Sun, 06 Dec 2020
Katherine Priddy and The People Versus
at Harwell Village Hall
on Friday, December 4
REVIEW BY RICHARD MARKHAM
We must thank Big Ginger Tom Music founders Duncan and Vanessa Chappell and their enthusiastic helpers hugely for bringing top notch folk and acoustic music to Harwell in the first place and in particular for assembling this particular Covid-safe gig, allowing around 40 of us to enjoy a terrific night as securely as possible in these strange times. The organisation was absolutely impeccable and it was great just to be out watching live music again.
Duncan had secured three core members, Jack Wilkinson, Alice Edwards and Danny Evans of local band The People Versus to open the night with a lively half-hour set, including acoustic versions of excellent songs from their debut EP Ground Opening. I attended the EP launch with the full six-piece band and it was fascinating to hear these songs in such a different setting. Their essential energy, the sublime harmonies and the vocal acrobatics of the launch night were still well in evidence and the trio was warmly applauded.
After the first break Katherine took to the stage with her trademark warmth and gentle humour and had the audience engaged from the off. Her musical partner for tonight was close collaborator, Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter George Boomsma, who has appeared with her in several lockdown internet sessions. Here he proved himself indeed the perfect light foil, both musically and as a stage companion generally. Katherine was noticeably at her most relaxed and confident here in the duo format with him.
Katherine sings quietly but with perfect diction and pitch, such that you find yourself almost hypnotised and gave us almost all of her own staples, including tracks from her one official EP Wolf, both sides of catchy single Letters From a Travelling Man and the latest (topical) track Still Winter, Still Waiting. A heartfelt song written for her own father brought a tear to the eye, but of genuine emotion; key features of Katherine are her complete sincerity and lack of sentimentality.
She also delivered some really entertaining covers showing her versatility, emotional maturity and sheer ability to recall lyrics.
Especially notable moments over two absorbing full 45-minute sets included Leonard Cohen’s One Of Us Cannot be Wrong and Richard Thompson’s notoriously challenging Beeswing and three 'trad folk' pieces showing Katherine’s natural ability at the genre, both straight and bawdy story songs getting the treatment.
At all times George would create discreet colours on electric and acoustic guitars that were a perfect backdrop to Katherine’s delicate phrasings and his own vocals - whether backing or duetting - fitted beautifully.
Katherine has become the consummately engaging and endearing host and time sped past far too quickly as she told anecdotes, explained the background to various songs and engaged in amusing banter with George, who proved a good sport at all times; even coming up trumps when caught out by a song he claimed never to have played before!
This was truly “An evening with…” - a complete all round “performance” from a young musician who is destined for great things and who thoroughly deserved the encore standing ovation she received. Roll on that first album.