St. Georges Glass Studio
Friday evening, mid-October. Rough old day, full of wind and rain, and traffic warnings on the roads into town. Back’s been playing up again, and those placcy chairs in the upstairs room at St. G’s are murder for more than an hour or so. Coulda stayed at home and plundered iPlayer. Nearly did. So bloody glad I didn’t.
As regular readers of my reports will know, I’m something of a St. Georges groupie; the little Bristol venue makes up about 75% of my gig-going these days, as I’m a fan of sitting down and listening to the music at gigs, rather than wolfing down beer and talking bollocks with mates; that’s for the pub.
I often buy tickets for gigs there months ahead of time; if an interesting evening is listed in their schedule I’ll quite frequently just take a punt in the knowledge that their booking strategy is to book artists for whom sitting down and listening to the music is exactly what’s required. That’s not to say that jiggling about is frowned upon, or that it doesn’t happen, as recent experience with the Orchestra Baobab proved conclusively.
This gig, then, was one I’d seen advertised early on, and for which we’d grabbed some tickets months back. Her name was a new one to me when I read the listing, but a swift YouTube visit told me I was on the right track. So by the night of the gig all I’d seen and heard was the one video I’d limited myself to of a recent track called ‘Drawn to Darkness’ and this was the song with which she opened on Wednesday night last week. It’s in the comments after this review.
As I listened to her play and sing I was struck again by the lyric; it’s both a personal song and a proud one, powerfully aware of what she is saying to the person to whom it is addressed, full of love without ulterior motive. I wondered if she’d considered the likelihood that many of her audience would not have heard her play before, and whether it was too bold to open with such a strong statement, too likely to alarm the listener; but for me, I was just deeply impressed with the choice, I took it to be a brave statement of intent. It was a great start to a resounding solo performance with no accompaniment, a performance that took no prisoners, in the kindest possible way.
I didn’t know it then of course, but what we got over the following hour or so was a deep trawl through her back catalogue, songs chosen wisely from all of her available releases to give us a rounded picture of her abilities and an accelerated understanding of how personal her songcraft is. She is outrageously unafraid to tell the listener her truth, with all of its lumps and bumps revealed and discussed.
There were several points in the performance when I turned to Madame Foxy and muttered quietly, ‘WHAT a song that was!’. I could see in my wife’s eyes that she was of the same opinion, and on the way home all she could say was how much she’d enjoyed the evening.
I won’t regale you here with tales of specific song highlights; not only were there no lowlights anyway, but there’s an extensive YouTube selection of Hannah’s songs available, including a lot of well chosen covers: she’s been live-streaming extensively during the pandemic, so you’re spolit for choice of selections from that period.
Hannah is on tour right now, and there are a number of gigs forthcoming; I urge you to check her out if you possibly can. Great songwriting is still happening. Great folk singers still exist. She is one of the very best.
This was part of St. Georges ‘Rising Folk’ programme, taking place in their little upsatirs mini-venue. A packed full audience of 80 were there. From a brief scout around I could see many stalwarts of Bristol’s Folk House (only 50 meteres away across on the other side of Park Street) as well as plenty of familiar noggins from St. Georges main hall concerts.
These days it seems that any gig with a ‘folk’ tag may be attended by a predominantly old-school audience, the real ale and jumpers brigade of days gone, but encouragingly there was also a fair sprinkling of younger punters in the ranks.
The reception she got on Wednesday told me immediately that she’d achieved a real impact; this was no polite understanding of encore etiquette, this was impressed enthusiasm. I could only concur.
It made me think..
Song-writing these days sounds far too often to my ears like an exercise in AI regurgitation of tropes and cliches that don’t even have the class to have come from Child ballads or from the resurgence. This girl writes her own songs that say things with her own voice, uses lyrical dexterity and nuance with both charm and effect, and confidently expresses them in a clear and unaffected voice. You are left wondering at how such gloriously exquisite things are possible to be heard within a three minute delivery.