Thu, 17 Oct 2019
REVIEW BY RICHARD MARKHAM
Kelly Oliver and Said The Maiden, at ACE Space,
on Saturday, September 28
“SAID The Maiden are really excited to be back on the road and welcoming Minnie Birch to the band. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
The new Maidens are just finding their feet in 2019 after a hiatus following the departure of Hannah Elizabeth.
Yet while some pieces are obviously still bedding in, an attentive ACE Space crowd saw plenty to get excited about in the trio’s varied set – beautiful three-part harmonies and amiable banter that made clear they very much “get on” together.
Mixing up trad folk, self-penned numbers and even a Joan Baez cover (Silver Dagger), these very talented young
musicians held us in thrall with the usual folk tales of love, death, haunting and all the rest. Highlights included the trad tale of Black Annis – a witch who would capture and murder children in the Leicester area (if they didn’t behave) – which had terrified Jess when she went to university there and accounts of Minnie’s banjolele (played for the Queen and passed down
to her by her grandfather) and Jess’ dulcimer (crushed in a fall, but subsequently rebuilt thanks to kind benefactors).
The Maidens ended their section of the show with their own jaunty singalong audience favourite Polly Can You Swim?, a jolly tribute to the old tradition – to avoid bad luck – of throwing overboard and drowning any woman found to have stowed away on sailing ships back in the day. Some things have improved.
After a break, Kelly Oliver made a very welcome return to the ACE Space stage after her Newbury debut in 2015 and it was obvious that this exceptional singer/songwriter – then just starting out but now with three albums to her name – has developed into a most accomplished and relaxed performer. Kelly engaged with the crowd straight away, her natural down-to-earth warmth and charm shining through. Immediately, we remembered what first drew our attention to her – a
stunning voice allied with adept guitar skills. Her set was also varied, incorporating the early Dylan classic Boots of Spanish Leather and a (slightly) less grim adaptation of the dramatic ballad Clyde Water. Miles to Tralee, a heartfelt tribute to her Irish grandmother, and debut single Diamond Girl were also standouts.
The show finished with a collaboration, on two songs taken from Company of Players album Shakespeare Songs, the culmination of a Jess Distill project to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the great man’s death. All four of the artists contributed to the project and we heard songs written respectively by Minnie and Kelly, Kelly’s being an adaptation of a sonnet concerning compassion for migrants that sounded as fresh and relevant now as it did then.
A really satisfying evening out all round.