The Opposite Of Robot 22 February 2009

It used to be that every young woman with a guitar wanted to be Joni or maybe if they were more romantic Judy collins. Not so anymore, if Lancaster student but native Londoner Jo Gillot demonstrates. It seems the singer-songwriter these days is re-writing the kitchen sink melodramas of the early 60s rather than the fey dreams of a few years on.
In Gillot’s case this means odd lapses into Kate Nash-isms before her voice swoops and soars again like a more robust Joanna Newsom and the strength of her lyrics becomes more than just clever clever word play. Opener ‘Bit of Zen’ and the jazz-tinged ‘Part of the Plan’ stood out.
I missed most of Joanne Levey‘s set only catching her rendition of Bob lee’s old music hall tune ‘Rawtenstall Annual Fair.’ There;s an element of music hall in the Kate Nash/Lily Allen stylings around of late, but it isn’t really my thing. Joanne’s voice is strong though, and it went down well.
All of which leads us to one of Lancaster’s more idiosyncratic talents, the ubiquitous Mikey Kenney in his latest incarnation Ottersgear. Well known as One Chip Potato and as the wild fiddler with Dan Haywood’s New Hawks, you know what to expect from Kenney, something different. This was Ottergear’s live debut, catch them whenever you can if you like an eclectic mix of violin, guitar (from the aforementioned Mr Haywood), hand drums and I think a reed organ? Throw in Mikey’s askew folk-pagan lyrics about drinking faerie wine in the woods and his unusual voice and you end up with something akin to a folky Arcade Fire. Or, to put it another way, you end up with a good time.
Finally, the main event, totally new to me, The Winter Journey. As they took the stage I was struck by thoughts of The Handsome Family in that mismatched couple out of Grant Wood way. Musically they began with hints of 60s folk-popin Anthony’s guitar work but then it was underlaid with quirky, subtle electronica. At its best moments of which there were certainly sufficient, the ghost of Red House Painters emerged more than anything. This is a good thing. Then on one song rythmic accompaniment was Suzy’s tap danceing. Now this I have my doubts about, but it didnt mar a mixed set that also took in Carter Family duettting and occasionally incongruous electronic whoops and looped handclaps. Sounds odd, it was odd, but it worked. A pity for them perhaps that Jo Gillot’s army of admirers had drifted away but those who stayed enjoyed I think.

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