English Roots meet Americana
Nominated for a BBC Horizon Award for best new act in 2010, and both graduates of the Leeds College of Music, where they began performing as a duo in 2006, the 20-somethings Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts released a critically acclaimed debut album in 2008, Shadows & Half Light, and their second, Up From The Deep, continues their exploration of folk music’s dim-lit recesses and snugs.
Gilmore is a powerful fiddle player and Roberts’ guitar picking has geometric precision and lyrical depth, and they’re joined by a quartet of guest instrumentalists to thicken the sound and broaden its palette. They include pedal steel guitarist PJ Wright, percussionist Dom Howell, and Grammy-nominated Nashville banjo player, Cia Cherryholmes. The mixtue of English and American works well.
Roberts has recently been working with Bellowhead’s Sam Sweeney and Hannah James in the band Kerfuffle, and that focus on the English dance tradition leads to a couple of Playford tunes stepping up to the mark. It’s the instrumental, in fact, which are the standout tracks – ‘The Badger Set’, ‘Punch & Chase’ and ‘Tennessee Green’ – in which bluegrass and English folk sound like first cousins. Gilmore and Roberts share vocal duties, but they don’t pull you in as much as the instrumentals do. Until you get to the closing ‘Nothing At All’, that is, a traditional parting song that has Roberts on lead and GIlmore weaving harmony vocals over a great traditional lyric, with a pop sensibility reminiscent of Seth Lakeman’s work.