Posted by John Hepworth.
Reviewed on 11th September 2004.
Live at Grove Inn on Thursday, 9th September 2004
Interesting and distinctive: these terms are sure to be among comments heard where Sarah Lawton plays. Those reactions were mine too back in January, as with acoustic guitar, tabla accompaniment from Paul Bratt, and what seemed like a range of different voices Sarah held the attention of a crowded Primrose pub, on an evening when the main reason for being there was the electric folk-rock of Leeds's Duncan McFarlane Band.
Thursday's appearance at the Grove had me in a state of anticipation. And that's what it left me in - anticipation rather than fulfilment. The missing element, which had been strongly evident at the earlier gig, was an unusual and rewarding deeper vocal sound, with which this young but experienced (Glastonbury '97 and '98 plus a few CDs) singer-songwriter can offset what is sometimes a reedy treble, or a more solid alto, and at other times pure strong soprano. These variations do work well with her guitar style, often airy and slightly jangly, while her voice and guitar both blend with the unconventional presence of the tabla. Paul is equally capable on congas, which saw quite a lot of action at the Grove, perhaps because the performance was without PA.
She has bookings near Leeds quite soon, and I'm glad of an imminent opportunity to come to terms with some music that even when it doesn't make the big impact isn't easy to walk away from. At next weekend's Otley Folk Festival (16-19 Sept) Sarah has a couple of hour-long concert spots on the Saturday, and indeed these owe their existence to just the sort of impression she can make. Festival organiser Steve Fairholme is in the Duncan McFarlane Band, and even though by early this year there was no shortage of good talent pressing for consideration, he too found that a taste of Sarah Lawton's act can make people keen to hear more.