Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, Turners Hill House Concerts (West Sussex, UK April 13th 2013)
Best Duo nominees in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and Spiral Earth Awards, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts played the Turners Hill House Concert series – this is one of my favourite venues in which to listen to live music because it is such an intimate setting. In fact, this evening was cosier than usual as the hosts had managed to overbook the show and even though, as we all settled in, it was a little reminiscent of the party game ‘musical chairs’ it nevertheless made for another delightful evening.
Gilmore and Roberts met in 2006 whilst studying at Leeds University, released their first album in 2008 and have gone on to release two more, all to critical acclaim. The pair is forging a path in the contemporary folk scene, here in the UK, and having watched and listened to them it is easy to see why they have attracted so much attention and favourable reviews.
Tonight, Gilmore, in husky tones, explained that as she was suffering from problems with her voice, her vocal parts would be sung by their good friend Michelle Plum (Plumhall, Chumbawamba). The songs Gilmore and Roberts play sees them alternate on taking the lead vocal as well as playing some instrumentals and that was the pattern throughout the night’s two sets. It made for a well-chosen blend as they also interjected the songs/tunes with stories explaining their provenance.
Roberts, on guitar, has a style rarely seen in as much as he uses the guitar as a percussion instrument as well as a string instrument. His lap-tapping guitar combined with Gilmore’s turns on fiddle or mandolin meant that they created not only the folk sound that they are best known for but also some bluegrass and acoustic rock orientated stylings.
Inspiration for their song writing comes from sources as varied as childhood games in Punch and Chase, lazy undergraduates in So Long, satellite navigation systems in Silver Screen, and a regular customer at a Subway store Roberts worked at to help fund his University studies in Louis Was a Boxer. Particular highlights were Letters written by Gilmore in tribute to her Danish great grandmother who was a BBC World Service announcer during the second world war and Doctor James their award-winning song about army surgeon Doctor ‘James’ Barry, a female masquerading as a male in order to pursue a career path, not then open to women. I had read Rachel Holmes’ book Scanty Particulars: The Scandalous Life and Astonishing Secret of James Barry, Queen Victoria’s Most Eminent Military Doctor some years ago and it is a fascinating tale.
Gilmore and Roberts accompanied by Plum, showed why their passion for stories combined with their musicality has seen them receive so much critical acclaim as well as an invitation (in 2011) to tour with the legendary folk group Fairport Convention. Their Spring tour continues until mid May after which they hit the folk festival scene – they will capture even more hearts and minds, no doubt about it! Jela Webb
Photo credit: Elizabeth Molineux, 2013