Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5
I first became aware of the young singer songwriter Katie Spencer a few years ago at the Beverley Folk Festival, not as a performer, but as a teenager, just crossing a field with a large guitar case in her hand, her hair fashioned like David Bowie’s character in the film Labyrinth; well not quite as theatrical as that, but close enough to make an initial impression. I think I was pondering upon the fact that at the time folk festivals were by and large attended by adults and small children, a trend that has thankfully evolved over the last few years, with a healthy presence of lots more teenagers and young adults.
It may have been the following year, when I once again caught a glimpse of this little ‘Jareth’ crossing another field and this time I was curious enough to find out what was in the case and what it sounded like in this young musician’s hands. I was actually very much hoping that I wouldn’t be disappointed, which I wasn’t. Katie stepped up on stage shortly afterwards and performed a bunch of songs, which I immediately identified as something very special indeed. Katie is the sort of performer who commands your attention and your respect from the start without being in the least bit rock star about it. She seems delicate and fragile initially, but then you soon become aware of her strength, both as a singer and as an informed guitar player. She comes over as a thoughtful and conscientious young woman, with a clear understanding of where her music needs to go and where it might eventually take her.
Weather Beaten is Katie’s first full length album, a taste of which we first heard on her initial release, the Good Morning Sky EP, which featured an appearance by the late Ted McKenna. The EP also gave us an early indication of Katie’s developing songwriting style and her seemingly effortless ethereal sound. This was followed by a further recording, Live Soundtrack to a Short Film, which opened with the dreamy Drinking the Same Water, which appears again here. Influenced by both Roy Harper and John Martyn, Katie’s strength lies in the actual feel of the songs, rather than their message. I listened to this album three times through before actually consciously listening to the words, yet once we do eventually get around to concentrating on the lyrics, we’re treated to a further discovery.
Produced by Spencer Cozens (John Martyn, Joan Armatrading) and Katie herself, Weather Beaten features nine self penned songs, together with a reworking of the traditional “Spencer the Rover”, a tribute perhaps to the late John Martyn, or maybe to her producer, or maybe even to her own family name. Spencer is all over this album. Songs like “Weather Beaten”, “Hello Sun”, “Too High Alone”, featuring Martin Winning on clarinet and even the instrumental “Helsa”, each have a dreamy quality that Katie makes her very own.