THE PLOUGH Arts Centre has a reputation for showcasing the critically acclaimed. In Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts it stayed true to form.
Since forming in 2006, the Yorkshire-based folk duo have recorded three albums, toured extensively (most notably with Fairport Convention), and have been nominated for the BBC2 Horizon Award.
Fine credentials indeed, but their magic is not in such references or back-catalogues. In keeping with folk tradition, Gilmore and Roberts maintain a banter and between-song dialogue with their crowd which is as important as the songs themselves. They do not merely play tunes and sing words, but tell the stories behind their inception.
The pair have more than adequate vocal ability and harmonise perfectly together, but more impressive perhaps is their versatility with instruments.
Katriona is in one song a fiddler, the next a mandolinist, while Jamie exerts a mastery of the guitar tapping technique associated with the likes of Newton Faulkner et al. The music is for one moment mellow, reflective or haunting, but before long becomes racy, big and bold.
When the latter happens, you'd be forgiven for thinking there's ten or more players on stage – such is the volume they can extract from their humble acoustic bits of kit. But it is far from being merely noise. It's anthemic, driving bluegrass at its best.Think Mumford and Sons, without the predictable changes. This act would be just as at home on a huge stage with a massive crowd, and I'd love to be there. But there's nothing quite like a small, intimate venue to bring out the true colours.
Gilmore and Roberts not only rise to this challenge but embrace it, and the result is to make the audience guests rather than spectators. Long may they grace us with their presence.