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David Craft

David CraftBen Witt/Hayley Beth/Rabbit Island
The Bird
Saturday, March 22, 2014

Upon a stage illuminated by many shades of red, a trademark of many a gig at the Bird, David Craft launched his EP Smokey Lungs & Dirty Puns to a full house, all packed cosily together in an intimate, candle-lit atmosphere.

Kicking things off was local guitar maestro Ben Witt, with a sound that could be described as a cross between folk with experimental. The rhythm of his repertoire had an almost improvised, yet organic feel to it. The feedback was quite ear-ringing, but that was more owing to the rather compact space. Despite this, it didn’t detract from the quality of his set and he drew quite an audience.

Hayley Beth then came on. The duo act provided a rather minimalist set, with only keys and a guitar for instruments, but they played second fiddle to Beth’s powerful southern-esque drawl. In The Bird’s tiny space there was plenty of distortion from the feedback, which drowned the vocals.

Rabbit Island gave the audience a break from the loud, giving them a set that was more chilled out and mellow. Audience interaction was kept at a minimal, letting the music do the talking. Their lead singer Amber’s quiet, sonorous voice, flecked with a poetic quality and combined with the rich ambient soundscape, was definitely a soothing, calming change of pace. Each instrument the band possessed made its presence heard. About halfway, Amber traded the synth for an acoustic and finished the set with it.

The man of hour then came on and boy, does Craft knows how to put on a show. Playing songs from the EP, including the titular track, the vibe was reminiscent of old school folk, and the songs proved to be quite danceable in the gently-sway-away kind of way. Craft’s deep smoky, throaty and sometimes angry vocals belie his tall, lanky stature. He wouldn’t have been out of a place in a saloon. The band that backed him up showed plenty of enthusiasm. In between tracks, banter was also provided, with one member of the band regaling the crowd with a story about Craft’s transition from vegetarianism to carnivore. A highlight from his set was the band’s cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, for which Hayley Beth was brought on the stage to provide that trademark drawl. To close the set, his band ramped up the tempo and the volume loud enough for it to reverberate throughout the entire front room, as if Craft had crossed into the folk version of raising the amps to 11.

CLAYTON LIN

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