Live Review: The Rye Sisters, Album Launch Party, St Mary’s Guildhall, Lincoln – 15th December 2023

The Rye Sisters, Live at St Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln (Album Launch Party). - 15th December, 2023
photo; John Gill

Just a mere six years after the release of their debut album ‘Brave Unbeaten Paths’  The Rye Sisters finally deliver the perfect Christmas present for their ever increasing fan base with the news of the imminent release of their sophomore album ‘Distant Light’. As a way of celebrating the occasion and to say a big thank you to all those involved in helping make the new album a reality the duo, Sue Pomeroy guitar and vocals and Ishani Siriwardena violin and vocals, threw an album launch party at the historic St Mary’s Guildhall in Lincoln where they shared the stage with an array of friends, and family along with some of the musicians whose skills had contributed to its completion.

The evening’s performance was split into two halves with the opening set highlighting the celebratory feel of the occasion, with a party spirit very much the theme. Proceedings were kicked off by a short set by Sheffield’s very own Julia Waldron, who as well as fronting her own band is also known as a member of Daisy Daisy with renowned jazz singer Nicola Farnan. Tonight she was performing solo, just guitar and vocals of which the songs ‘Holes’, and ‘Mama Gave Me Music’ were particular standouts. Next, The Rye Sisters took to the stage to perform a few of their favourite covers including First Aid Kit’s ‘Emmylou’ and The Secret Sisters’ ‘Tennessee River’, two songs that highlight the duo’s exquisite harmony vocals whilst at the same time giving a clear nod to the musical landscape they inhabit. At this point the hosts vacated the stage to allow the duo of John Pomeroy guitar vocals and Elora Brailsford bass and vocals to perform a short set which included a wonderful cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’, while the self penned ‘Dark Magic’ was another worthy of note.

To conclude the first half of the evening’s performance The Rye Sisters returned to the stage alongside album producer Roger Jackson, who as well as being a member of Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians has also toured with such luminaries as Graham Gouldman and Andrew Gold in the band Wax and worked as a session player for such household names as Crowded House, Billie Piper and Paul McCartney. The trio were joined on stage by Andii Gosling who has contributed the cello and banjo playing on the new album and together they delivered another short set of songs that included the old time tune ‘Winderslide’, a wonderful rendition of Dirk Powell’s ‘Waterbound’, as well as Jackson’s very own ‘Missing Kissing You’.

The Rye Sisters, live at St Mary's Guildhall, Lincoln. - 15th December 2023. (Album Launch Party)
photo: John Gill

After a short interval full of excited chatter, Pomeroy and Siriwardena returned to the stage to perform ‘Distant Light’ in its entirety leading off with the album’s opening track ‘Stuck In A Jam’. Although they have been performing various styles of music for years, Pomeroy having previously been a founding member of The Woodberrys, whilst Siriwardena’s classically influenced background has seen her work in musical theatre and jazz ensembles, it was only back in May 2016 that they they first performed as The Rye Sisters. Since then, despite the restrictions brought on by the pandemic they have built on a strong following across the UK and Europe regularly playing the clubs and festivals culminating last spring with the auspices honour of opening for New York’s finest The Mammals on their most recent visit to these shores.

Throughout the unveiling of the new album each song was enthusiastically received by the packed out hall, with songs such as ‘Capture The Moon’, (the first single from the album), ‘Waverley Station’ and their cover of Bill Monroe’s ‘The One I love Is Gone’ had an immediate impact, as well as encompassing much of what marks the duo out as one of the finest exponents of Americana bluegrass and harmony singing to evolve from this side of the Atlantic in recent years. Understandably their vocal prowess garners much attention, drawing favourable comparison with the likes of Gillian Welch, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, however during the middle section of the set the duo broke into an instrumental medley with the the seasonal ‘Christmas Eve Is Coming, Anna’ leading into the traditional ‘Cumberland Gap’,  both ably demonstrated the musical dexterity that underpins both their songs and sublime vocal interplay. Fittingly enough the evening’s proceedings came to a close with a song that exemplifies the duo’s harmonies with ‘Stand Still’ the final track from the album sung a cappella to an audience so caught up in the performance you could have heard a pin drop. Simply stunning.

An in-depth review of ‘Distant Light’, will appear in these pages in the coming weeks whilst The Rye Sisters will be out on the road from February to promote the album.

About Graeme Tait 110 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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