined a second group, which quickly evolved into No Right
Turn. Their tight harmonies and political punch made them a
mainstays of the Brisbane folk scene. After No Right Turn,
John was a founding member of One Step Forward, developing
his trademark harmonies with Maree Robertson and Ann Bermingham.
In 1992, John's work as a barrister took him to Townsville where
he launched himself into the local folk scene. One Step Forward
continued to perform at festivals around Australia and in 1994 played
at the National Folk Festival in Canberra. John's unique
vocal style and strength earned him the inaugural Lis Johnson
Award for vocal excellence.
As well as singing with cloudstreet, John performs as a debater,
master of ceremonies, singer, songwriter, parodist, and all-round
nice guy. He was one of the judges at the inaugural cludge-mollying
competition at the Brisbane Medieval Fayre in 2005. He plays guitar,
English concertina and whistle. His remarkable vocal range provides
some enthralling listening in cloudstreet's arrangements.
His musical influences to date include the Tallis Singers, the
Dead Kennedys and hearing the drunk guy sing, "Show Me the
Way to Go Home" as he staggered up the street outside John's
Since 2003, John has pursued music as his full-time occupation.
(Pat from Llantrisant
Folk Club, June 2006)
"One of the highlights of the weekend and I would
recommend to any festival to book them."
(Ken Bradburn, Brampton Live)
The absolute standouts (at the festival) were cloudstreet.
The vocal duo of Nicole Murray and John Thompson are touted as the
world’s best harmony singers. And I could clearly see why.
… John and Nicole sang divinely as one: in perfect harmony.
There is an exalted place for cloudstreet in folk heaven
once they do their final concert here. (Trad & Now, July 2006).
"…a delightful duo
who not only inspire one another but put an indelible smile on the
faces of their audiences. Strong harmonies, side-splitting stories
and ballads brought to life in a way we hadn't seen before. Heartily
(Nancy Kerr and James
"Their individual voices are splendid, their
harmonies sublime, their arrangements superb, their material stupendous,
their repartee scintillating, the overall effect stunning!!"
"With stunning harmony singing, and magical arrangements
John and Nicole demonstrate energy, dynamism and the sheer joy of
performing together before an audience. Singing acapella or supported
by instrumentation of guitars, flutes, whistles and percussion their
emphasis is on songs with a traditional feel which awaken strong
(Greg Watson - The
Tablelands Folk Festival)
"Exciting, polished, and professional these folks
have really impressed us (and we are not easily pleased). The cross
section of material is perfect, traditional to new written and the
voices and harmonies are wonderful and laced with skilful musicianship
that works well for big stage or small clubroom.
On top off all that, they are damn nice people!
Book 'em .you won't be disappointed."
Webber & Anni Fentiman)
"One of the best nights we've had at the club.
Fantastic harmonies, great material. Wonderfully entertaining. Cloudstreet
are welcome back any time."
(Mike Gibson, Ampthill Acoustic)
"CLOUDSTREET: Nicole Murray and John Thomson
came, sang and conquered with twinkling smiles in their eyes and
lots of ambitious music in their hearts. I have loads of respect
for Cloudstreet; both of these Australians have luscious, superb
voices, so beautifully controlled at the drop of a hat – but
when they mean business, those magnificent voices soar and swell
and fly away. That’s not clapping you hear, but the collective
sound of jaws dropping. Nicole plays a neat flute and John’s
no mean guitarist, but the most satisfying and pleasing aspect is
that both are such thoroughly nice people. Not only that, but Cloudstreet
keep the crowd very, very happy with good deal of imaginative, well-thought-out
and original takes on well-known folk songs. You go to a Cloudstreet
gig and it feels as though the clouds have lifted and the sun’s
shining again – that’s the effect they have on you!"
(Mick Tems, Cefyddydau
Mari Arts, June 2006)
"The best new act on the English folk scene."
(Derek Droscher, Ride a Cock Horse Folk Club)
"Cloudstreet's sense of fun, fabulous arrangements
gorgeous voices add up to a great night's entertainment. They include
touch of theatricality - without overdoing it - to turn their
carefully-chosen material into a performance which totally absorbs
With a bit of everything - tunes, ballads, choruses
- they present a
balanced and well paced show; and with The Green Man John
what ought to become a folk club standard."
(Hamish Currie - The
Tudor Folk Club, January, 2004)
together they are superb. Vocally they
are well matched and musically their arrangements are magical."
"For me, Cloudstreet's strength is when
singing as an unaccompanied duo, both having rich voices of a distinctly
different character, but which blend beautifully nonetheless. The
high points of their set were The Briar and the Rose by Tom
Waits, Nicole's flute playing on McGlinchey's Reel,
and the hilarious song The Woman Who Got Done Wrong as sung
by Blossom Dearie (actually called The Ballad of the Shape
of Things written by Sheldon Harnick. Ed.), dealing with the
metaphorical geometry of a relationship. Actually, their rendition
of The Briar and the Rose was for me one of the high points
of the whole night."
(Sebastian Flynn in The
Folk Rag, March 2002)
"..while their material is mostly from the British
Isles tradition, their joint persona is unselfconsciously Australian.
Cloudstreet's vocal strength served them well in the traditional
numbers, and they showed their creative depth in Violet Sarah -
intelligent lyrics turning a tale of a boating holiday into something
poetic and slightly mysterious." (The
Courier-Mail, February 2002)
"Their soaring vocals, tight harmonies and sensitive
instrumentals bring alive traditional Anglo-Celtic and contemporary
ballads in a fresh and exciting style that captures the attention
of even the most non-traditional of North Queensland audiences -
which is saying something! They have that rare ability to communicate
the timeless themes of traditional songs and music in way which
soon has the audience entwined in the storytelling. In this, they
are minstrels, in the truest sense.
Having said that, what is really impressive about
John and Nic is their enthusiasm and professionalism. This is not
only reflected in the quality of their performance, but flows through
to their overall impact at festivals. As a duo and as individuals
they throw themselves into all aspects of festival life with unbridled
enthusiasm and are a festival organizer's dream! Whether it be running
poets breakfasts, giving workshops on singing styles, harmony or
tin whistle, leading festival choirs or chorus sessions, they pop
up everywhere - you simply can't keep them out of the action!
Whether it be a small regional festival such as Palm
Creek or a major event such as Woodford or the National Folk Festival,
audiences go away with strong positive memories of Cloudstreet,
for all the above reasons. That is why they are increasingly in
demand by festivals all around the country."
(Jeff Corfield - Palm
Creek Rainforest Festival)
Cloudstreet at the Red Deer, Sheffield.
Last night, at the second of the Folk Music Subscription Room Concerts,
the audience at the Red Deer in Sheffield enjoyed a fantastic night
of music, song and craic. I thought it would be difficult for Jim
McDonald to organise a fitting sequel to Michael Mara's performance
there last month. For me, the only disappointment of the evening
was that even more people couldn't have shared the experience.
Jim's choice of support in local performer Bay Whittaker was inspired.
Her opening number 'Marlborough Country' brought memories back to
many of us about stopping smoking. From then on, she had the audience
captivated with her humour, fine guitar playing and expressive singing
of self-penned songs such as 'Barker's Pool, the George Clooney
song and my favourite, her closing number, 'Personal Inferno'. Though
most of us hadn't heard her sing before I think we will all be looking
out for her in the future.
As for Cloudstreet, I have never been disappointed by their performances.
This was no exception. They proved that, even without the use of
soundmen and amplification, their growing nationwide reputation
as fine musicians and singers is well deserved. Their timing and
harmonies in songs such as Tom Waits 'Briar and the Rose', and their
own compositions "Green man" and "Violet Sarah"
were excellent. Like many, I am still amazed by the voice change
they manage in "King Willy" and I love the title track
off their new CD 'The Fiddle Ship'. Their obvious enjoyment of their
craft is infectious and those in the audience who had not seen them
before were not disappointed by the evening's entertainment. Their
encore was Tom Paxton's 'Wasn't that a Party?'. It certainly was!
In fact, I think John and Nicole gained themselves a number of new
fans. The folk scene in Britain will certainly miss them when they
return home to Australia in October so if anyone hasn't seen them
yet there is still a little time.
My only criticism of the evening is that was that it passed too
quickly. It wasn't an evening for the purist who enjoys traditional
folk music but Jim organised a night of quality entertainment that
was certainly value for money. I am now looking forward to the next
Folk Music Subscription Rooms concert in November when Jim has organised
for Bill Caddick to take centre stage with Ken Johnson in support.
(Review of Violet Sarah and Muckle John)
Cloudstreet are John Thompson and Nicole Murray. Based in Brisbane,
the Australian duo are popular performers at home, drawing their
material mainly from Irish, English and Australian traditions. They
have an attraction to the big ballads the muckle sangs the 'soap
operas of a former age'. Many of the songs in their repertoire are
accompanied by guitars, flutes, whistles and percussion, but a particular
strength of their performance is their use of harmony. In a similar
vocal range, both voices are spectacularly suited to each other.
While Murray's voice is a remarkable instrument, particularly notable
is that of former chorister Thompson, who possesses a strikingly
beautiful tenor voice, and a deft and inventive touch with harmony.
Violet Sarah and Muckle John is their second release. The rather
cryptic title combines the names of two of the songs. Murray's composition,
'Violet Sarah' opens the album, and comprises a series of stream-of-consciousness
reminiscences of a holiday with friends on their narrow boat on
the English canal system. In tight harmony with only guitar accompaniment,
its quirky rhythm is an enticing introduction to the duo. 'Muckle
John', words by Thompson, set to music by Murray, describes one
of the last court jesters lamenting the passing of his trade.
I've heard Sheldon Harnick's The Shape of Things many times
over the years, but I think Cloudstreet's version is masterful.
The tight arrangement, the accomplished harmony, and mock serious
presentation are fine counterpoints to the bathos of the lass' geometric
betrayal and ultimate revenge.
The rest of the album is a combination of traditional songs and
composed pieces. Murray proves her talents as a composer in a fine
set of tunes which includes two of her own. To me, the sign of a
well-written tune (or
song) is that it sounds as if it already has the edges knocked off
it by having been played a lot by others. These tunes have that
worked-in feel to them, to their credit.
The high point of a uniformly excellent production is the closing
track - a stunning unaccompanied rendition of Tom Waites' 'The Briar
and the Rose'. This is one of these arrangements that echoes around
in your head long after the last notes have faded away. One hopes
they end their concerts with it. The streets of Brisbane must be
filled with the sound of humming after a performance by Cloudstreet.
The album features no studio pyrotechnics, no cast of thousands,
no extra musicians imported for the occasion (well, apart from the
cello on one track, but cellos are special), just two very talented
performers at work. Sometimes it is difficult to form an impression
of a group in action from a recording, but Cloudstreet's Violet
Sarah and Muckle John lets us know exactly what to expect from a
live performance, and certainly leads us to look forward to an appearance
a little closer to home before too long.
(Alistair Brown - The
Green Man Review - September, 2003)
CD REVIEW: SWALLOW THE CONCERTINA - CLOUDSTREET
Have we got a good Christmas present for you!!!!
Among the latest Folk album releases for the Christmas market is
Cloudstreet's Debut album, Swallow the Concertina, (not so named
because they hate concertinas but from their set of tunes The Swallow's
Tail and the Concertina Reel).Cloudstreet have a good explanation
for their name in the cover notes, which I think is very appropriate,
I'll let you find out for yourselves when you get your hands on
Cloudstreet is Nicole Murray and John Thompson, good performers
in their own right but together they are superb. Vocally they are
well matched and musically their arrangements are magical. A good
example is the opening track King Willy,(version of Child Ballad
no. 6 Willie's Lady - original 44 verses) a brilliant mix of flute
and whistle in a mediaeval style harmony which lends to the authenticity
and enjoyment of this long traditional ballad.
Five of the twelve pieces on this album are traditional, three
are their own original songs and tunes written in traditional style.
There is some very impressive whistle and flute playing and great
harmony singing. They have added nothing on the CD which cannot
be duplicated in a live performance.
Among my other favourite tracks are a version of Child Ballad no.
10 The Twa Sisters and Annan Waters for their harmonies (both quite
different) and John's original The Green Man, a very powerful song
with a great chorus, really deserving to be sung in the midst of
a large singing session so that we all can join in with the multitude
of harmonies which are available.
The album production is clean and uncluttered and the treatment
of the material is well thought out and just downright good. All
this is bound up in a very attractive cover, designed by Nicole
herself with the photography, recording and mix by Matthew Moline.
Not to detract from the above review I must admit that Cloudstreet
is even better live. Their energy and dynamism and sheer joy of
performing together before an audience is an added factor which
I feel cannot be adequately conveyed on a mere audio CD - perhaps
a video would be the answer? Or better still for an extra fee they
could perform for you live in your lounge room, according to an
(June Nichols in The
Folk Rag, December 2000)
Cloudstreet - THE FIDDLESHIP
Having seen the Australian duo live several times I was anticipating
great things from this album, recorded in Coventry during their
protracted stay in England over the last year. I was not disappointed.
The first track rolls in with the assured and beguiling air of the
great storyteller; for this is what Cloudstreet does best.
In a live performance with Nicole Murray and John Thompson it is
easy to find yourself transported to the magic of childhood storytelling
without ever feeling patronised as an adult through the genuine
and accomplished delivery. There is no worry that something so dynamic
and engaging in that live performance will not necessarily translate
well into a studio recording, yet Cloudstreet succeed, which is
a credit to Nicole and John's thoughtful arrangements and outstanding
vocal skills. The only thing I feel is a little lost in the recording
of their music is something of the gutsy quality of their live vocal
performance, John appearing rather more earnest at times than is
evident in the live performance, and Nicole losing a little strength
in the harmonies she sings. However, when leading the vocal on several
tracks, Nicole really comes into her own, and her range of vocal
styles is inspired. The tune sets are nice and break up the album
well but still Cloudstreet's skill for me lies in the delivery of
a good story, whether comic or tragic, but always engaging and sensitive.
Amongst the highlights fo rme was definitely "King Willy",
a full band version of the song which appears on their first album,
"Swallow the Concertina". The addition of smallpipes creates
perfectly the atmosphere for this journey of love and magic. And
if only they could double their number to reproduce the fantastic,
"The Mill" live, a song in multiple-part harmony (quite
a skill for a duo!). I shall let you discover the last track for
What I like most about Cloudstreet is that they are not afraid
to twist convention, to take on different vocal styles and to use
a range of interesting tempos and harmonic ideas all the while remaining
true to the genre. This leads to an album on which every song has
its own unique atmosphere yet which is a well-crafted, cohesive
My advice? Get the album, then book them for your local folk club
or festival as quick as you can for when they return next spring!
English Dance and Song (EDS)
(The English Folk Dance and Song Society)
The Woodman Folk Club Kingswinford 11/6/2004
I've seen Cloudstreet doing spots at several Woodman singers' nights,
been frankly impressed by this Australian duo's humour, intelligence,
sheer well-rehearsed tightness and quality of their performances.
Consequently, tonight's date has been in my organiser for months,
and I set off earlyish to get a good seat : we reach the Woodman
heavens open and it begins to rain heavily, and scurry inside for
chats with the regular club members, and to say "hi" to
Nicole and John and
wish them a good gig. Cloudstreet have brought a selection of CDs
them, and Bob and I have a quick shuftie at what's available : me
ve come intending to buy some of their music, and Bob to decide
which CD to
choose when he inevitably wins the raffle
and then it's the part of the evening I've been looking forward
Cloudstreet taking in "The Woodman" as part of their 2004
Nicole and John have been in Britain since the end of last year,
a thorough schedule of folk club gigs, sessions and festival appearances,
and have been successfully delighting audiences wherever they appear.
Although Nicole is a fine and talented flute and whistle player,
plays nimble, solid rhythm guitar which frequently sounds open-tuned
isn't, for me their forte is their dual harmonies, and it's to this
they play with their opening unaccompanied number, "Diggins-Oh".
Australian Gold Rush song, sung in modal harmony, and described
themselves as a traditional Australian 'gardening song'
well-rehearsed, precise piece of harmony singing which has the audience
joining in with its shortest of refrains. Visually, Nicole is a
lady singer wearing a dapper waistcoat, curly-toed jester boots
and a clear
expression of enjoyment in her singing, with a smile which can vary
innocence to very very cheeky indeed : while John is a more compact,
flamboyant entertainer, conducting his own singing like a cross
Pavarotti and Joe Cocker, a jester in his own right like an Aussie
Claypole (if you remember "Rentaghost", of course.. :).
Having warmed the Woodman audience up nicely and evoked some warm
applause, Cloudstreet tell us a musical tale about a narrowboat
called "Violet Sarah", owned by some friends of theirs
in Stratford, and which features John on
guitar and Nicole on flute : a jaunty, infectious song with subtle
changes and a jolly chorus the singing Woodman audience joins in
heartily, somehow even avoiding being caught out by a dead stop
in the last
refrain ! "Lady Maisry" is next, one of the dozens of
concerning that Lady but specifically warning of the dangers of
and childbirth, followed by a Cloudstreet favourite from the Woodman
' nights, "The Shape Of Things", an unaccompanied song
revenge and geometry', and a masterclass of performance timing which
enthusiastically received by the audience. This is followed by a
Child ballad, the charming "Two Sisters", in which we
are all educated as to
the true employment of a beaver hat
and then the first half
is brought to a
crescendo by Cloudstreet's genuinely amazing performance of "King
further Child ballad and made famous by Martin Carthy to boot. I
spoil it by telling you how they achieve it - you'll have to buy
their CD or
go and see them - but believe me, their arrangement is an absolute
the only other possible way to perform the song and thus the only
definitive version of "Willie's Lady" ever : judging from
the explosion of
applause following the song, the Woodman thought so too !
After the half-time break, and a warm-up solo number from Medium
as a native of the North East, asserted his moral right to tell
us the awful
story of "The Lambton Worm", there was a surprise rupturing
space-time continuum when Bob failed to win the raffle
quantum stability was swiftly restored and Cloudstreet are welcomed
stage, to begin with an exquisitely arranged acappella rendition
Briar And The Rose", which is joined with traditional harmonising
by the Woodman attendees. Cloudstreet have manifestly put a frightening
amount of time into rehearsing their singing - they're beautifully
synchronised to an almost Cosmotheka-esque degree and even their
vocal qualities complement each other. Following this, we're entertained
an everyday anecdote of Australian life coping with snakes, all
of which is
a preamble to an optimistic and amusing solo song by John, called
The Highway" and sung to the tune of a certain Sinatra hit,
and which is
purely included in the set as an advert for selling the Cloudstreet
when they go home ! Next up is "The Blacktown Jig", featuring
inventive flute-playing from Nicole and ably underpinned by John's
guitarwork, and then we're treated to another of our favourites
singers' night appearances, "Muckle John", an ode to the
last Court Jester
which features some excellent and tightly executed time changes
Another opportunity for a good sing is presented to us now as Nicole
introduces the next song, "Green Man", written, it would
seem, by John while
in the shower. Earlier in the set, the Green Man, pagan symbol of
merging of humanity with the forces of nature, was mentioned fondly
of Cloudstreet's trip aboard the "Violet Sarah", and Nicole
that in her other guise as a clay-working artist, she makes Green
whenever she can get the firing clay and has even brought some to
Thus having tied up a few loose ends, they launch into the song,
which has a
splendid chorus simply begging for harmonies and the Woodman faithful
disappoint : in many ways it's the high point of the evening, a
with a catchy and infectious melody and clearly a testament to the
properties of John's bathroom ! Cloudstreet then sing us "The
Flower Of Serving Men", to an original tune by Nicole : she
tells us with
wry amusement that when learning the words from a songbook, she
overlooked the possibility that there might have been an index at
and thus missed the tune section at the back of the book altogether
needn't worry though - it's a fine melody, another one easily harmonised
with (not to mention John's magnificent and indescribable lute solo
is, as it turns out, a powerful finisher for their second set and
applaud thunderously to show our appreciation of their exemplary
entertainment. Oddly enough for the Woodman though, Ian seems to
worked out that it's "only just gone ten past eleven"
- funny how often that
happens ! - so there's plenty of time for Cloudstreet to emerge
hiding place behind the left speaker and perform a final song for
beautifully sung and nicely allegorical title track from their new
"Fiddle Ship", and after a final good clap from us all,
the evening's over
and it's time to buy CDs, buy Katie a Green Man for our garden,
and have a
post-gig congratulatory chat with John and Nicole before heading
The verdict ? Go And See Them. If there's a friendlier, more genuinely
likeable Australian couple around, certainly I'd be delighted to
them an' all - Cloudstreet are approachable, witty and intelligent,
blessed with a self-effacing, cheeky irreverence and a healthy sense
humour, and every facet of that comes over in their songs, singing
arrangements. "Hot Harmonies and Beautiful Ballads", it
says on their
website. Can't argue with that !
(for the full review of the evening, check out the Woodman
Folk Club site)
Cloudstreet Live Review - Bedford Folk Club 15th July 2004
Once again, Cloudstreet deliver a startling performance, delighting
Bedford Folk Club with their 'hot harmonies and beautiful ballads'.
Even although this was Cloudstreet's first gig in Bedford, for
those of us in the audience it had the feel of a homecoming, emphasised
to a greater extent by the presence of Nicole's parents in the audience.
The duo began in fine form, instantly stunning the expectant audience
with Tom Waites' 'Briar and the Rose'. Their entwining harmonies
create a haunting ballad that can't fail but send a shiver down
your spine and after such a show-stopping start one begins to wonder
how they can possibly top this. However, what follows is equally
impressive. Cloudstreet incorporate traditional songs from Britain
and Ireland as well as their native Australia, and whilst their
beautiful harmonies and sensitive understanding of the music keep
them acceptable to the 'purist-folkie' their fresh approach and
enthusiasm keep songs such as 'King Willy' and 'The Two Sisters'
sounding new and exciting.
Not only are John Thompson and Nicole Murray to be commended for
their adaptation and delivery of traditional songs, but also are
both extremely talented songwriters. Tonight we are treated to Nicole's
'Violet Sarah', which describes a trip on a narrow boat and John's
'The Green Man' and, perhaps the most striking number of the evening,
'The Fiddleship'. The title track to their new album, 'The Fiddleship'
was inspired by a sculpture of Nicole's (who is a talented artist
and sculptor) made of an old fiddle and three tin whistles. Apart
from being another fine example of their rousing hamonies, 'The
Fiddleship' seems to embody Cloudstreet's entire philosophy, highlighting
their passion for the music and memories they have picked up on
their travels. Similarly, their playful, relaxed attitudes are revealed
in John's 'Out On The Highway' sung to the tune of a very well known
Sinatra song and a shameless attempt to sell their camper van before
returning to Australia.
As if Cloudstreet weren't enough, the second half was opened by
the highly esteemed songwriter George Papavgeris, who treated the
audience to a track from his forthcoming album (to be released in
October) before inviting John and Nicole to join him. Cloudstreet
later returned the gesture by asking George to join them on a moving
interpretation of his own song, 'The Mill'.
Overall, The intimate blend of music, friends and family had the
feel of a 'farewell' performace despite having in excess of 20 bookings
still to perform at before their departure back to Australia. Cloudstreet
provided a performance as flawless as their studio recordings but
made even more special by their friendly attitude, witty interjections
and amusing annecdotes. Breath-taking.