The Black Feathers – Stroud Sub Rooms 14th September 2017

Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes aka The Black Feathers are currently taking the ‘Holy Water’ tour across Britain. The last time I reviewed this remarkable duo was at The Convent in 2016. Since then, they have released an EP to add to their repertoire. Their songs draw on past experiences reflecting a challenging lifestyle. A tour of the USA  enabled them to  refine and augment ideas and influences that underpin songs that carry a weight of darkness and unhappiness with a sprinkling of hope. Make no mistake, these are songs to lacerate the soul, as felt in the extraordinary power of the track ‘Holy Water’ breathtaking in its juxtaposition of ideas. There is a genuine authenticity in the recollection of pain experienced and remembered which is then shared through anecdotal narrative.What saves the whole performance from collapsing under its own weight however, is a perfectly judged balance of where and when to add a lighter touch such as adding cover versions of songs like ‘Spirit in the Sky’ or ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ or appreciating Sian’s dry sense of humour.The audience on Thursday was enthralled in every sense of the word, literally held in thrall through exquisite, shimmering harmonies and guitar work that ranged from dangerous to delicate so that applause at the end of each song felt almost intrusive.Thank you Sian and Ray for a thoroughly enjoyable  evening that drew people of all ages together  –  including their youngest fan – a little girl of 18 months.

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