Wednesday, 25 February 2015

KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN

Live Review

Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham

With their second album under their belt since their family raising kept then off the live circuit, Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman are now well and truly back into their stride of touring and putting on superb entertainment. 

Sean Lakeman & Kathryn Roberts
The husband and wife team are traversing the country on the back of their much anticipated album, Tomorrow Will Follow Today, which has now been released.
They kicked off the gig at the cosy King's Heath venue with the single from the album, Child Owlet, with Lakeman guitar in hand champing at the bit to get going, and launching into providing the rhythm which pushed his wife's strong voice along.
Barnsley migrant Roberts has a gorgeously stylistic voice which borders on the operatic at times. She invests such emotion into songs such as 52 hertz which is about a whale - almost a fetish of hers - and Standing At My Window, where you get the first taste of just how haunting her voice can be.
Lakeman is so in tune with his wife he knows perfectly when to be very subtle with his backing music and when to hammer in and drive the narrative. It's akin to an art form watching them perform together.
The Red Barn was one of the narrative songs they performed with Roberts, when she wasn't singing, bringing out her flute to add highlights to her husband's guitar playing. For someone who looks and dresses so feminine, she has a penchant for 50s style frocks, she has a ribald side and seems to enjoy indulging in saucy lyrics such as the Lusty Smith or trying her best to scare the pants off her audience with haunting songs such as the Huldra, adding to the atmosphere by singing it a Capella.
Money or Jewels was another from their back catalogue of the previous album Hidden People and they followed this with the traditional Whitby Maid, from their 2 album, before ending the first half of the concert with Roberts' favourite and emotionally loaded track, A Song To Live By, from the latest album. Lakeman took an early break and left his wife to sing the song accompanying herself on the piano. The track does have shades of Eva Cassidy's version of Fields of Gold.
They opened the second half of the show on the run with Lakeman bluesing up his guitar for the title track from Tomorrow Will Follow Today, where Roberts showed the depth and soul she has in her voice, before going back to their album 1 for the ballad Joe Peel.
Their new album
Unfortunately here she was competing against nature as part of the L-shaped concert area is under a perspex roof and when the rain hammers down, which it did for much of the second half, it sounds like someone has left a giant kettle switched on. This was also the case with the song about the miners' strike The Ballad of Andy Jacobs, it was no ones fault and nothing could be done about it but if you were sitting under the plastic it did distract from Roberts' singing.
Thankfully it had eased off as they both picked up the pace with Robber Bridegroom which is another song that showcases how well they complement each other, with Lakeman's strumming, on his champagne soaked guitar - you had to be there - driving Roberts sharp lyrics along. She once again indulged in another of the bawdy songs, The Banishing Book, she seems to add that little bit more enthusiasm for such songs, perhaps it's keeping alive the rebellious nature with which folk music is supposed to be infused.
Almost at the end of the set they laid Rusalka, a dark tale of mermaids, on the crowd which is another of those songs they seem to delight in and is designed to send the audience to bed looking over their shoulders and checking the dark corners before going to sleep.
It was Roberts at her best, her haunting lyrics having just enough of a scary edge almost like a witch queen from a Disney film theatrically gliding around and sending her warning to her potential victims. You have been warned!