On Sunday the 12th March, we attended a folk themed event titled ‘Folk This’ at the Finsbury in North London. We arrived too late for the first act but caught the others and decided to write a review of the artists we saw!
The venue, conveniently placed close to Manor House station is a light, airy and cosy pub. We were delighted to see the stage was located in a large cordoned off room which displayed a “quiet beyond this point” sign; this was a nice touch. The performance room was spacious and rather dark but had the perfect atmosphere for a gig. It was quite lively for a Sunday night. We noticed that they are due to have a refurbishment later this month - not quite sure what they are changing, but no doubt it will improve this venue further.
Sara & Kenny
With no prior expectations of any of the artists, we really didn't know what to expect. We were immediately intrigued when Sara brought out a hole-less nylon guitar, and Kenny, a red electric. The sound that was created when they started playing was mesmerising and refreshingly unique. They were exceptionally skilled musicians, both with varied backgrounds in music.
Sara’s smooth voice was pitch perfect, and she experimented with sounds and tones. We both noticed a hint of Delores O’riordan of the Cranberries in her voice. Kenny's guitar playing was accurate and smooth. He moved up and down the fret board in jazz scales at a rapid speed. You were never really sure which direction the music would go in, leaving you in constant suspense and feeling pleasantly surprised.
Sara’s percussive and jazz inspired guitar playing reminded me of Kaki King and the pair performed with perfect synchronicity. We loved the song they ended with, a cover sung in Spanish ‘Canto del agua’, which reminded me of Rodrigo and Gabriela.
Overall, this duo were a tight and polished set; every note, riff and harmony carefully considered, sculpted and rehearsed. We recommend you see this brilliant duo live.
Little Robyn & the Mellow Yellows
Little Robyn immediately gripped our attention with her interesting style and warm stage presence; confident and chatty, but with a slight hint of self-consciousness under the surface. She informed us that her band mates had recently joined her and that they had only rehearsed twice, so again, we weren’t sure what to expect.
She started her performance with a cover of Ain’t No Sunshine, which she accompanied with a ukulele. The song was well suited to her soulful voice, which had an air of Corinne Bailey Rae to it. She changed the rhythm, typical to that song, and played around with the melody to make it her own.
It must be said that Little Robyn is not a polished performer and I don’t believe she wants to be either. The ukulele was slightly out of tune and the rhythm was eratic. Yet, her raw, loud and spontaneous performance all adds to her charm as a performer.
She managed to include the audience through her acapella songs which we clapped along to. It was nice to hear her voice on its own, to appreciate the soulful tonal quality without being overtaken by the loose guitar work.
Despite these imperfections, it was her quirkiness and engagement with the crowd that made her a memorable musician.
Connor James is a soloist, but tonight was accompanied by a band (bass, drums and keys). They performed a mixture of originals and upbeat well known covers (such as Heard It Through the Grape Vine).
The band were tight, polished and very skillful. Each band member took turns showcasing impressive minute-long solos, which were intriguing to listen to. Connor himself has a raspy, calming and soulful voice. However, at times it got a bit monotonous and was drowned out a little by the other musicians. It would be nice to see him experiment with pitch and sounds a bit more.
Despite this, he is a great guitarist and certainly knows his way around the fret board. His jazzy chords provided a warm, chilled out vibe, and the bass and keys provided a dash of funk and soul. Connor and band could be likened to John Mayer and old-school Maroon 5.
It would’ve been nice to see Connor engage a bit more with the audience as well- his eyes were closed throughout and he talked to his fellow musicians through some of the songs. We felt that although an obviously talented musician, the performance lacked a bit of pizzazz that we saw in the other performers.
However, Connor James and band are a talented group of musicians who will be sure to get your feet tapping.