Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Album Review : Shadows & Half Light - Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts****

I saw this folk act supporting the incredible Bellowhead in Barnsley and was rather taken with their gentle and beautiful music.

Katriona plays fiddle, viola, mandolin and guitar, writes music and sings, whilst Jamie adds guitar, vocals, songwriting, banjo, cajon (and I have no idea what this is), drums, percussion, programming and......taa da.....trombone, bloody hell, he's a veritable Roy Castle of a man, you'd half expect him to knock out a tune on a watering can and a length of green hosepipe.

Live, you get a stripped down version, fiddle or mandolin and vocals from Katriona, and a sort of slap / percussive guitar and vocals from Jamie, on the album you get a fuller sound on some of the songs, and either way it works really well.

The album title mirrors the changing nature of the songs on the album itself, you get fairly bouncy, what I'd think of as traditional folk tunes like Middle Of May where Jamie gets to display his trombone talents to good effect. Then there are Jamie's inward looking, contemplative numbers of which Stopped Clock displays another of the duo's traits, their love of complex song arrangements and frequent changes of cadence and flow within a song, there are echoes of the arrangements of Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.

Another high point on the album is the reworking of the Stephen Foster song Oh Susannah, Jamie's percussive guitar work keeps time whilst Katriona softens the lyrics of the original, leaving out some of the nonsense verse (and the racist elements) and creates a really beautiful song redolent of missed chances and wrong turns in the roads of life.

So Long and I Don't Want To Say Goodbye display Jamie's more open lyrical style into which you read as much or as little into them as you wish, his introverted and brooding themes are as a counterpoint to Katriona's more direct storytelling style.

This is fine folk album from a pair of very talented young musicians, it isn't so folky that lovers of other singer - songwriters shouldn't like it, if you appreciate the likes of Sheryl Crow or Alanis Morisette for exampke then you should find something to like here. I'm not comparing them to any of the current well selling crop of US new folk acts such as Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver because to be honest, they're much better than that, they write better songs with better structure.

From the looks of the album cover, this seems to be a self financed cd release with no record company involvement, you can buy this from their website for just £11 including P&P, do it, it's well worth it.

Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts

Update : Katriona & Jamie have produced this album without a record company being involved, good for them, but they do have a distribution deal so you might find the album in your local record shop, if it hasn't shut down already.

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