On a freezing cold night, with the imminent threat of heavy snow forecast for London, it was a pleasant surprise to see a healthy crowd at this wonderful venue.   

Opening the evening’s entertainment was 25 year old Edinburgh born Roseanne Reid. Roseanne had released a four track EP ‘Right on Time‘ some four years ago, but only recently, felt the time was right to start writing and recording for her kickstarter funded debut album ‘Trails‘, due for release in the summer. 

In a 45 minute 12+ song set, drew mainly from her upcoming album, Roseanne took us through a varied performance. From upbeat catchy numbers to heartfelt love songs, including an almost tangible, emotion filled number written for her partner (now her wife), called ‘I Love Her So’. There were touches of humour throughout her performance, especially when she introduced the hauntingly soft slow number ‘Amy’, written 6 or 7 years ago about a girl she met in college, called….Charlotte! (The name was changed to protect her identity). 

She held the audience captive with her performance of ‘What I’ve Done’, which was written after she found out she had been nominated for a Radio 2 folk award, but didn’t think she was ‘Folk’ enough! She has some noted names behind her, including Teddy Thompson, (who produced her album), and Steve Earle, with whom she has recorded a duet ‘Sweet Annie‘ – not the Zac Brown song though! Another standout cover was Justin Townes Earle’s ‘Ain’t Waitin’.

                                     

With her ‘edgy’ Scottish gravel-like vocals, (which she inherited from her father, Craig Reid of The Proclaimers),  perfectly suited to this type of Americana singing, Roseanne is certainly an outstanding talent, and one I predict we will be hearing a lot more of this year. 

With 14 studio albums stretching back to 1984, Kathy Mattea can easily be put into the ‘Legends’ camp. It has been over 10 years since she performed in the UK, and in those years, it has been well documented that she had concerns over her voice, with her inability to hit notes she used to hit with ease, even fearing at one point that she may never sing again. Accompanied by her “Secret Weapon”  Bill Cooley, her writing/playing partner of 30 years, she opened with a powerful version of Count Basie’s  ‘Evenin’ – which immediately eased any fears that people may have had, and proved she was back on top form.  A generous dip into her back catalogue was the theme of the evening. The 1991 ‘Ready For The Storm was followed by her first major hit from 1986, the Nanci Griffiths penned ‘Love At The Five And Dime’ which was followed by the 1988 hit ‘Untold Stories‘. Three numbers from her recent release ‘Pretty Bird’ were next, starting with the bluesy ‘Chocolate On My Tongue’. The classic folklore sounding ‘He Moves Through The Fair’ followed. A song that came about when Bill started playing about with chords during sound checks while on the road. Her version of ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ came next, then a return to the oldies. The1988 classic ‘18 Wheels And A Dozen Roses‘ was followed by the 1989 ‘Come From The Heart’. A nod to her West Virginia birthplace’s coal mining community followed with a couple of songs, – “Red Winged Blackbird” and “Coal Tattoo”, – from her 2007 acclaimed album ‘Coal’ – an album full of ‘coal mining’ songs. A note perfect rendition of Mary Gauthier’s ‘Mercy Now’ gripped the audience like I have never seen before, and commanded a rapturous applause on its completion. ‘Holy Now’ from Pretty Bird, the powerful 1989 classic ‘Where’ve You Been?’ and ‘455 Rocket’ (1997) closed the show.        

                                   

A verse and chorus of the 1997 ‘Love Travels’ opened up the encore, following a request from the audience. ‘This Love Will Carry’ (from Pretty Bird), closed the show. Kathy showed she still has the vocal range and tone and in an ideal acoustic venue like this, showcased her talents perfectly. One of the most respectful audience’s I have heard (or should I say, not heard), for many years, added to the atmosphere.  You could hear a pin drop throughout the entire night. They even sounded a little “shy” when asked to join in with ‘18 Wheels’. It must be said that Bill Cooley’s guitar playing added to the evening as much as Kathy did. The chemistry between them is undeniable as they write and perform so much together.

Let’s hope it is not another ten years before she tours the UK again. 

Colin Jones

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