Live Review: Wayward Jane + Julia Waldron, The Village Hall, Nettleham, Lincoln – 18th May 2024

Wayward Jane live at the Village Hall, Nettleham, Lincoln, 18th May 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

This evening’s headliners, Wayward Jane, were making their first visit to the renowned folk club at the Village Hall, Nettleham, just outside Lincoln, but as is usual for this esteemed venue there was a healthy turnout from the local congregation. The four piece band hail from Edinburgh and comprise of Sam Gillespie, originally from Northumbria, on guitar, wooden flute and vocals (and who often performs with sibling James as one half of the Gillespie Brothers) Michael Starkey on banjo, guitar, vocals (who also works as part of a critically acclaimed old-time music duo with Hannah Read) alongside with the much in demand Dan Abrahams on double bass, guitar and vocals (who as well as working for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra can also be found as a member of both The Foo Birds and folk genre-busters Dowally) and Dowally also include Wayward Jane’s fourth member Rachel Petyt on fiddle and vocals. However, tonight there is a slight change to the line-up for what is the first date on the bands current tour, as Petyt is currently on maternity leave which means new member Pepita Emmerichs is making her live debut with the band.

The quartet kicked proceedings of with the title track from their most recent album ‘The Flood’, an album which received high praise on its release last year and immediately gives a flavour of the band’s musical palette with its modern interpretation of American folk and old-time music infused with a distinct Scottish accent, highly evident on this instrumental. A second number from the new album followed with their take on Elizabeth Cotton’s classic ‘Shake Sugaree’, which gives the audience the first opportunity to marvel at the exquisite harmonies and in particular the vocals of Gillespie whose soulful delivery belies his years and conjures comparison with the sorely missed Jeff Buckley. At this point it did strike me that probably none of tonight’s line-up were born when Cotton passed away and therefore how thoroughly refreshing it felt that such a relatively youthful set of excellent musicians weren’t just playing this music but were delivering it with their own interpretation and fresh arrangement, hopefully for a new generation to discover.

Wayward Jane live at the Village Hall, Nettleham, Lincoln, 18th May 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

From here the band delved into their back catalogue, playing tracks from their self titled album released in 2016 and their sophomore offering ‘Old Train’, (2019), starting with the instrumental ‘Chuck In The Brush’ which Emmerichs’ fiddle playing excels along with some fine clawhammer banjo playing from Starkey, before the gently lilting ‘September’ finds Gillespie’s vocals perfectly capturing the mood of the narrative and emphasising how wonderfully the band blend their take on roots music with their own original compositions. Their love of traditional music is borne out one more time before the interval with a fantastic interpretation of ‘Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor’ which music historians believe could have been first sung in the mid 1890’s around New Orleans but is probably better known today through the versions recorded by Mississippi John Hurt in the 1960’s and latterly by Gillian Welch. However, this evening Wayward Jane made the song their own, with some delicious harmony vocals and impeccable musicianship.

After a short interval during which time all four members of the band came out to the merchandise table to meet and greet members of the audience, have a chat and sell a few CDs, the second set got underway with the instrumental ‘La Bazoo’ from their most recent release that floated around the room, typical of the band’s musical prowess that even the uptempo numbers never felt hurried or rushed but instead danced with a gentle, joyous energy. Next up was the wonderful ‘Hills Of Mexico’, with its strong lyrical narrative and fine banjo playing from Starkey, before Abrahams, whose rhythmic pulse, whether on guitar or double bass had acted as the very heartbeat of the quartet throughout the evening,  joined Gillespie on vocal duties for ‘Down The River’, that flowed like a tranquil stream on a summers day, Emmerichs’ fiddle adding the flashes of sunlight.

Wayward Jane live at the Village Hall, Nettleham, Lincoln. 18th May 2024.
photo: Graeme Tait

‘Edinburgh Rain’, the opening track from their latest album followed, its narrative capturing the topography of the band’s spiritual home while the arrangement drew from both sides of the Atlantic. The constant need to tune and re-tune instruments is an occupational hazard with the folk music tradition, and more tweaking of the tuning pegs was required before the last instrumental number of the set, ‘Little Satchel’, written by legendary American fiddle player Fred Cockerham that he himself had adapted from the traditional tune ‘Katie Dear’. Here, Starkey stepped forward to share lead vocals before the quartet brought the evening’s proceedings to a close with the self penned ‘Liberty’, that despite having first appeared on last years album encompasses, like so many of the band’s composition, a sagacious resonance, as if it had been matured over years in an oak cask, aged to perfection. Fortunately, and to the delight of the audience, there was still time for an encore with ‘Railroad Bill’, that displayed everything this quartet are about, outstanding musicianship, and exquisite harmonies all wrapped around a musical hybrid of traditional old time music infused with a modern transatlantic twist to produce a sound that is uniquely there own.

The support act for the evening was Sheffield singer songwriter Julia Waldron who opened her set with the perennial John Prine classic ‘Angel From Montgomery’, which immediately highlighted her warm vocal delivery, fully embracing the heartfelt narrative of the song and quickly endearing herself to the local congregation. Later in the set Waldron would deliver a fine rendition of Richard Thompson’s ‘Dimming Of The Day’, the quality in her choice of covers not just a testament to her passion and understanding of the craft of songwriting, but also the inspiration behind her own compositions, as she would demonstrate throughout the bulk of her set.

Julia Waldron live at the Village Hall, Nettleham, Lincoln, 18th May 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

Waldron’s debut album ‘Flying Solo’, came out in 2015, and she treated the audience to the title track early in proceedings. However, the rest of her set was all made up of new songs, and as far as I’m aware, still not recorded. These included a wonderful tribute to her late mother entitled ‘Mama Gave Me Music‘ which, rather than being a sombre tale of loss, instead burst full of positivity and pride while ‘Broken Man Shoes’ showed an artist with a keen eye for her surroundings and an empathy for those less fortunate. ‘No Going Back’ and ‘A Little Love’ explored matters of the heart, where as one can’t help but feel the more humorous angle of ‘My White Van Man’, and ‘Pipa The Dog’, would have got an appreciative nod from Prine himself. Let’s hope these songs find their way onto a new album release from Waldron in the not too distant future.

About Graeme Tait 125 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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