Tradition takes many forms but when you see a performance in a pub that was first built in 1517 and known as the Pindar of Wakefield, a name most folk followers will recognise, and where musicians from Dylan to Katy Perry have played then you know you're part of a tradition that is still very vibrant.
Hannah Read is the latest addition to the list of people who have played this iconic venue and used it for the London launch of her second album 'Way Out I'll Wander' which follows the debut EP 'Wrapped in Lace' from 2012. Hannah's life has been a journey through Scotland, England and now the USA where she's based and, like any journey, she has drawn on her experiences in her work.
Tracks played on the night included the title song, which comes from memories of her Grandfather. This rather beautiful and charming song is a tale of a man and his memories of travel and country walks. It also works well with 'She Took a Gamble', also an autobiographical song of Hannah's mother selling up and moving the family to Eigg. For those who don't know it Eigg is an island off the west coast of Scotland, remote and isolated, but essential to Hannah's musical education.
Hannah is a fine solo performer, and multi-instrumentalist as well. Whilst normally accompanying herself on the guitar she's also an excellent fiddle player as she showed with a set of Swedish tunes. This ability to draw from different cultures and backgrounds flavours a lot of her music, with both hints of Scottish tradition and Americana combining in a way that means she can't easily be classified as either but has instead produced her own very distinct sound. It's music you want to listen to and the audience were "pin drop" quiet throughout the night with the applause that followed each song a sign of real appreciation both for the performer and the music.
The ten songs, plus encore, played on the night went past way to fast and everyone would have been more than happy to stay for the entire back catalogue. What also made the evening was the good choice and use of backing musicians who accompanied her on selected songs. Rachel Cohen, on saxophone, has known Hannah since they were at school and is a well regarded jazz player in her own right. Her playing brought another influence to the evening whilst Simon Lewis' cello added the deeper melodies to fill out the sound.
Hannah has now headed back to the USA, I believe, but will be returning to accompany Chris Dreaver on his tour in the spring. That will be a bill well worth seeing, but in the meantime the album is released on 23rd February by Hudson Records and available through the artist's or company's website or from Amazon.
Mention must also be made of Hannah's support act on the night. Allison Sleator is an Dublin born singer now based in London and was a revelation, with a large majority of the audience having never seen her before. By the end of her set we were determined to rectify that at the earliest opportunity. With a beautiful voice and charming manner she delighted with both her own songs and some she'd found on her travels in South America, which she sang in both English and Spanish. There was a dreamy, drifting sound to her music that became quite hypnotic and she finished with an a capella version of a Julie Fowlis song in Scots Gaelic, which impressed everybody. She has two further gigs in London in March, at The Green Note and then supporting Sam Carter. Try to get along.
The evening was promoted, as so many high quality London shows are, by FolkonMonday who are real champions of independent music.
Tony Birch - Words & Picture
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