SARAH Gillespie is a wordsmith par excellence as purchasers of her rich seam of music will testify (Glory Days, In The Current Climate and Stalking Juliet).
She has a knack of writing witty lyrics about almost anything. Sometimes they are deeply personal – a lament for her departed mother. Occasionally, they are extraordinarily original and witty, based on no more than the ridiculous things people will say in lonely hearts columns to find a companion (been there, done it). They can also contain political bite. All delivered in a gravelly sultry voice that has drawn comparison with Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey. A female Bob Dylan. An enjoyable blend of folk, jazz and blues.
Given her skill with the pen, it is no surprise therefore to learn that she is also a poet (Queen Ithaca Blues). Talent oozes from her.
On Monday (October 29), Gillespie was at the Southbank Centre in London to launch her new album Wishbones (her first in five years) and embark upon a tour that will take her to all four corners of the country before ending up at the Lighthouse Theatre in Poole at the end of March.
Understandably, the set was built around the new album, bookended by the album’s opening track Russian Interference and The Last Of The Goodtime Charlies (a dig at Brexiteers).
Standouts from the album included an upbeat and quite epic The Ballad Of Standing Rock with Laura Jurd masterful on trumpet. Also You Win where Chris Montague’s guitar playing roared to the surface like an erupting Mount Vesuvius. Moonshiner, an ode to the dark side of drinking, was thrilling with Montague again impressing.
The originality of her writing bubbled to the fore on Susan Threw A Helicopter – a song based on the daily (often droll) reports she would get back from her daughter’s nursery about her behaviour.
Of course, Gillespie also treated the audience to some of her back book, including Glory Days (a love letter to her late mother), an intoxicating Million Moons and Sugar Sugar (a fitting encore).
Gillespie’s band was excellent with Kit Downes formidable on piano and organ (he also arranged and produced all the songs on Wishbones), Ruth Goller on bass, James Maddren on drums and of course Jurd and Montague on trumpet and guitar. Backing vocals were sublimely delivered by Emma Divine.
I imagine that the set and band will gel even more as the 14-stop tour restarts on November 24 in Milton Keynes. Quite a mouth-watering prospect.
A great night, helped in no small way by two strong support acts from bard Ally Craig (super voice and like Gillespie a born lyricist) and Jason McNiff – whose latest album is Rain Dries Your Eyes.