Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson
It’s not often I get to start a review with the sentence ‘fresh from Songs of Praise’, but Emily Smith and Jamie McLennan’s last public appearance before setting out for Walthamstowe Folk Club last night, was indeed on the long running Sunday evening God-slot prog, singing “Jesus Draw Me” in a church, with full band, especially for St Andrew’s Day. Tonight, the duo came to Doncaster on a cold November evening to play a couple of delightful sets at the equally celestial Monday Music Club at The Regent. Emily is one of those song writers whose songs are hardly distinguishable from those already in the tradition. They are written in a style that takes in all the crucial elements of a good folk song, and her endeavours in song writing have not gone unnoticed nor unrewarded at home or further afield. Picking up the BBC Radio Scotland Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year Award in 2002 at the Celtic Connections Festival, it’s hardly surprising that she can also play her instruments well (Accordion and Piano). The Dumfriesshire born singer went on to win the folk song category award in the USA Song Writing Competition in 2005 with “Edward of Morton”, one of the songs she performed tonight, and to top it all, she is a gifted singer with a clear and vibrant vocal style. Joined by her New Zealand born husband Jamie McClennan on guitar, fiddle and whistle, the duo played some fine jigs and reels as well as songs both new and old. Jamie claims to be Emily’s agent, PA, chef and bin-man, but he’s also her entire rhythm section rolled into one. He’s a busy lad. Emily announced at the beginning of the show that much of the set would be centred around her latest album A Different Life, but apart from “Always A Smile”, “Edward of Morton” and the jaunty “Go to Town”, much of the material was from elsewhere, proving that Emily has a broad scope to choose from. The one notable contemporary song not from her own pen was Iris Dement’s “Sweet is the Melody”, which fitted in with the plausible Celtic/country crossover, which Emily is more than capable of pulling off. If I was to compare Emily’s overall sound to anyone it would be that of the Rankin Family, who are a proven force in this area.