Review: Stornoway****

At The Cockpit, Leeds

On the face of it, a band named after a Hebridean town featured on TV weather reports, which includes a bunch of Oxford University graduates, among them a zoologist, probably

shouldn't work.

But Stornoway are not your average indie-folk band. As well as being talented multi-instrumentalists – between them they play everything from the piano to the banjo, they are remarkably gifted songwriters.

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Their debut album, Beachcomber's Windowsill, was released this year to almost universal acclaim, drawing favourable comparison with Belle and Sebastian and Nick Drake, among others.

There is a child-like exuberance to their lyrics, while the music peaks and troughs amid a harmonious sea of swelling strings and acoustic guitars.

They are greeted onstage at the legendary Cockpit with the kind of fervour normally reserved for music royalty, whose ranks they are surely destined to join. Led by the almost apologetic singer and guitarist Brian Briggs they kick off with the plaintive Coldharbour Road, taking the audience for a lovelorn walk along the shoreline.

Stornoway inhabit a world of young love, loss and sun-drenched mornings but there is a poignancy to their songs that prevents them becoming schmaltzy. They meander their way merrily through their small, but hook-laden, catalogue, with each song accompanied by an audience chorus.

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The highlight, for me at least, was the acoustic version of We Are The Battery Human, a brilliant bluegrass-tinged ditty, which they played to quiet perfection. They close their one-hour set with the crowd-pleasing single, Zorbing, which turns into yet another effusive sing-along.

This is a band destined for greatness and on such a blustery autumnal night like this, they warm the cockles of your heart.

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