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Saskia Griffiths-Moore

Venue: The Harrison
Town: King's Cross
Date: 26/1/18

Album launches can sometimes be like buses; you wait for a while and then two come along at once. It was only at the end of October 2017 that Saskia released her third studio album "Night and Day". Now 2018 brings a album of Live Recorded songs with John Stewarts's "Strange Rivers" being the title track and it forms almost a partner album to "Live at The Roundhouse" which itself was released in June 2017 making it three full albums in a year. I did wonder if that would be too many, especially as two of them were not her own compositions. I had no doubt that the music and production would be of the very highest standards, but would the album add anything that was not already available? The answer is that it does.

One of the many laughs on the night was Saskia informing us that somebody has classified her as Posh Country, a new genre. Certainly she can sign Country with a voice that has absolute clarity in it's diction and with an accent that is, perhaps, more "gown than town". However, as a genre it doesn't fit. Saskia describes herself as Alt-Acoustic Anglicana , I tend to think of it as nu-folk and it is a growing trend. Music needs invigorating from time to time and there's currently a generation of musicians who want to explore traditional music, but on their terms. Interestingly, they are also investigating the music from the folk revival of the 1960s and making that their own as well.

The launch was, not surprisingly, as sell out in the cosy confines of The Harrison, a venue that is ideal for intimate gigs and suits Saskia's style well. She says on her website that she "loves live" and that is not a mistype of life. For her music is part of a community where there the performer and audience come together in music and friendship. Whether this approach can be maintained as her popularity grows, along with venue size, remains to be seen. I hope it does because currently part of the joy of seeing Saskia perform is the atmosphere she creates. It isn't often a performer will break their set to get everybody singing happy birthday to somebody in the audience.

Part of that community on the evening were some of the musicians Saskia has been working with recently and an unexpected delight on the night was they did short solo sets as support to the evening. Lukas Drinkwater is known as one half of Jacob and Drinkwater and also as one of the best bass players in the country. His solo set, with just a guitar, was an all too rare event and a revelation that left the audience amazed. He chiefly played songs he'd written when younger, but they had a maturity about them and were of the highest quality. Jack Cookson is better known as a solo performer and his songs were also well received, being mostly autobiographical about the changes in his life and potted history of Bristol.

Saskia opened her set as a trio with the title track, John Stewart's "Strange Rivers". The original is certainly Country based but Saskia slows it down with a stronger bass line and it fits well into her themes of having to make choices in life and take off in a new direction.

Not played on the night, but on the album, are songs by Dylan (Don't Think Twice), Waits (Long Way Home) and Denny (Who Knows Where The Time Goes). This last one is becoming popular, rightly, amongst younger performers, several of whom I've heard singing it recently. It's a song, after all, that touches every age in every generation.

Traditional songs are also well covered and in particular I have to draw attention to Wild Mountain Thyme. This is a song you're likely to hear in any folk club anywhere in the country but with this trio it gets as far away from finger-in-ear as possible. There may be beards in sight but the singing is crisp and fresh and these skilled musicians turn it into an instant classic that everyone else is going to be measured against.

Not a traditional song, but now a Saskia tradition, is the singing of Cohen's Hallelujah. It's another song we hear time and again but it was also the first song she played in public and you get the feeling it's more than just a nod to the past that keeps it on the set list. It marks a reference point that leads from then to now. Saskia has had several changes in direction, given her age, and her music charts that "Strange River" she's travelled with it bends and meanders. She played some of her own material on the night and her songs are about change, about things not going well. I certainly feel she doesn't just pick covers and traditional songs at random, they have to form part of the story and that's why the fit so seamlessly into the mix.

The evening captured the audience completely, to an extent that the silence in the room may have been slightly off-putting for her. I can assure Saskia we were singing along, but it was the musicians we really wanted to hear so kept the volume down. There was a beauty and grace about this show that made the flowers presented at the end entirely appropriate to a classical performance. The album is now released and available through the website.

Tony Birch - Words & Pictures

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