EW banner picArtistry, chemistry, camaraderie and mutual respect make for a cracking double header with Jess Morgan and Kitty Macfarlane’s East West tour, with each standing out in their own uniqueness, and supporting the other’s individuality to shine through. From ‘Whitby’ to ‘eels’, singer-songwriters Jess (from Norfolk’s east coast) and Kitty (from the West Country) introduce the other to their home turf, and the audience to their differing worlds and songwriting, in a great series of gigs sponsored by Cecil Sharp House and PRS Help Musicians.
I was lucky enough to catch one of the ‘West’ shows last night, presented by Phil Royal of South Devon Music in Bovey Tracey. Already a big fan of Jess Morgan and her songs, I really enjoyed her crafting of a first set which on one level promised to take the listener to places she has been: “this song’s about Whitby… I wrote this in Canada… are you familiar with the Birmingham ring road?” but which actually grabbed you unsuspectingly, and drew you into an inner landscape of insightful, sometimes dark, often wryly funny and always compelling observations on life and being human. If I closed my eyes I was transported into Jean-Jacques Beineix territory; I think it’s the mix of unusual and often edgy detail and realism in her lyric, the atmosphere created by confident and rhythmic guitar playing and Jess’s unique delivery and storytelling (it feels as if she is absolutely in the song she is singing, reliving memories, real or imagined). One of my favourites ‘The Longest Arm” is about how the small things in life get us through the bigger, difficult stuff, and it occurred to me that is what these songs do: they draw you into details which then reveal the whole picture. There is a depth to Jess’s writing and performance which is well worth exploring.
I knew of Kitty MacFarlane and have noticed her name rising up through the ranks and so it was great to finally get to see her live. Kitty opened with a powerful a capella song, and the purity of her voice set the scene for a wonderfully atmospheric second half. These songs are very much rooted in the land, the relationship mankind has with this earth. Kitty introduced us to the sea scares and mud flats of the West Country, to beachcombers in Cornwall, to the human (and the eel’s) drive to move on and explore new territory. All of this was threaded carefully and beautifully with folklore, mystery and global issues, Kitty’s vocal weaving beautiful melodies and landing softly and cleverly on well placed and sometimes unexpected words.
At the end of the night Jess joined Kitty on stage and they sang one of Jess’s songs together. This was a fantastic blending of vocal and character and a wonderful finale to an excellent evening.
If you are at all interested in songwriting or contemporary folk, try and catch this tour. Five days remain:
Sunday 3 December Bristol Folk House TICKETS/INFO
Wednesday 6 December Cecil Sharp House London TICKETS/INFO
Thursday 7 December Burston Crown Diss TICKETS/INFO
Friday 8 December Cambridge Folk Club TICKETS/INFO
Saturday 9 December Ravenous Cafe Raveningham Norfolk TICKETS/INFO
East WestJMKMc Tour Flyer - for print (set-up for A5)