Live Review | The Live Room, Caroline Social Club, Saltaire | Review by Keith Belcher
The evening opened with relatively local Katie Spencer. I first heard Katie on The Durbervilles Radio Leeds Show earlier this year and was very impressed. She is a huge fan of the late, great John Martyn and like him she is self-taught and is very keen and eager to explore an acoustic guitars potential. Her guitar style can at times emulate the very deft and stylish touch and feel of not only early John Martyn recordings but also Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Amazing when you realise she has only been playing five years. I found her rich and vibrant vocals reminiscent of Laura Marling. At all times though she was definitely Katie Spencer, not an imitation of John or Laura or anyone else. After Hilary’s introduction Katie launched straight into “Best Thing About Leaving”, as yet unrecorded. This self-penned song allowed her to demonstrate her song writing as well as her vocal and guitar skills. There was an extended delicately played guitar break mid song demonstrating a very nice feel and light touch ending in a flourish of harmonics before the vocals resumed. Remarkably assured for her 21 years Katie related her first visit to Saltaire on a school trip. “Can’t Resist The Road” followed from her only recording to date, an extended five song EP entitled Good Morning Sky. By this time the audience were firmly in their seats and very attentive. Another new song, “You Came Like a Hurricane”, slightly faster, reflecting its subject matter, again giving ample opportunity for guitar work. Remarkably self-assured on stage and doing the thing that a lot of openers don’t do. That is introduce and name her songs. Yet another new song “Too High Alone” followed a chat about witnessing murmurations of starlings. “Helsa”, about a village in Germany was a delightful guitar instrumental. Katie using various electronica to make it sound like far more than just her and guitar on stage. The all too short set finished with “Hello Sun”, a plea for the good weather to return. Hopefully all tonight’s songs and more will feature on a full CD later this year. Judging from the audience reaction and the number, compliments her return will be very welcome.
The Live Room is one of the increasingly few venues that actually quieten the house music and introduce the artists onto the stage. Many venues, no names given, wait for the artist to get on stage before the sound/lights guy notices they are there and ready to go. Some only even notice after the artist is on stage and playing. At that point the lights are altered up or down, depending on where you are and the house music stopped. The audience then notice the artist is on stage and may or may not, again depending on where you are, pay attention and stop their conversations. Thankfully not at The Live Room. An additional twist at the Live Room is that members can actually opt to introduce someone they hopefully like. It would be strange although possibly interesting to introduce someone you don’t like. Tonight long time club member Ian for the second time in 2 shows introduced the main act. In Ian’s words, Idaho born troubadour Korby Lenker, now an East Nashville resident is an accomplished singer, songwriter, author, photographer and producer with seven albums to his name. Korby jokingly added he could also juggle but thanked Ian for not mentioning it! The first song of the night was the very tender “If I Prove False to You” from Korby’s sixth album – Korby Lenker. It was evident we were in for a treat. Korby’s relationship with his guitar has been commented on by many. It’s an intimate dance for two that Korby weaves with his guitar, bending strings and notes in an almost rowing, waving action to accentuate and sustain notes and harmonics. Akin in some ways to David Rawlings motions on stage. He is a very chatty person on stage. All songs were given a full, comprehensive and articulate introduction and explanation. If you want to just hear the song then play the album, live shows should hopefully give you that bit extra. This one certainly did. His stage dialogue leaps about but in a good way, at times almost stream of consciousness, never still, jumping from topic to topic. Incredibly observant, paying great attention to the big picture and also minutiae both in his song lyrics and stage conversation. His story telling paints a vivid picture in sound and vision, a kind of mental picture painting with sound. It is always kept humourous, almost part stand-up comic as well as singer/songwriter. His upbeat song “Nothing Really Matters” from latest album Thousand Springs was prefaced with a comment she (the person in the song) looked like she had followed the (Grateful) Dead too long, even after they had stopped touring! I understood the comment. His enthusiasm bubbles to a point that along with the guitar style could give him a slight manic expression. He switched to a tiny ukulele for “Gotta Do”, another buoyant song, the uke held almost under his chin. He joked his therapist had said it was clinically impossible to be depressed while playing the ukulele. The latest album Thousand Springs was recorded in various locations in Idaho, including his Dad’s mortuary. He wanted to do that as it was where music started for him. One exception was the very punchy, “Last Man Standing”, inspired by Chief Sitting Bull and the book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. He got special permission to record that at Standing Rock Indian Reservation. His songs varied in tone, colour and pace throughout the night. His dialogue with the audience was casual almost like a one to one conversation. He covered a huge amount of topics including social media, Star Trek, Roald Dahl, drag queen contests and in the middle of the song “Book Nerd” launched into a recitation from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as written in middle-English. He performed one new, unrecorded song, a quasi-spiritual, possibly titled “Jesus Turned the Water”, no instrumentation on that one, just snapping fingers. His official autobiographical last song, “My Little Life”, was performed off mike at the edge of the stage. Despite having said he wasn’t he came back for an encore of the great Lyle Lovett’s (too cool to be country, too country to be cool!) “If I Had a Boat” which had many of the audience joining in. Just one of four UK gigs on this trip, he seemed to really enjoy himself. The audience who also really appreciated Katie Spencer certainly enjoyed the night. I have no doubt both artists would and will be welcomed back.