Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts

Live Review | King George IV Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

There’s a stark contrast between the facial expressions of both Jamie Roberts and Katriona Gilmore when you see them playing together; Jamie’s intense concentration is evened out by Katriona’s apparent stoicism as each of these young musicians tackle some pretty complex arrangements in often hideously difficult time signatures.  Perhaps Jamie’s more pained expression is due to the fact that he is doing the job of two people.  In Jamie we have a guitar player and percussionist all rolled into one, two hands doing the work of four.  If only The Who had thought of this, they could’ve saved themselves a fortune in hotel damage bills, courtesy of the Moon’s antics.  Seriously, Jamie Roberts has something special going on here.  Positioning his guitar flat on his lap, not unlike the late blues guitarist Jeff Healey, Jamie never misses a beat whilst keeping the rhythmic flow of the guitar intact, beating and tapping the top and edges in order to provide a highly percussive sound.  Although there is a potential for all this to become awkwardly laboured, and one false move could turn the whole thing on its head, Jamie manages to keep it all together perfectly well, hence the high level of concentration I assume.  Katriona’s fluid fiddle playing has a richness and sweetness that complements Jamie’s playing superbly well.  Each note is played with the confident authority of a seasoned player, a remarkable feat for one so young.  Its little wonder Katriona provides violin lessons when she’s not entertaining audiences such as the one that had gathered in Sheffield tonight.  Starting with “Middle of May/Big Nige” with the former’s driving rhythm and the latter’s quirky start/stop groove, the duo brought to the evening a variety of complex fiddle tunes and original songs, one or two of which feature on the duos Live EP, which serves to put us on in the interim until the release of their debut album later this year, which is currently in production.  Katriona writes fiddle tunes that step outside the usual format with unconventional time signatures that she refers to as “not dancer friendly”, which in turn provide something interesting to get your head around.  “Running with Scissors”, with its analogy of being something risky or dangerous (or foolish, according to the more health and safety conscious amongst you), has an Eastern European feel which is difficult to tap your feet to, but hugely enjoyable nonetheless.  “Skip and Jump” is more dancer friendly and lends itself more to the country dance tradition, whilst “Heroes and Sidekicks” is filled with unexpected musical tangents.  Jamie’s songs include “So Long”, “White Lie” and “I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye”, all of which demonstrate the song writing credentials of a musician born into a musical family.  His sister Kathryn has already made a name for herself on the British folk scene with a highly respectable duo album with Kate Rusby and as front person with the Equation.  With songs of this standard, there is no reason on Earth why Jamie shouldn’t make a similar mark on the folk scene, and with Katriona by his side, it all becomes pretty much a certainty.  Tony Dargan is a fine interpreter of good songs, having been blessed with enquiring ears and impeccable taste.  Tony tipped his cap to Toms’ Waits, Paxton and Bliss with “San Diego Serenade”, “Forest Lawns” and “Violin” respectively, John Tams’ “Amelia” and Jerry Garcia’s “Black Muddy River” during his two sets, all of which he performed in his own inimitable style, whilst throwing in the odd smiler such as Jake Thackray’s “The Hair of the Widow of Brid”.  There was also one or two unexpected surprises in Tony’s set, particularly “Black Water”, a song that is serving Kris Drever well at the moment and the Joe Jackson classic “Is She Really Going Out With Him”, which is a treat to hear once again.