Rychard Carrington reports on Faustus – The Junction, Cambridge, 24 September 2009

Junction 2, The
Faustus are a proudly traditional folk band, featuring illustrious young luminaries Paul Sartin (fiddle and oboe), Benji Kirkpatrick (guitar and bouzouki) and Saul Rose (melodeon). All three also sing. Paul Sartin and Benji Kirkpatrick were formerly in Dr. Faustus (1998-2005) and are both members of the enormously - and deservedly - successful Bellowhead. Saul Rose plays with Waterson Carthy. Benji Kirkpatrick is John Kirkpatrick's son, and Saul Rose is Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson's son-in-law. So now you know (if you didn't already). Oh, and new drummer Pete Flood (also a Bellowhead) joined them halfway through the set, expanding the musical texture nicely.

Together they play English folk music with virtuosity, sensitivity, power and passion. Unadulterated trad English doesn't get performed much better than this. Their style is classic folk club. There's nothing about them that wouldn't have gone down well on the folk scene forty years ago, apart from maybe the backdrop picture of the band looking like fashion models, which, refreshingly, Faustus mocked remorselessly themselves.

English folk music - the same old tales of tragedy: poverty, injustice, infidelity, revenge, death, press gangs etc. What a miserable old life folks had in the past. The best they could do was record the tales in song, and compose some jolly tunes to keep people's peckers up (our three players each composed tunes that were faithful to the tradition). Like many folksingers, Faustus made a recurrent joke of how bleak their subject matter was, and indeed there was a marked contrast between their light banter and the seriousness of both their material and their evident dedication to the folk tradition. And it is rather strange, being entertained by these tales of gruesome misfortune. Partly the entertainment lies in the sheer quality of musical performance, but also one likes to think that there are at least traces of humane empathy with our forebears. They had their tribulations, and their defiant joys, and we have ours too. They enjoyed ther folk music, and we enjoy ours. Faustus's folk is a living tribute - faithful yet still vital.

Writer: Rychard Carrington