Moon shoots, roots and musical fruits, what an elegant swellegant sonic soiree we were party to on the occasion of Letham Nights fortieth incarnation. It was the Night of The Strings with not a single piece of woodwind, brass or percussion (craftily mounted cymbals and unorthodox double-bass playing not withstanding) anywhere near the stage for what proved a sumptuous and soulful treat for the LN faithful.
We pride ourselves on finding the best talent out there and that doesn’t just mean our headline acts. The Jellyman’s Daughter were our openers this evening but they could just as easily have topped the bill such is their class. Based in Edinburgh, and travelling under their own steam for the first time ever due to the recent acquisition of an automobile (cello’s and public transport, anyone?), Emily Kelly (acoustic guitar / vocals) and Graham Coe (cello / vocals) share an easy on-stage dynamic borne out of their off-stage partnership. The result is that their ‘banter’ never seems forced and maintains a natural intimacy with the audience. Their voices are beautifully sympathetic and any egos are refreshingly kept at bay with each seemingly as happy singing backing as lead vocals. Their virtuosity is not limited to their singing with Graham playing cello unlike anything you’ve heard before, at times running conventionally up and down the neck with classically trained precision, then ‘chopping’ funky octaves to get toes tapping and even, at times, strumming it like an guitar. You sometimes come across acts which pack such musicianship but lack the songs but TJD back up the chops with plenty of creativity with songs such as ‘Anna’ and ‘Little Child’ a deserving part of anyone’s playlist. A unique take on ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, all rich dark strings and minor harmonies, was also a particular treat and the finale, a stunning version of the traditional ‘Darling Corey’ was a proper spine-tingler. Our very own answer to The Civil Wars! Can there be any higher praise?
Cera Impala already knows a thing or two about a Letham Nights welcome having previously wowed us with her harmonies as part of The Bevvy Sisters but she was back tonight doing her own thing with her band The New Prohibition, featuring the wonderfully accomplished talents of Joel Sanderson (double bass / vocals) and Dr Dirk Ronneburg (fiddle / vocals / husband). Originally hailing from Flagstaff, Arizona, Cera has made her home in various bits of the USA and Europe and this shows in the myriad cultural flavours evident in her writing. Cera herself is a truly dazzling musician turning her hand to ukelele and guitar but it is the banjo where her true magic lies and, boy, she can pick with the best of them. Where there’s a banjo, bluegrass isn’t usually far behind and Cera and the guys serve up great handfuls of mountain melodies and hillbilly harmonies with an energy and passion that can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Foot stompers sit effortlessly next door to slow-burners like the gorgeous ‘Whisky’, a paean to the great universal cause and solution to all of life’s problems. Cera’s voice is truly wonderful and versatile too and she shifts into jazz without effort, her vocal soaring to new heights. Fans of murder ballads will love ‘Flicker and Shine’ whilst her cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Star Dust’ was just magnificent. The intimate feel of Letham Nights (and the natural warmth and loveliness of the LN audience!) invites artists to establish a certain rapport and Cera and her boys have a lovely line in witty chat. You can’t fail to warm to the banjo jokes and easy conversation including a routine so simple and hilarious that it’s amazing we’ve never seen it before: Cera: “I’d like to take a moment to introduce the band. Joel, this is Dirk. Dirk, Joel.” Brilliant!
Check out The Jellyman’s Daughter here: thejellymansdaughter.com