Monday, January 23, 2012


Tonight’s gig opened with Jo Gillot playing finger picked acoustic folk-blues that sang of red and grey squirrels, travelling rafts and the stealing rich in sweet and crystal clear tones. She may have been using a borrowed guitar (“mine’s in Preston”) but if she hadn’t told us, I don’t think anyone would have been the wiser. Lovely stuff played to a sold out crowd at this Imploding Inevitable Festival Night.

By the time Emily and the Faves took the stage, things were definitely cosy if not imploding. The four-piece play a punchy psyche-pop – a limber and funky rhythm section given an added emphatic thump from a single band member dedicated to percussion and backing vocals. Over the top, Emily Lansley (one third of Stealing Sheep in a different life) plays guitar that alternated between rapid pop strumming and languid psychedelic twang, all delivered with precision and confidence. It was odd then that Emily was less confident between songs – checking the sound levels, apologising for consulting a hand-written set-list and confessing to have forgotten to bring any of their CDs to sell (a shame because I had cash in hand). A beat group for Liverpool to be proud of.

Tonight was part of a short tour marking the release of Laura J Martin’s debut album “The Hangman Tree”. Having repeatedly missed her at Green Man festival for the last two years it was a delight to catch her in somewhere as intimate as the packed upstairs room of Dulcimer. Also having not seen her live I wasn’t sure what to expect – solo performance or large backing band? Laura was accompanied by Pete Williams on drums but only for three songs. For the remainder she played on flute, mandolin or keyboards expanding the sound through live looping or pre-programmed backing tracks. The effect – with projected backdrop – was nothing less than stunning.

Opening with instrumental ‘Doki Doki’, Martin showed off both her skills on the flute and the looping stations, adding in layers of sound with a stockinged foot whilst hardly pausing for breath during highly animated playing. Following songs saw her seated at the keyboard or switching between mandolin and flute – often in the same song. She may be a diminutive figure but alone on stage she is a powerful presence. Songs were given an extra theatricality through hand gestures, rolled shoulders and hip shimmies, or wielding the flute like a Kendo baton, repeatedly punching it towards the audiences. Nine songs including an encore sounds a slender set but it felt rich given the variety of instrumentation and the swing from the quiet (‘Tom’) to loud (‘Spy’) plus a new song too in ‘Sour Grapes’.

The final song of the main set was ‘Salamander’ which on the album is sung with Euros Childs – I can think of no higher compliment than to say tonight he was not missed. The song finished with solitary repeated notes on the mandolin and a dramatic flourish and then silence – spell-binding. The encore was a Kathy Smith cover (“discovered thanks to Andy Votel’s ‘Folk is a Four Letter Word’ compilation”). I don’t know the original but Laura J Martin made it sound convincingly like her own. A very talented woman. Her album alone is worth chasing down. But finally based on experience I can say that seeing Laura J Martin live is equally essential.

The Set List:

Doki Doki
The Lesson
Fire Horse
Sour Grapes
It’s Taking So Long

No comments: