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Rachel Ries with Sarah Smout (+ Kitty VR)

Venue: The Bicycle Cafe
Town: York
Date: 17/3/16
Website: http://rachelries

On an evening of firsts, some things are reassuringly familiar, the venue, the promotor are all new to me, as is the support, and Ries excellent hired hand, but Ries, is dependingly terrific. Kitty VR, which if it is her real name must alone destine her for the big time has a voice way beyond her years. She does a blend of covers and her own, think Beth Orton but smokier and with a splash more soul. Her reimagines are all new to me, even the bands I have never heard of beyond Hole, but it's a great set to set a mood, amongst the cycling paraphilia, wheels, chains, jerseys and frames drape from every surface.

Ries herself, playing on her birthday, suits the small, intimate surroundings, her wind swept open plain ballads somehow at home in this brick catacomb. The beautiful, twisted folk and her pleading theatrical voice charms you, she hooks you and you're transfixed, hypnotised for her set. I have often wondered on the power of song and the power of the performer, how it is possible to do this, how the simple song can block out the world around and place you in a different place with just the odd strum and bit of melody - Ries is an artist who does that to you, and to me repeatedly every time, maybe she wasn't raised a Mennonite but a mystic?

When she adds, Sarah Smout on cello, the gig transcends to another level, the cello and Ries are made for each other, Smout's ability to augment Ries is a joy. There's plenty from the last record, Ghost of a Gardner, but also from her retreat to France to write, the ethereal Rouen ep - Cardinal.

As she tells us about her upbringing "a world without music is pretty shitty", I'd like to add and a world without Ries would be worse.

Rudie Humphrey

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