Live at Trades Club (Hebden Bridge) on Thursday, 8th July 2004
Two rather significant women singer-songwriter-guitarists had Hebden Bridge Trades Club in the palms of their hands on the evening of Thursday 8 July. Indeed an attendance of 20 to 30 was just a handful for this event, placed immediately after a local Arts Festival - but it's fair to say that the result was to emphasise the quality of the two performers. They were Madeleine Brooks (who captivatingly and with much light self-deprecation talked us through a fine set of 7 self-penned songs); and Julie Ellison, settling after the shortest of breaks into sixteen songs and tunes that swished and lilted the evening through to 11.30, when her choice of Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues' as encore perhaps hinted it was time to be outside. The tone for the evening was pitched perfectly by MC Pete Lazenby's well-justified assurance of a concert of memorable talent.
Even if Maddy Brooks's chat hadn't had the natural local ease of a compulsive communicator, that would have been clear from any of her songs, coming across with effortless power of delivery and openness of feeling. There is a more than fair-sized talent here, which she was clearly born with and knows how to live with. The songs are intelligent, emotional, and have a consistency of worth; only by being told would we know that 'Masquerade' was the first she ever wrote. She understands what her writing and her voice need from a guitar and is capable of providing it. Her voice is a major asset, and has both delicacy and force among its dimensions; it's big and juicy, and in fact might even be a soul singer's voice, but is in no way out of place with Maddy's own heartfelt material.
So that was the support act! When Julie Ellison began her set it was, as ever, only a matter of moments before everyone knew why guitar work of phenomenal skill and feeling is making her a growing reputation. But that description is needed too for her singing and her songwriting. The recently issued extraordinary solo debut album At Last (Acoustyistics Limited, her own company label) has been six years in preparation and contains 12 numbers. Tonight we heard half of them, so the main part of the show gave plenty of assurance we needn't wait too long for the next CD.
And there are other landmarks along the way: as this is typed, Julie is a few days from playing support to Ralph McTell on Thursday 22 July at the 5th International Guitar Festival, held in The Customs House, South Shields. By the time these words are read, my guess is that many more and better-known commentators will have put into print their belief that Rotherham's Julie Ellison is one of Britain's most accomplished acoustic newcomers for many years.