Sunday night, after my busy weekend away with Carol in the Midlands, Shani and I were the support to Niamh and Graham at Hitchin Folk Club.
Our set was quite laid back, but very appropriate for the mood and audience. Getting them to sing along with 'Sunset' (audience participation is a must) was a challenge, but they didn't let us down!
But back to Niamh and Graham. Let's start with Graham, a quiet, reserved seeming fellow from County Clare - but his guitar speaks volumes! He describes himself as playing 'folk, jazz, flamenco' and certainly all those styles are in his playing. His ability as a guitarist is amazing - because he doesn't just have the technical ability to play something as complex as, say Rodriguez' Recuerdos de la Alhambra (with that neat triple note playing), but because he could accompany and adapt his style to suit that of the singer - Niamh.
His guitar playing suited every song - the majority of which were traditional but not all. He also played some solo pieces, all of which were like little 'musical journeys' rather than set pieces. They took you down lanes, byways and some highways in their pace and structure.
Niamh sings - though she says she plays guitar (like she did when she was 15) - she only sung this night. Her voice is in a low register, and her Irish accent adds an additional dimension that is pleasing to the ear. Her choice of songs, though sometimes morbid (I was impressed - she had a body count at the end of the set which even I could not match!), were moving and thought-provoking.
Her delivery on stage is relaxed and informal, yet she stands out as a consummate professional. She engaged the audience with talk as well as her singing, anecdotes relevant to the songs and to the performance. Her voice has a tone and timbre that are easy to listen to. She does not sing with a power borne of volume, but - and the only word I can find to explain it - presence. A rich tone, without feeling cloying. I guess the best thing is if you listen yourself: http://www.myspace.com/niamhparsonsofficial. Visit her site, buy her CDs, see her live!
If you like good traditional folk music and excellent guitar playing without the 'diddly diddly', then Niamh and Graham deliver the goods!