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Emily Barker and Gill Sandell

The Met, Bury, Lancs
Friday 27 March 2015

with support Ciaran Lavery

A sell out crowd at Bury Met, Studio Theatre for Emily and Gill with support from Northern Irish singer Ciaran Lavery. 

With no announcement or introduction Ciaran Lavery walked to the microphone and sang the Tom Waits song If I Had to Go acapella style smoothly segueing it by guitar into another song which had the same feel. His deep husky voice demanding complete attention to the point where you could have heard an ice cube swirling around a glass. Audience attention fixed we got a brief self intro before he launched into Dylan's Copper Kettle, albeit a lot slowed down and more in keeping with a Tom Waits/Ryan Adams version than the song from SELF PORTRAIT. A Dylanesque style harmonica intro into Ciaran's song Shame from his debut album NOT NEARLY DARK followed. Shame has had several million streams on Spotify. In addition to that Ciaran is also currently on Radio 1's playlist with his collaboration with Ryan Vail The Colour Blue.

Ciaran was relaxed and very quietly spoken in between songs being appreciative of the attentive audience and mainly telling stories rather than selling himself. He performed his own compositions Little More Time from NOT NEARLY DARK then a wonderful new as yet unrecorded song Tell Them All which along with others will hopefully be released later this year, featuring some great lines of advice from his father "Never raise a glass to someone's sorrow, you never talk about tomorrow". Ciaran says he is bad at self advertising but talent like this really deserves to be heard and promoted. With the amount of on line attention he is enjoying word is obviously getting around. His website says ‘Alt-folk troubadour Ciaran Lavery has channelled the quiet despair of isolation into timeless songs of beauty and heartache’. It is an accurate quote. Ciaran played  Left for America, the opening track from his latest EP KOSHER, another song that has been streamed by the millions. As with the set's opening song an unannounced acapella version of Bonny Prince Billy's Careless Love closed the set to very appreciative applause. Certainly a  name and talent to look out for in the future. He is being tipped by many for great things. Check out Ciarans website for examples of his material. 

After the interval Emily  introduced and herself and Gill Sandell. For me this was the first time of seeing Emily and Gill without the full Red Clay Halo so a different , more stripped back feel to the songs without Jo Silverston's Cello and Anna Jenkin's Violin and Viola. From memory the last time they played Bury was 2011. Gill on Accordion, guitar and flutes and Emily on guitar, harmonica and stomp box produce a full sound. I always think the more stripped back the song the more the lyrics can come to the fore, less distractions. The show started with Little Deaths followed by the by the well known and multi award winning Nostalgia, the theme tune for TV's WALLANDER featuring Kenneth Branagh. Emily talked about her forthcoming album THE TOERAG SESSIONS which features some re workings of songs from Emily's first band The Low Country. Songs from all Emily's past albums were played. The first song featured from THE TOERAG SESSIONS was a song about Emily's Grandfather, Lord I Want an Exit, nicely duetted vocally by Gill and some very pleasant harmonica from Emily. Another Grandfather inspired song Letters from DEAR RIVER followed with Emily switching to electric guitar. A brand new song Stockholm Down Below co written with Eric Palmqwist featured Gill on Accordion, Emily having written most of this song on the plane to Stockholm while seeing the beautiful frozen Swedish landscape from the air. It should appear on a solo project later in the year. Last year Emily wrote the soundtrack for Hec McAdam, a film starring Peter Mullan and Keith Allen. The film's theme tune Anywhere Away is  another from THE TOERAG SESSIONS, it tells the story of Hec McAdam and his exploits mainly between Glasgow and London. Another family inspired song from Emily's childhood, a cover of Springsteens Tougher Than the Rest, it apparently being one of the few songs that Emily's full family all liked particularly on 12 hour Australian car journeys. Total change of pace after that with the upbeat tempo of Blackbird from PHOTOS, FIRES,FABLES. The rocker of the night was Ghost Narrative which was inspired by a conversation and walk with a native Australian.

This was followed by what is pretty much a tradition for Emily's support artists. Ciaran was welcomed back to the stage to take part in an argument with Emily in the 'light hearted murder ballad' Fields of June, each singing alternate verses. Ciaran produced a very spirited male role for the song, Gills Accordion romping along with Emily's guitar and harmonica and the combined vocals. The show proper finished with Disappear which is always a crowd favourite, again this stomped along in very upbeat fashion. 

The first encore was a much slower Homefires a new song written in Nashville for a project with Amy Speace and Amber Rubarth, all recorded around one mike in true bluegrass fashion. Again it is hoped for release later in the year. This was performed by Emily on guitar. Gill was then welcomed back on stage. They had a chat about their tour so far and finished the night with a rousing version of Calendar from ALMANAC. Although not featured on the night Gill Sandell's own music is well worth checking out. She has a new CD WALK AWAY, WALK AWAY with Chris T-T. An excellent night and as always when Terry is at the board excellent sound quality. Little wonder that The Met , Bury is such a popular venue for artists and audiences alike. 

Keith Belcher
Northern Sky