REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Katherine Priddy and John Smith, Selby Town Hall, 3/11/2022

John Smith and Katherine Priddy: “Quietly lovely”. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

ANYONE expecting fireworks may have chosen the wrong evening.

So often over the years, this reviewer has been left mulling on what if the performers on the same bill actually played together? The folk world seems more into this swing of things, through necessity and perhaps companionship on the road.

While the prospect of this joint concert between the highly regarded John Smith and rising folk star Katherine Priddy was enough to set sparks flying, the show was rather muted.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t quietly lovely. Priddy, in particular, has the gift of a lovely voice and melodies that feel timeless. With Smith providing extra steel guitar, the two created a beautiful sound that had the sell-out crowd applauding loudly from the start.

The fireworks that were on offer were of the indoor kind. Like in Elvis Costello’s song of that title, Smith’s material was situated in the domestic seam, once star-crossed lovers dealing with relentless normality.

A new tune, Lily, written with the great Joe Henry, bodes well for his next album. Smith has an everyman appeal, and his material expertly, without fuss or fancy, deals with very relatable subjects.

Katherine Priddy: “The gift of a lovely voice and melodies that feel timeless”

Priddy’s songs do too, although her subject matter is sometimes many centuries old. This Eng Lit graduate has used her love of classical literature to craft at least two fine songs, with Eurydice the pick of the two.

From the between-song tuning chats, Priddy sounds like she has packed in plenty of song-worthy experiences that hopefully can be played out over a long career.

The two voices blended well, although Smith had picked up a cold, so his normally smoky warm burr was more of a gentle breeze. This was not a Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, or Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan study in contrasts.

Combined with a setlist that was pitched mostly at the same pace and on similar subjects, the evening was missing a note or two of variety. Priddy picked up on this, and they included her up-tempo Letters From A Travelling Man, which showcased Smith’s flair for country picking.

Over 14 songs and 100 minutes, the pair made a warm impression. Nestled in the lovely atmosphere of Selby Town Hall, it felt as though they were among friends. For an encore, they played their new single, a cover of The McGarrigle Sisters’ Talk To Me Of Mendocino (from Kate and Anna’s perfect 1976 debut album).

Priddy did a wonderful job with Kate’s song, her voice masterfully conveying a powerful yearning for home. By then we didn’t want them to leave, but the tour must roll on.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Take a bow: John Smith and Katherine Priddy at the finale