Coracle – 24th November 2022

It’s a Thursday evening during the early stages of the controversial Fifa World Cup 2022 held in Qatar. Brazil are playing Serbia and win 2-0, both goals by Richarlison, one of which is a wonderful overhead kick. Meanwhile, in little old Baston, we’re in for an even better treat. Coracle have turned up!

Coracle are a new creation, unlike the small, rounded, lightweight boat of the same name that has been around for centuries. In fact the trio has only been together a short while and may be the only good thing to have come out of the recent Covid-19 lockdown. However, I’m sure they won’t mind that I write that the three individual component parts have been around for a while. However I’m only familiar with one of them – Paul Hutchinson – who has been to Baston many times before.

Paul is a BBC Folk Award Best Live Artist nominee with the duo Belshazzar’s Feast, along with the late, lamented Paul Sartin. He is a much-feted accordion player and teacher. Karen Wimhurst is a clarinet player influenced by traditional, jazz and contemporary classical music and Anna Tam adds nyckelharpa, viola da gamba, hurdy-gurdy and cello alongside what is described as a “gin pure” voice.

The first set opens, appropriately enough, with Paul playing a tribute to Paul Sartin who died a mere two months ago. The two knew and played with each other for 28 years. It is testament to Paul that he is fondly remembered across the folk live venue spectrum, from lowly clubs such as Baston right up to major national venues such as the Royal Albert Hall where Bellowhead performed earlier this month. Paul Sartin was a key constituent of this folk supergroup juggernaut.

Paul Whitehead
Paul Whitehead

The balance between the three musicians is excellent. Paul sits centrally, like the body of the bird while, on either side, Anna and Karen provide the wings, swooping and soaring with a variety of instruments and sounds. I found myself mesmerised by their fingers – superb playing.

Anna Tam
Anna Tam

Anna is a revelation. I particularly enjoyed her nyckelharpa and viola da gamba playing in addition to her clear confident singing. I particularly enjoyed her version of Fakenham Fair, available on her recent album, Hatching Hares. Karen appears to be the most jazz-influenced of the three. Her playing gives the trio additional depth – some of the compositions remind me of Penguin Café Orchestra at their best. Paul is the ‘folk glue’. He is the player, the teacher, the main narrator, the king of the cheeky stage aside, the man with the hair! What’s not to like?

Karen Wimhurst
Karen Wimhurst

Coracle’s music is a dazzling array of different timings and rhythms. Trying to keep up with a piece played in 15/8 timing is hard enough, even though they explained it to us!

In short, Coracle are a delight. Their proficiency and range makes them suitable for a wide range of audiences, from mainstream Radio 2, through more intellectual and complex Radio 3, to exposure and discussion of their music on Radio 4. They would also be perfect for a cameo slot on one of Jools Holland’s TV shows. Their strength is their individual differences which blend together into an extremely listenable whole.

I drove home to watch the highlights of the day’s World Cup matches with the memory of such a good night of music. I’m so glad I went to Baston, it was just like watching Brazil.