Photo © Elize Strydom Courtesy of Faith Lee
Faith Lee with The Campervan Dancers and The Wild Comforts
12th August 2012, The Vanguard
Faith Lee’s new EP Damascus has taken a while to get to us. From conception through to recording with Bill Chambers, mixing with Mark Myers and then finally being unleashed onto the world last month, Damascus has been two years in the making. So it was with a sense of relief and joy that Faith Lee was able to climb on stage at The Vanguard in Sydney and launch Damascus to a crowd of adoring friends, family and supporters.
When I arrived at the Vanguard I was treated to the lilting sounds of local folk duo The Campervan Dancers, a band I had been hearing good things about but hadn’t managed to catch live yet. The Campervan Dancers is the project of singer-songwriters Chelsea Gibson and Ryan Collings who on this night were performing without the rest of their band. Together these guys make beautiful folk music with Gibson in particular demonstrating her amazing voice. I was most impressed when they produced a harmonium for one of their songs – you can’t get much more folk than that. And when they finished on an acoustic version of Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful” (youtube video here) you couldn’t help but fall in love with these guys.
The Wild Comforts were a different kettle of fish altogether. I’d never heard their music prior to this gig so had absolutely no expectations coming into it. What I was greeted with was a wall of sound that sat somewhere between rockabilly, country and grunge. Seriously. And I was wrapped from the moment The Wild Comforts started playing because the sound was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Sure, the lead vocals of Joshua Deeble weren’t always pitch perfect and the noise created by Riley Phillips on electric guitar, Kalebh Deeble on bass and Ben Drane on drums meant that I didn’t catch a single lyric but the sound these guys were creating was exciting, new and captivating. Add to that their self-depricating banter (“that’s the most claps we’ve ever got” or “drink up – you need to listening to us”) and I was pretty enamored with these guys. Favourite track? “Kill Bill Vol. 1”.
At first I thought Faith Lee’s band was doing a final soundcheck as they milled around the stage but when pianist Emma Brown started playing the opening chords of “Waiting for the Day” and the lights started coming up I realised Faith Lee was about to begin. The rest of the audience started to cotton-on as well and by the time Lee and the rest of her band entered the stage and launched into the song the crowd was whooping and hollering.
What followed was an absolutely wonderful set from an artist I have become infatuated with over the last little while. Her music – the affected, country influenced vocals, the complex lyrical structure, the melodies overlaid with banjo, mandolin and more – is just captivating. And given her easy stage presence and the rapport she has with her band (probably because most of them are related to her) this was the kind of gig I wish wouldn’t end.
Damascus is only five tracks long so Faith Lee filled her set out with songs from it and others which are yet to be recorded. Her band, made up of Brown on keys, Lee’s sister Raechel Whitchurch on vocals, banjo and mandolin, her brother Jarod Lee on drums and her brother-in-law Ben Whitchurch on bass, were superb despite Faith Lee’s insistence that she only used them because they were free. They managed to fill out her sound while still ensuring her lyrics could be appreciated.
From the set my favourite tracks included “Golden Girl”, “Life Long Friend” and “I Could Not”. But the highlight was when Faith Lee invited her other sister Savannah and her parents on stage to reform their “family band” The Lees for a song – the harmonies were just exquisite and you could tell they were just having a ball. And Faith? Savannah Lee has an amazing voice – you should look out!
I didn’t want the night to end but as Faith Lee performed her encore I realised it must. If her EP and live show is anything to go by Faith Lee has a bright future ahead of her. If you get the chance make sure you see Faith Lee live – you’ll be glad you did.