Lichfield Guildhall
One of the country’s most critically-acclaimed new folk duos, Hannah Martin and Philip Henry, played for a large and animated audience when they appeared at Lichfield Guildhall. With an ever-growing fanbase, and recent wins of various awards including 2014 best duo at the BBC folk awards, this year has seen the performers’ star in the ascendancy. With an innovative sound blending tradition with new arrangements and sounds that included tight harmony vocals, technically accomplished fiddle, viola and banjo playing, dobro that was as flawless as it was musical, and beat-box harmonica that had to be seen and heard to be believed, the pair packed a lot into the evening. The music came mostly from their two most recent albums in Mynd and Live in Calstock, and ranged from well though-out arrangements of traditional music, as well as their own quality songs and instrumentals. In the first half the tone was set with Philip Henry’s beatbox Harmonica tour-de-force of Underground Railway which set some fine playing against sounds and beats, using pedals but creating the sound and momentum in real time. The slow ballad Silbury Hill was a haunting exercise in restraint and musicianship, while the traditional Death and the Lady was a stand-out track for Hannah Martin’s vocals and fiddle. New sonic ground was covered in the second half, with much of their own music, which ranged from Ms Wilmot’s Ghost, a story about a keen gardener who still carried on her life’s work from the other side, to Painter, a song about the losses felt in the war. They also featured new music in the hard hitting song Stones. The energy level lifted even further, with The Nailmaker’s Strike and The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe both becoming fearsome displays of musicianship and technique. An encore of James Taylor’s famed lullaby You Can Close Your Eyes showed the duo at their peak – melodic but innovative, with mass appeal that would also please the purists, and showed that the faith that the record industry and the media have placed in this is being well rewarded.