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Review: Winter Mountain at Exeter Phoenix

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 07, 2014

By Drustan Durman

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The last time I saw Lukas Drinkwater he was playing bass for 3 Daft Monkeys to a crowded and energetic room. Tonight he’s the support act for an incredibly intimate gig, the first seated gig I’ve been to at the Exeter Phoenix. His solo material is completely different from the Monkeys, with spellbinding guitar work featuring beautiful fingerpicking with harmonics and courageous runs (a style stolen, he confesses cheerfully, from his hero John Martyn). In one song, Swallow, he manages to make the guitar sound almost like a harp. Mostly original songs, he throws in a couple of covers (one Martyn song, one traditional folk song). Living in Exeter, he plays many pub gigs around the city, so keep an eye out, and if you get a chance, go and see him!

From spellbinding guitar work, headline act Winter Mountain transport the audience to spellbinding vocals, as Joe Francis and Marty Smyth weave mesmerising and enchanting harmonies. The duo started out having met by chance travelling America, and having been signed to Charcoal Records (run by Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman) have recorded one album and played a host of support gigs (Seth Lakeman and Mad Dog McRea amongst others). This is their first ‘headline’ tour, and unlike the last time I saw them, they kept it to just the two of them, one guitar, two well matched voices, and no band.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing them with their band a few weeks back, but seeing the two of them stripped right down was a magical experience. Their friendly personalities come across better, as the two take turns telling stories between songs, and Marty asking the audience for a volunteer to send his Mum back home in Donegal a postcard, and without the band behind them, the power of their combined voices is exposed to enthral the listener; Joe’s higher, clear voice taking the lead with perfectly judged backing by Marty’s deeper, more mellow tones in a style reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel with tinges of Turin Brakes.

After this tour, and a summer of festivals, Winter Mountain are planning another tour around November time. I for one will be watching for their return.

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