Rita Hosking and Michael Chapman

Live Review | The Greystones, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

When Rita Hosking approached the microphone tonight in the backroom of The Greystones in Sheffield, positioning her blonde Epiphone a couple of inches away from the mic, a buzz permeated through her first song, an irritation I feared would continue throughout the remainder of the set.  My fears were quelled as the sound tech sorted it out immediately, ensuring the set that followed would be delightfully buzz-free.  This is Rita’s second UK tour, which coincides with the release of her fourth album to date.  Much of the set centred around the songs from Burn including “Crash and Burn”, “Indian Giver” and the infectious “Dishes”, probably the best song about washing up since the mild green Fairy liquid ads.  With a set of stripped down to essentials songs interspersed with touching stories about her formative days in the Shasta County mountain area of North Eastern California, where high school was but a two hour bus ride away each day and the one neighbour a couple of miles down the mountain, this slightly built songstress with the strong and instantly recognisable voice, soon settled into her stride, performing her own songs with one or two traditional mountain songs thrown in, including “I Ride an Old Paint” and a short but touching tribute to the late Hazel Dickens.  Rita’s travelling partner for this tour is the legendary guitarist and fully qualified survivor Michael Chapman, the Hunslet-born musician whose early records for Harvest made him just as important as label mate Roy Harper and fellow guitarist John Martyn back in the day.  Relaxed and composed, the guitarist performed a mixture of complex guitar instrumentals, ambient sound poems and songs from his vast repertoire, including “No Song to Sing” from his debut Rainmaker (1969) and the later “That Time of Night”, which according to Chapman is going to be recorded by Lucinda Williams.  Occasionally playing bottleneck style using the ring on the finger of his left hand, Chapman created a delicate atmosphere throughout the room for the duration of his opening set.  Towards the end of the night, Rita invited Michael back up onstage to join her for a handful of songs including “Kitchen Table and Chairs” from her first album Are You Ready? together with a couple from her new record, “My Golden Bull” and “The Coyote”.  The two guitars blended so well together and provided some of the sweetest moments of the concert with Michael playing lead to Rita’s rhythm. Returning for an encore, the two musicians finished with the poignant “Ballad of the Gulf of Mexico”, which was written during Rita’s last visit to this country as the events unfolded on the news.  Hopefully Rita will once again be picking up inspiration, albeit of a less devastating nature, during her current visit to the UK and will be back to share more new songs with us once again next year.  I look forward to it.