Saturday, 27 October 2018

GIG REVIEW: Kirsty Merryn - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham.Tuesday 23rd October 2018

Some albums wither and die probably only destined to have a short shelf life. Alternatively, others possess longevity to benefit from subsequent renewals. Kirsty Merryn’s SHE & I absolutely falls into the latter category. Its conceptual uniqueness added a breath of fresh air to the folk world, everlastingly sustained by a pristine execution. Twelve months on from savouring the delights of the record upon release, there was a timely opportunity to return to the album as Kirsty delivered its entirety on a current run of live dates across the country.

Although she is no stranger to playing shows in the Midlands area, this was Kirsty’s first visit to the Kitchen Garden, an ideal venue to capture the intricacy of the record. This solo presentation was a one off on the tour as partner Todd McDonald was unavailable for the evening. Having only previously seeing Kirsty on her own, it was a case of business as usual. The decision to split the evening between the whole album in set one and a mixed selection after the break worked well to set the framework for a splendid bout of entertainment.

Before Kirsty even steps into the spotlight, a classical training background has supplied the credentials to score highly in the technical stakes. While some singers thrive on an element of imperfection, Kirsty comfortably airs a state of elegant vocal supremacy. Likewise her piano playing offers a cultured backdrop. Maybe a little adrift from folk convention, but perfectly aligned with her attributes.

The songs from SHE & I took the whole notion of gender focussed song writing to a new level. The depth of the project is immense, and fully warrants any extended praise afforded to it. For the uninitiated, the album predominately draws on the inspiration from historical female heroes in a variety of fields with Kirsty cementing their various places in the history books in her own inimitable words.

Away from the album, and effectively the second half of this show, Kirsty extended her repertoire with a selection of traditional songs and additional ones of original origin. Versions of ‘The Outlandish Knight’ and ‘The Banks of Sweet Primroses’ may go a long way to satisfying folk purists, but the self-penned ‘Deep Wild Torrent’ was the pick of the post-break bunch. Older songs such as ‘Constantine’ and ‘Winter in Ontario’ did have a previous existence on an earlier EP, while tunes like the ‘Wedding Song’ and ‘The Wake’ may yet find their way into recorded status.

The future for Kirsty Merryn is likely to be a new release mixing traditional and original tunes with timings heavily dependent on funding. Whether the intensity and uniqueness of SHE & I is matched will be judged in time, but one certainty is that the full bag of performing and writing credentials are set to prosper. Listening to Kirsty sing and play in a pin drop environment was not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening, perhaps the perfect tonic to a long work day.

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