Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts have been an established acoustic duo on the folk and festival scene for some years now, releasing their first album in 2008. Fiddle-player, Gilmore, and guitarist, Roberts, are both accomplished song-writers with each singing the lead vocal on their own respective songs. Tonight they perform a selection of songs from their three albums to date, plus a couple of newbies thrown in as well. Katriona warns the Kings Hall audience to be prepared for huskier vocals tonight as both are suffering from colds but they both still sing their songs beautifully.
Though they are influenced by the folk tradition, their sound has a very fresh and contemporary feel. On the whole they have avoided re-interpretations of traditional songs in favour of self-written material. Louis Was a Boxer, Jamie tells us, is about one of the former customers from his time working behind the counter in a Subway sandwich store, a mundane setting for a poignant tale of a proud man fallen on hard times. Silver Screen, inspired by many, many hours of driving across the country, meanwhile, is Katrina’s ode to the wonders of the satnav. If that sounds horribly naff, don’t worry – it isn’t. But it does demonstrate how at ease they both are at writing folk-inspired music that’s wholly at ease with the modern world. Other songs, like Letters, set in World War II, cover historical events but from a highly personal perspective, which anyone listening will find difficult not to immediately empathise with.
It isn’t just the beautiful lyrics and catchy melodies though. The quality of the musicianship makes a Gilmore & Roberts gig all the more memorable. Roberts’ lap-style guitar technique, in particular, is well worth seeing and hearing. Having caught them on numerous occasions as a simple duo, they are joined tonight by additional guest, Tom Chapman, on percussion. Chapman’s playing perfectly complements the duo and brings an added depth to a number of the songs. If they can get him along to join them for more gigs I’d urge them to go for it.
They encore with Fleetwood Fair, a tale of a mysterious travelling fair that appears from nowhere and disappears just as mysteriously. While that description sounds like it could have been a traditional song unearthed by some Edwardian folk-song collector, it’s entirely penned by Gilmore. But it’s a strong song with which to finish and if, some years down the line, contemporary folk duos go down the route of producing anything as vulgar as greatest hits packages, this will almost certainly be on it. A perfect finish to a memorable evening.