Nov./Dec. 2004

Sahra Featherstone and Fig for a Kiss
November 9, 2004Honey Supper loungeToronto

If you can imagine the elegant voice of the Irish harp tinkling delicate and crisp above the deep velvet bowed tones of the double bass, you'll have some idea of the scene at the Honey Supper Lounge in Toronto, where a fresh young Celtic group called Fig for a Kiss was billed last night.

When this reporter arrived only two-thirds of the band announced they would be playing the first set: Sahra Featherstone on the Irish harp and Joe Phillips on doublebass. The bar was crowded with singles making their chatter; the waiter was showing a red wine bottle nestled in a white napkin to a table for two, and there were a dozen folks looked like an office party near the window of the dark wood panelled room enjoying their racks of lamb.

It was like a medieval court dining hall where the nobles wassailed while the troubadours made music in the background. All that was missing were the huge mastiffs gnawing bones under the table. But if you could listen while you sipped your drink, as I did, you'd know the music was special and gorgeous: like a tapestry dark and rich with feelings sketched in threads of silver and gold, like an intimation of heaven on earth.

Many of the tunes played by the abbreviated band were from Sahra Featherstone's eponymous first album, my favourite being the blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan's (1670-1738) "Clergyman's Lament." The music of minstrelsy these two played, though without lyrics, and unfamiliar to me, sounded like they were memorializing experiences of doomed love and doomed gallantry. Two of Sahra's modern arrangements of traditional tunes, the slip jig "Funky Butterfly", and the hornpipe "King of the Fairies" are skilled and lovely work. Her own writing, "Joshua" and "Sage" are elegant compositions.This album is really listening music for a quiet contemplative time, but I'd happily have it sparkle behind a decent dinner with friends.
Report and photograph by Stanley Fefferman
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