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Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman
Hattie Briggs, a former nominee for BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Singer stepped away from the second year of a Russian Degree at Oxford in 2014 to pursue a musical career. Her first full CD RED AND GOLD was released on April 6th. Tonight she performed several songs from the CD accompanying herself on guitar and keyboards. Although the keyboards and guitar were very good the outstanding aspects were both as Hattie's voice, powerful, soulful and beautifully clear and crisp and her song writing. Wearing a hat that obscured half her face she made a very self assured and confident entrance, introducing both herself and the songs. She opened with her new single A Beautiful Mind also from RED AND GOLD. A song about Pete Seeger, inspired by a Peggy Seeger remark about Pete saying "I don't write the songs, I only write them down". A change of inspiration for the next song Old Eyes, this time the inspiration being her dog, beautiful lines for such a young song writer, "Old eyes, it's like staring into cloudy skies, and you're all worn, you lie so still when the day is done". More self-penned songs from the CD followed alternating with guitar and keyboards, the CD versions having fuller accompaniment. Pull me Down, an early song about fears of the music industry further demonstrated her song writing talent, " If I get up high, if I get up late, if I change the numbers on my number plate, well I'm not the same, am I". Hattie finished the set with a beautifully delivered cover of Sting's Fields of Gold, Eva Cassidy's version on SONGBIRD the definitive one for many being the inspiration for this. Eva's brother Dan plays and co produces the track on the CD. A very impressive set, hopefully a bright and promising future to come.
With no break in proceedings Kathryn and Sean, former Folk Best Duo came on stage. Setting the tone for much of the night with a traditional song Child Owlet, also the opener on their new CD TOMORROW WILL FOLLOW TODAY. Featuring those ever popular folk music themes of incest, betrayal and being torn apart by wild horses. Changing the mood with an own song 52Hz about a whale who sings in the wrong key and therefore can't attract a mate. This was the night the 7 way political debate took place on TV so a song aptly titled Down Dog! about flawed political ambitions, "with the best education that money can buy, climbing the rungs of the ladder, stepping on fingers and pushing aside". A very spooky, Huldra from 2012's HIDDEN PEOPLE followed, sung acapella with reverb and echo by Kathryn based on a Norwegian folk legend, this song being far more gruesome than the opener. Two traditional songs followed, quite bawdy with lots of double entendres. The mind boggled at their stories of performing The Lusty Smith to their local school's 7 year olds. many of the teachers no doubt feeling somewhat uncomfortable. The set was finished with a song A Song to Live By, so popular with listeners that they have made greeting cards from the lyrics.
The second set opened with Tomorrow Will Follow Today, basically a heartfelt plea to their daughters on how to live their lives. Throughout the show Sean played guitar with Kathryn singing, playing flute and small clarinet and taking off her shoes each time she played the keyboard. Another song followed from the new album, La Moneca (Queen of the Island of Dolls), a true story about a Mexican doll collecting hermit. Going into the back catalogue we had more double entendres with The Buxom Lass, from the imaginatively titled Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman 2. Sean being very careful not to look at Kathryn while announcing this for fear of a 'Travel Lodge Kicking'. A moving song The Ballad of Andy Jacobs based on Kathryn's remembrances of the deep effects of the Miners Strike on her home community. The lyrics now residing in Barnsley Town Museum. Two more traditionals followed, the latter being the very saucy Tudor song The Banishing Book, Kathryn having cleaned up this rather racy song, it being so ribald, 'She opened wide her banishing book and laid her leaves apart'. They apparently have an offer to perform this in Henry VIII's Hampton Court bed chamber. A clarinet intro took us into the last song proper of the set, Rusalka, a song about an evil Russian mermaid written to educate their daughters that not all mythological mermaids are lovely like Disney characters.
For an encore we had The Wisdom of Standing Still from HIDDEN PEOPLE an apt song to finish the night, all about taking a moment to stop, think and appreciate the world, "Sit down, Take a Deep breath, forget about climbing your hill". An excellent night's entertainment. I was so glad I didn't stay in for the political debate.