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Tucked away as it is from the regular flow of visitors passing through the picturesque town of Hebden Bridge, The Trades Club has for some time now proved itself to have significant pulling power to attract an eclectic mix of quality musicians through the doors of this non-profit making venue. Only fitting then that the event known as ‘Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival’ returns here this weekend following it’s success in 2011 with a line up that brings together many of the finest exponents of this genre from all points of the map spanning generations and musical dynasties. Who better then to bring the afternoon to life than husband and wife duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman - a pair of performers who possess a musical background and a previous body of work to rival any.
Kathryn followed the successful collaborations of her teens with fellow Barnsley singer Kate Rusby by joining forces with Sean and his brothers Seth and Sam to form folk super group Equation and on Kate and Seth’s departure she and Sean toured the USA with much success for several years. Sean has continued to play and involve himself in production with regularity and great success whilst Kathryn swapped her place beneath the stage lights for the pleasure of raising the couple’s twin baby girls. The time has come now though for them to take to the road again to promote their much awaited new album “Hidden People” and from the moment that they take their place before the crimson coloured backdrop of the Trades Club stage they demonstrate their capacity to delve into every corner of their musical influences commencing with two tracks from their second album. “Lifetime of Tears” has bluesy overtones and the traditional folk feel of the darkly sinister “Red Barn” is embellished with the intricate instrumentation of Sean’s nimble guitar action and Kathryn’s skill on flute. But as if these songs didn’t serve to illustrate the quality of Kathryn’s voice enough then her unaccompanied delivery on “Huldra” - the first track to be featured from the new album and inspired by a mystical Scandinavian tale of men lured to their fate by forest dwelling women not only sums up perfectly an image of eeriness but is a truly beautiful vocal.

The shades of dark and light within the set are one of its constant strengths and soon we are driving away the cold morning dew of the forest from our faces with the heat of the forge and a large ‘cheek reddening’ dose of innuendo with “Lusty Smith” which couldn’t be more different in style allowing Sean’s undoubted guitar skills to drive a song filled with lyrics of firey passion. With the smiles still lingering on our faces Kathryn takes her place behind her keyboard and gently relates the story behind the song which will follow. Through the eyes of a ten year old girl she witnessed first hand as lives, loves and relationships were torn apart in the South Yorkshire village of Dodworth as the pit was closed during the miner’s strike leaving scars that remain to this day. Told as a personal account of Andy and his bride Cassie it is as powerful and moving a    testament to this sad period in our history as I have ever heard and in a set filled with high points it shines out brightly. I have no problem in admitting that it was several minutes after it’s completion before my eyes had cleared sufficiently to take any further notes – a song of achingly beautiful quality.

The deliciously gentle sway of  “Money or Jewels” hides beneath it a love song with anything but a happy ending and Kathryn throws a knowing glance at Sean as she tell us that he spent a few of his own youthful days at the village fair! The full on pace of “Standing At My Window” – a tale of ghostly abduction is tailor  made for their live set and would easily have been a natural point at which to close a show as fine as this but fittingly on the weekend that marks our spirit of remembrance, once more the beauty of Kathryn’s voice is brought to the fore in “Jackie’s Song” – the poignant words of a soldier writing home from the trenches to his sweetheart of the futilities of war and his wish to be home once again by her side recalling the promise that he made – “Jackie I Said I’d Take You Dancing”. Did he return? We will never know, but a return for Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman cannot come soon enough . Their time away from the stage has given them an opportunity to write a collection of songs of true quality and to build a desire amongst their followers to see them take to the road more regularly in order to witness performances as good as this.

Review/photos by Shay Rowan

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