There are certain moments attending gigs when all the ingredients are blending so well that you wish the whole experience could be bottled and savoured for future consumption. In what was certainly one of the highlights so far of this busy year, Cara Luft managed to create such a moment with her subliminal mix of high quality musicianship, enchanting stories, well crafted songs and engaging personality. When you throw into the pot the enhancing input from musical sidekick Scott Poley and the magical atmosphere of a near full Kitchen Garden Café, the desire to seek ways to capture the atmosphere intensifies. Those present will always have the memory while others hopefully can visualise and perhaps experience for themselves one of Cara’s UK shows, which are likely to proliferate in the future.
With a pedigree background from a family steeped in folk music back home in Canada, Cara has managed to evolve a sound that pays respect to the traditional song from both sides of the Atlantic. However as well as connecting with folk fans, the contemporary twist from her song writing expertise as well as banjo and guitar playing reaches out to the wider Americana fan base and you can’t go wrong with the subtle Dobro playing which Scott adds to equation. For nearly two hours, spread across a pair of sets, this value for money evening met and surpassed expectations from witnessing Cara live last year.
Perhaps the only slight drawback was the absence of some new material but plans are in place to rectify this in the near future. In the meantime the fantastic album DARLINGFORD which despite only just getting a European release, has been in the collection of many of Cara’s fans for over a year, was a worthy source for most of the material populating the set list. Within the first half a dozen songs, firm favourites such as ‘Idaho’, ‘Charged’ and ‘My Darling One’ were featured with the latter two subject to the first of several invited audience participations that graced the evening.
Occasionally, Scott would step aside to allow Cara to take the spotlight where we could focus intensely on her musicianship especially the claw hammer banjo playing skills. However his presence on acoustic guitar, Dobro and backing vocals took the show to an elevated level from what Cara was able to deliver solo when witnessed and reviewed last year. The jovial interaction between the duo increased after the break as tales were recounted of their German adventures and on a more sombre note Cara spoke about the background to the song ‘Dallaire’ and its relation to the Rwanda atrocities. Despite this brief thoughtful interlude, the vibes filling the brick-walled venue echoed with an air of positivity, best exemplified on ‘It’s Gonna Be Alright’.
Those Kitchen Garden Café regulars attracted to its traditional offerings were delighted with ‘The Ploughboy and the Cockney’, of which Cara proudly enthused that her version is only accompanied as a recording with one by Maddy Prior, and the slightly re-arranged ‘He Moved Through the Fair’. Americana enthusiasts, who associate Cara via her tenure as part of the Canadian super group The Wailin’ Jennys, could relate to the imagery of her description and adventures from travelling either side of the 49th Parallel as well as a vocal style that varied from classical folk to a slight twang more commonly found in our visitors from across the pond.
The parting shot from this excellent show is the mouth watering prospect of some of Cara’s future projects including the ABC of Canadian Music with Awna Teixeira from Po Girl and Brandy Zdan from Twilight Hotel, along with some promised new recordings. If either of these matches the high standard of both this evening’s gig and the DARLINGFORD album then we are in for a real treat.