A bona fide folk feast took place at the Hare and Hounds last night, with the audience taken aboard Alessi’s Ark for an evening of tall tales and soothing sounds.
Kicking off with Birmingham’s own Cannon Street; the teenage sisters Nadi and Rukaiyah Qazi immediately arrest the room with their beguiling vocal harmony, evoking another pair of sisters, Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Their sibling chemistry and sweeping vocals make them compelling to watch, stand out track St Mary’s View capturing their craft nicely.
Up next is Ralfe Band who also perform as a duo, yet between them they still get guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, trumpet and even some washboard in their set. Providing a gruffer, more earthy counterpoint to the sweetness of the other bands on the bill, their bounce is caught perfectly in opening song and latest single Come On Go Wild.
By the time Alessi’s Ark (the chosen moniker of London singer-songwriter Alessi Laurent-Marke and her band) take to the stage, the audience - casually scattered around tables and chairs - are soothed and silent.
Alessi’s set, drawing heavily from her just-released third album The Still Life, features her breathy vocals backed with a rich, full-band sound, as well as some solo acoustic numbers. The short length of her songs means she has time for well over a dozen.
Slipping between French and English vocals, opening song Sans Balance is a treat, as are Big Dipper, The Rain, The Robot and her cover of The National’s Afraid of Everyone.
At only 22, her onstage presence could still be described as shy, yet the wit and charm shown in her lyrics shine through as she relaxes.
“I’m doing exactly as I please,” she sings on Veins Are Blue, and a joy it is to see and hear. Alessi’s Ark will return to Birmingham in August for Moseley Folk Festival.