My initial reaction when entering this relaxed arts venue was surprise at the audience demographic. Considering that Caitlin Rose is currently doing the rounds as part of the Twisted Folk tour, the scene last night was a fairly typical older English folk crowd. Few people looked below the age of forty, and even fewer looked younger than thirty. At twenty four, I was perhaps the youngest audience member. However, whilst the crowd may have been filled with beards and hiking boots, the support acts for Rose were the complete opposite of crusty folk. Both Peter Wolf Crier and Hannah Peel demonstrated a gloriously current, fresh and quirky sound, which was exactly the kind of hip, new, alt-folk I had been expecting to witness.
Then Caitlyn Rose came on stage, and my confusion regarding the audience was resolved. Rose’s music, for the most part, is country based music, and country-folk is generally more appealing to an older, mellower and more reminiscent audience. They certainly all seemed very familiar with her songs, and were clearly there for her, and her alone.
From what I had heard of Rose’s work previously, I was aware that her music had a distinctly country edge, but live it is clear that she is a true Nashville doll, with a wide, southern drawl, lots of telecasters and pedal steel guitars, and a backing band that look like the Allman Brothers circa 1975. She’s quite a cute and chatty performer who is clearly comfortable on stage both musically and personally. She was coy, youthful almost to the point of immaturity, and feisty. Technically competent as well, she seemed at home with both the guitar and microphone.
Ultimately though, it is Rose’s stellar voice which is her biggest attraction, and why her audience love her. She is technically excellent, with a wonderful tone and timbre to her voice. Her voice is strong, clear and faultless on all numbers, with a soft and contemplative or bright and punchy edge depending on the track in question. Her and her band kicked out the rockier numbers well, although for me, the quieter numbers, when she takes the guitar away and focuses on singing, is where her true ability lies. When this happens she adds a more vulnerable, subtle quality to her performance, which is very powerful, and outclasses the confines of the country genre. The track For the Rabbits in particular was really endearing, as well as her final two encore tracks, which she performed alone.
Rose is clearly enamored with country music and performs it well, although the sheer proliferation of pedal steel guitar throughout the performance made the definite country vibe hard to escape from. The audience loved this, although personally, being more of a folk-ie rather than a country-nut, I preferred the more toned down tracks, which had a much more transcendental, and touching quality to them. Over all though, it was a good performance, and Rose a charismatic and talented performer.