Barker-Turner Overdrive: An Evening of Duets at the Tunbridge Wells Forum online
There was a party on Thursday night as Tunbridge Wells Forum featured an evening of superb duets by Emily Barker and Frank Turner. Accompanied by musicians Matt Nasir, Lukas Drinkwater, Jess Guise and the Carducci Quartet (strings), the gig was like an intimate get-together among friends: informal, fun and improvisational – a relaxed approach made excellent by the quality of the music.
Combining country, folk, some classics by icons like David Bowie, Freddy Mercury and Elton John, and original songs by the duo, the concert was affectionately brimming with familiar tunes made fresh and new by the talented artists.
Barker and Turner opened the show with the John Prine country ditty In Spite of Ourselves, an amusing piece with bawdy lyrics. Wheels and White Lines followed, with its sweet, innocent tone and words – a combination of bluegrass and English folk, written by Barker for the film Hector. Originally sung by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, the vintage Golden Rings was impeccably sung, beautifully harmonised classic country, here accompanied by the other musicians.
With Barker on harmonica, Turner on guitar, plus keyboard, “bull fiddle” (double bass) and tambourine, Jackson (Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood) was outstandingly performed RnB/country. A gentle, soulful, moving Love Hurts followed (an Everly Brothers original), introducing the Carducci Quartet.
Under Pressure, made famous by David Bowie and Freddy Mercury, opened with double bass and strings, and was sung with wonderful innovative multi-range vocals. Rewritten as folk for his release No Man’s Land, Silent Key was penned by Turner to honour Christa McAuliffe, an astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger disaster. The lyrics to this well-executed piece are extraordinary and heartrending. Fields of Dew began with scintillating strings then a lovely duet, and included Barker sounding Bob Dylan-esque on banjo and harmonica.
Barker crooned with a voice made for country music, while Turner sounded like James Taylor in his work Old Flames, a dynamic love song that was originally scrapped then recently released. The well-known Islands in the Stream, written by The Bee Gees for Marvin Gaye and sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, was classic country-rock, excellently harmonised by the duo. Elton John’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart followed – well done and sounding true to the original.
With Barker homesick for Australia and Turner invoking Clive James’s poetry, Bound for Home was played for the first time. Written by both artists on a London rooftop, the result is haunting and exceptional. As an upbeat finale, Long-Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man by Johnny Cash was a vivacious, rollicking bluegrass oldie that concluded this terrific show with humour and fun.
Brilliant musicians and phenomenal songwriters, Emily Barker and Frank Turner are fantastic as a duo. Barker’s voice is amazing and Turner is an exceptional talent. Cheerful, uplifting and brimming with laughter, this performance was the kind of event that is much-needed during these tough times – as impressive as it was entertaining and joyful.
For further information and future events visit Emily Barker’s website here.