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Monday, 24th April 2017
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Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman at Bury Met

Roberts LakemanAs you drive into Bury town centre there’s a tower which displays the current temperature.  Last Thursday just before 8 pm it shone at five degrees below zero.  The idea of returning home to do a spot of toe roasting in front of the fire was not unattractive.

Fortunately that temptation was resisted.  It would have meant missing one of the most complete performances of the year at the town’s Met venue, courtesy of Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman.

On this occasion they were joined by Patsy Reid, who very competently provided her own string section from a corner of the stage and chipped in with some sweet harmonies along the way. 

Moving up the attention ladder, Sean Lakeman on guitar alternated between driving rhythms and delicately picked lead lines that added another layer to the sound.  At other times he used the bass strings to percussive effect giving a more sparse backdrop to the vocals.   In acoustic circles the most lavish praise is usually reserved for finger pickers, but this style of accompaniment is at least as effective.

Inevitably the focus rested on Kathryn Roberts.  The British folk scene has a handful of outstanding female vocalists.   Roberts should be considered to be amongst them.   She was note perfect and shifted between moods and tempos with seeming ease.  Her voice in the lower registers is deliciously seductive.  Added to which she has an easy and articulate stage presence and well, the girl looks fabulous.

The material was a well judged mixture of traditional, contemporary and the self-penned.   Huldra, described female creatures from Scandinavian folklore, who have a brutal way with young men who are aiming to stray from the straight and narrow. It was delivered with relish.  Georgia Lee from Tom Waits had just the right mixture of puzzlement and regret.

There was also a love story which seemed to bode well until verse three.   Money or Jewels began with a romantic meeting at an Autumn fair and a resulting marriage. It ended with hubby being led away in handcuffs after stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down in order to satisfy a bored wife.

There were lighter moments too.  The evening got under way in saucy fashion with The Buxom Lass, a theme continued filthily later on with The Lusty Smith, which was stuffed with double entendres, if you’ll pardon the expression.

More seriously, Roberts delved into her childhood memories of the miners’ strike with the sad and unsentimental Ballad of Andy Jacobs

At this point in a positive review there’s usually a but.  “It was a great performance, but…”  No turn can remain unstoned, you see, and there’s a need to demonstrate objectivity.  But sod that, there’s no point in nit picking, when there are no nits.  Even the sound quality was bang on the money and plaudits to Bury Met’s sound engineering for that.

Kathyrn Roberts and Sean Lakeman were originally in the group Equation with Kate Rusby and the other Lakeman brothers.  By their own admission they have a lower profile in the UK than their former band members.  Five years spent touring almost exclusively in the United States and a similar length interruption whilst raising twin daughters are principally to blame for that. If the duo continue to record and perform over here then that anomaly will surely be rectified.

The night ended with Tim O’Brien’s Safe In Your Arms, which seemed appropriate.  We, the audience had been well looked after.  Now there was just the sub-zero zone outside to contend with.  Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so daunting.


Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman

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