LIVE REVIEW: Elaine Palmer, Afnan Prince, Travis Shaw, Birds and Beasts, Joe Martin @ The Sitting Room, Saltburn (30.08.20) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Elaine Palmer by Tracy Hyman

After pretty much half a year, what a pleasure to finally be able to go out and experience a live gig again. What’s more, after two days of autumn-like storms, the wind dropped and the sun was shining right through this all-day open air Bank Holiday festival.

Joe Martin was the first to pick up a guitar and perform beneath the Victorian station awning to the booked tables of socially distanced audience. Americana and country are the staples of this Preston performer who has a delightful voice and a songmaking toolkit that builds around outstanding lyrical flourishes. “She turned my vinyl into ash trays but she don’t even smoke” was the anchor line of his recent release Heartbreak Cult.

The Huddersfield male/female folk pop duo Birds and Beasts draw inspiration for their songs from the animal kingdom. They treated us to the story of a wolf without sheep’s clothing, crabs debating life choices in a rock pool and a mayfly life story (a very short song). A bass, an acoustic guitar and two voices combined to educate as well as entertain. Did you know fungi and algae combine to form lichen? They also had super fan in the audience that had cycled all the way from Huddersfield for the show. Now that is dedication. The song about ants self isolating when ill could not have been more relevant.

The third act brought Saltburn filmmaker, surfer and music man Travis Shaw to the stage. Accompanied by Mark on keyboards, Shaw played alt. rock with an emotional sting in the tail. There is a crackle in his voice and a tender, lilting finger-picking start which gradually builds into an emotional starburst finale. It was a short, sharp impactful set to blow away the afternoon rust.

Afnan Prince has recently joined Travis as a resident of Saltburn, having moved down the coast from Tyneside. Soon to be striking out with band Future Humans, he was playing stripped back versions of his songs outside the Sitting Room. Afnan has already garnered a considerable following from his acting as well as his music. With a gentle, caressing voice and well structured pop he was a hit with the locals, and with a song entitled Saltburn he provided an anthem for the day.

Sessions host Elaine Palmer provided a feisty finale. Turning on the electric guitar and tuning in to sounds infusing folk, country and Americana with Yorkshire grit, Elaine added that golden voice to the gold of the setting sun. Blackened Heart is a spiky single honed from the deserts of Arizona and served up across the sands of Saltburn; while Make Roots is a cry for home found nestling in the hills and valleys of the North York Moors.

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