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KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAN @ THE WILLOWS FOLK CLUB, KIRKHAM 13/11/13 – REVIEW BY MIKE AINSCOE

The start of the second leg of their Autumn tour saw 2013’s Best Folk Duo making a seven hour journey from Devon up to the Willows Folk Club before heading for a gig in Dorchester the next day. Now that’s what I call dedication, but a sign of the esteem in which the popular duo hold the club which, starting it’s third year in the same venue has been encouraging and holding folk nights for twenty years with Ann and Eddie Green at the helm; a couple who had encouraged Kathryn from her early performing days with another Barnsley youngster by the name of Kate Rusby.  It’s clearly a mutual feeling and very much appreciated – so much so that the usual highlight of the evening at the Willows Folk Club, the raffle, was pushed right to the end of the evening and almost been forgotten amidst an evening of top quality craftsmanship.

Whilst their last tour around this time last year was very much an emotional rollercoaster ride with Kathryn putting her all into a number of poignant songs which were emotionally draining enough for the audience, never mind the performers, this year’s set saw  the couple playing as a duo without usual fiddler Patsy Reid, and played down the tears to include a little more brutal, gruesome, sauce and smut material!   Kathryn’s solo spot on ‘The Ballad Of Andy Jacobs’ and their performance (with even Sean taking a seat) of Tom Wait’s poignantly moving ‘Georgia Lee’ were still standouts, the latter being a song they still perform despite trying to rest it, as it still gets many many requests. It’s hard to ignore especially for the sentiment it carries for parents as the couple are, but it has to be said that it is one heck of a heartstring tugger. In balance, some early smut came through the marvellously suggestive ‘The Lusty Smith’ which contains more double entendres that you could shake a stick at, with the country blues flavoured ‘Lifetime Of Tears’ gave the first chance for some audience participation, almost obligatory at the Willows, which was encouraged and forthcoming throughout the evening.

After a short break and not wanting the raffle to delay any of the proceedings, Kathryn’s haunting  unaccompanied solo take on ‘Huldra’ (a Scandanavian warning tale) was one of a fair chunk of material from the ‘Hidden People’ album. Of a  setlist coupling original songs  with traditional songs, the pick of which may have been ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ although the version of what Sean called “another short smutty one”, ‘The Banishing Book’ was a superb effort and demonstrated how well the pair combine on traditional material, “opening wide the banishing book and leaving the leaves apart” indeed! Some of the more obvious lyrics in rock acts could take a leaf from this particular book.

As a duo who’ve been out of the spotlight for some time prior to 2012,  Sean and Kathryn are back on a roll and the combination of  Sean’s exceptional guitar playing with Kathryn’s multi instrumental skills – piano, flute and daughter’s clarinet) gave some variation to the show and it was nice as well  to hear Sean taking up quite a lot of the between song banter, appearing quite comfortable in the role. The tour has seen the pair putting together a brilliant balance of material and with some more dates looking likely in 2014, don’t be too surprised if they are up for  more nominations and accolades for their work.

Review & photos by Mike Ainscoe