Saw three self-styled girls with guitars at the weekend, and each was great, and together – guitar, banjo, percussion, melody and harmony – they were stunning. It was down to members of the audience to pick out of a hat (actually a tin) who would play in what order. Each a woman with a guitar (or a shoulder-straining banjo), but each with a unique approach, and none with any honorable but musically off-putting air of having an axe to grind, of the kind that might once have been suggested by the collective tag. For them at least the battle has long since been won.
Rachael Dadd was first out of the tin. She has a voice with the timbre and purity of a bell, and you hear in it an emotional and somehow moral force. A churchbell chime, but not constrained by that, instead running musically and poetically free. You hear this on the follow-up to her piano-based Moth in the motor mini-album, the guitar-oriented Elephee EP, and well, long-term readers will know what a fan I am.
Kate Stables, the artist formally known as This Is The Kit, is Rachael’s partner in Whalebone Polly. On top there are her wonderfully windblown melodies ululating in the air, while underneath her slightly fuzzy, muddy guitar mounts a gentle attack. She plays her new single ‘Moon’, a perfect miniature, for which we the audience are invited to sound Kate’s opening note. On vinyl it’s expanded into an equally flawless full-band version; its flip ‘Treehouse’ moves with similar grace but also a countryesque twang. This Is The Kit’s album Wriggle out the restless is due for October release, and if it’s all as finely crafted as these songs, it will be great.
In a live setting Rozi Plain is perhaps a little more diffident, maybe less confident in her ability to stand toe to toe with her friends. But she shouldn’t worry, because about half of what she does is jaw-dropping in its beautiful idiosyncracy. It’s not that she’s other-worldly, as you might think from listening to her Fence album Inside over here; in fact she’s actually rather earthy. The first song she plays has the sparseness of the Young Marble Giants, but after that, she draws them entirely from a world of her own. They’re gentle and surprising and softly, almost unintentionally inventive. She played lots of new songs and I hope they all see the light of day soon.
In the second half of the evening, each of the trio played a song to a theme, and happily for a man in possession of a birdsongs blog, the theme was geese. You can catch Rachael’s and Kate’s geese over at Nightingales now; I don’t think Rozi’s committed hers to disc yet, so in its absence, I’ve settled on the lovely, spiralling ‘Roof rook crook crow’ from Inside over here.