There’s something pleasing about a musical project with a neat backstory, like this one.
It’s even better when the music lives up to said story.
Marry Waterson and Emily Barker were thrown together at a writing retreat, ‘locked in a room’ as they would have it, and not allowed out until they had come up with a song together.
The former is a scion of the Waterson-Carthy folk dynasty and a formidable talent in her own right, while the latter is a singer-songwriter with a fine pedigree of her own in the folk world from her time with The Red Clay Halo, and more latterly in the world of Americana.
Something clearly clicked because the pair went on to produce a full album together in sessions at their respective homes of Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire and Stroud in Gloucestershire. The result was A Window To Other Ways, which they are now touring.
Musically diverse it obviously features elements of folk and Americana, but the two were clearly happy to push each other.
Their voices work well together, as demonstrated on some gorgeous harmony work.
Live, as in the studio, they’re joined by two of Barker’s regular band, Lukas Drinkwater (bass) and Rob Pemberton (drums).
Opener Twister sets the bar high, starting in a relative hush, building to a mid-song swell deserving of the song title.
Along the way we get to hear Little Hits of Dopamine, a wry take on the effects of social media on real-life interaction.
And there’s also an ode to ‘Jomo’, the ‘joy of missing out’ rather than the modish concept of ‘Fomo’, or ‘fear of missing out.’
Mid-set, everyone leaves bar Barker, who sings Disarm Me to the plinking sound of a music box melody. It’s a delicate and all-too-brief joy.
She’s rejoined by the rhythm section for a run through of two new songs, which she tells us she is planning to record later this month for a new solo album. They bode well.
Then it’s Marry’s turn to take the stage solo for a brace of gorgeous folk ballads.
Most of the album gets an airing, but the last two tracks of the evening allow Marry to hark back to her mother, Lal Waterson, who died in 1998.
There’s Bright Phoebus, originally by Lal and her brother Mike Waterson.
But it’s the final song that really brings down the house. All four musicians leave the stage to stand right in front of the audience and sing the lusty tale of Some Old Salty, as it was intended, a cappella.
The track was originally recorded towards the end of Lal’s life with her son, Marry’s brother, Oliver Knight.
While both Marry and Emily are serial collaborators, and both have other projects in the pipeline, on this evidence it would be wonderful if they could work together again, but we may just have to savour this for the one-off it turns out to be.
And us lucky few who saw them will be grateful we did.