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Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage

Venue: Bothy Folk Club
Town: Southport
Date: 12/6/16

Here's a brief history of Sanders & Savage. After a nomadic youth spent travelling around Europe in a converted Bedford bus with her folk-singing family band, The Dunns, Hannah Sanders relocated to Boston, USA.

Hannah returned to the UK in 2013 and resumed her folk singing career. It was at the Black Fen Folk Club in Cambridge that she met Ben Savage, guitarist with FATEA favourites, The Willows. Ben was immediately struck by Hannah's exceptional voice and suggested that they record together.

This led to Ben producing Hannah's debut album [she had previously made two EP's]. The resulting album "Charms Against Sorrow" is a sublime collection of [mainly] English traditional songs which showcase Hannah's superb vocal talents.

Hannah and Ben have now become a fully-fledged duo and recently recorded their first album as such in Canada. On the strength of tonight's performance, it should be a cracker.

Naturally, tonight's show at the Bothy featured material from both Hannah's album and the duo album. Although this was the last date on a lengthy tour, there was no sign of "road fatigue" from Hannah and Ben, on the contrary, they gave a sparkling performance which captivated the Bothy crowd.

Ben is a fine guitarist and dobro player [dobroist?] and perfectly complements Hannah's stunning voice. If you are looking for comparisons, you would not be far out if you think Joni Mitchell [heck, Hannah even plays dulcimer].

Both sets by this talented duo contained some real gems. Personal favourites of mine were a dramatic version of "Lady Margaret"; "Clayton Booth" [ an American version of "Gypsy Davey" set in the Wild West] and "I'd Climb The Highest Mountain[Just For You]", which Hannah learned from Peggy Seeger after being introduced to her by a mutual friend.

Hannah's version of Bill Miller's "The Sun Is Going To Rise" featured an impromptu accompaniment from a pair of blackbirds who were outside enjoying the evening sun!

I mentioned Joni Mitchell earlier and the second set featured a gorgeous version of "A Case Of You" on which Hannah sounded uncannily like the song's composer. Another fine cover version was a lively rendition of Bob Dylan's "Seven Curses", which Hannah recorded on her 2014 EP "Fate".

As for the encore, Bothy MC Clive Pownceby and myself were delighted, as members of the Gram Parsons Memorial Foundation, when Hannah and Ben sang GP's wonderful "A Song For You", complete with illumination from the Bothy's legendary mirror ball [which was most appropriate given the song's chorus of "Take me down to your dancefloor, I won't mind the people when they stare"].

All in all, a superb performance by Hannah and Ben. Highly recommended.

Peter Cowley

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