Fly My Pretties is the collective of New Zealand musicians overseen by Black Seeds frontman Barnaby Weir. As the title indicates, this is their fourth instalment. The line-up changes with every release and this time it features, along with Weir and a few of his Black Seeds cohorts, Cairo Knife Fight’s Aaron Tokona, The Nudge’s Ryan Prebble and solo artists Anna Coddington, Flip Grater, L.A. Mitchell and Eva Prowse, among others.
As usual, this project resulted from a series of live performances. The musicians gathered together last year bringing a couple of new songs each with them. After workshopping them, they set out on the road, playing eight shows throughout New Zealand (and one in Melbourne) in November of 2011. This CD/DVD package is the result of that tour, featuring 16 songs performed live, recorded at various venues.
The DVD features the live performances enhanced by the graphic artwork/animation of NZ artist Flux (aka Hayley King). Having animation running throughout the live performances could be intrusive, but Flux’s work seems to integrate nicely with the songs and the vibe, improving on the overall viewing experience.
The program begins with Barnaby Weir fronting the band, singing a pair of his own compositions. Doorstep Blues is a heavy blues-rocker, while Dr. Plum is a more whimsical number featuring a slight reggae beat. Age Pryor takes the opportunity to turn out some weird, wicked guitar licks and the animation is particularly strong, featuring vintage NZ stamps.
The mood turns to a more singer-songwriter mode with a couple of tunes from L.A. Mitchell. Both songs are strong, with the lyrics to Apple Heart floating by in ribbon of animation.
Singer/guitarist Amiria Grenell continues the mood with an ethereal, hypnotic Three Feathers, featuring some fine violin playing by Eva Prowse.
Flip Grater is up next. Her I Am Gone is a highlight of the set. Prebble’s slide guitar and Justin Firefly Clarke’s bowed banjo mesh beautifully with Grater’s seductive vocal, giving the track a Lynchian quality about it. Clarke follows with his own slow, reflective tune, Please, that finds the entire group harmonizing.
Anna Coddington has never really impressed me as a solo artist, and she fails to change my mind here with her Underneath The Stars, although she does contribute some dazzling backing vocals throughout the show.
Eva Prowse’s Space Cadet shows off her strong voice. Age Pryor’s Folding Over lightens the mood and Barnaby Weir returns to the mic for a very nice slice of alt.country in the form of Journey’s End.
Guitarist Ryan Prebble also takes center stage for Hit The Hay, a driving rocker featuring a skittering synth part.
Kora’s Fran Kora get in touch with his inner Marvin Gaye on the soulful Am I Gonna Make It, then Aaron Tokona closes things out with an epic guitar-based riff-rocker, Ode To The Wind. It’s the kind of jam-based track that looks like it is more fun to play than to listen to.
The entire cast takes part in Tokona’s Turnaround, another seemingly endless jam that finds everyone grooving on a single riff.
This is my first encounter with the Fly My Pretties projects. I was afraid it would be loaded with the type of jam-based grooves that closed out the show, but was pleasantly surprised to find it mostly song-based. And that most of these new songs turned out to be well worth hearing.
The production value of the video shoot is top notch and, as I said before, the animation enhances, rather that detracts from the musical performances. There are a couple of bonus clips on the DVD with some back-stage footage and a photo gallery. Good stuff.
Click here to watch Fly My Pretties perform Doorstep Blues: