Review: Kathryn Joseph – Out To Lunch 2019
An early gig is somewhat of a rarity but with Out to Lunch Festival currently running we are treated to a plethora of afternoon delights. Today I have the pleasure of attending Kathryn Joseph in the Black Box but first up is Brona McVittie.
The Co.Down songstress possesses a crystal clear voice, which, accompanied by her harp and lo-fi beats make for an intriguing blend of folk and electronic music. Talking about the wealth of traditional folk songs in Ulster, she sings a little known song ‘Flower of Magherally’, and her style is part folk, part blues, but always stunning.
Her vocals and harp cascade like glittering raindrops as she takes on Princes ‘Sometimes It Snows In April‘ and she makes it all her own. With songs like ‘We Are The Wildlife‘ and ‘Under The Pines‘ McVittie takes inspiration from her surroundings and our beautiful lands to weave spellbinding music.
“Now we are going to tricky and evil from good and beautiful” Kathryn Joseph jokes as she takes her place behind the upright piano, speaking of the difference between her support acts’ music and her own.
She cuts a demure and timid figure behind the keys but don’t be fooled- Joseph is a musical force to be reckoned with. Opening her set with ‘1111‘ from the 2018 release From When I Wake The Want Is the atmosphere is set.
The title track of the album is next and the piano sounds like a fluttering heartbeat anchoring the song, overlaid with her ethereal voice. Despite her shy appearance, gentle smile and thanks between each song when she sings she looks like a different person as she focuses on the audience with an otherworldly gaze. She looks fierce, and given the struggle and heartbreak she has endured, from mental illness to the loss of her first born, a son, Joseph (hence her stage surname), she embodies this strength. ‘And You Survived‘ is perhaps autobiographical then, as Joseph lays herself bare within her songs and seems to reclaim even more power from being this vulnerable with her audience. And it is this vulnerability that has us captivated watching every move and hearing every note she sings.
‘Tell My Lover‘ is menacingly beautiful and Nick Cave is probably anguished he didn’t write it with its minor piano arpeggio adding urgency beneath Josephs eldritch voice. She remarks that she is channelling Irish ghosts so she is “extra creepy” today. ‘And It Will Lick You Clean‘ carries on in this eerie feel and she plays and sings as if the music has possession of her soul. ‘^^’ begins with a recording she made of her partner playing the piano, and her young daughter speaking and it is very touching as she sings “she is my heart, he is my blood and I am grateful“ in tribute to her family. It brings a tear to my eye such is the sincerity and emotion she sings with.
Throughout the gig she jokes about her red wine hangover and the level of emotional she is at but says we “feel lovely” and she feels safe with us. ‘We Have Been Loved By Our Mothers‘ is preceded by a warning about her profanities in the lyrics but when she swears she does so in such a beautiful and poetic way it barely seems like a bad word. ‘Mountain’ is a song that Tori Amos could have sit alongside her own work and it would not sound out of place with its furious piano and her plaintive cry of ‘will you wait for God and ask him why‘.
‘Weary‘ from her first album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled is about the Iolaire disaster where 200 men died just yards from shore, something close to her as her father hails from the Isle of Skye where it happened. It also deals with the loss of her baby son. It is dark and the piano evocative of crashing waves. Joseph has the ability to make you conjure pictures and scenes in your head and take you to another place.
‘The Mouth‘ is dark and brooding and deals with the loss she has endured, and it is the song of someone who knows what it is for life to disintegrate around them as she sings lyrics like ‘and I can’t stop saying sorry for my selfish fucking self‘. Finishing the set with ‘The Bird‘ she jokes this has all been ‘much lovelier, much sexier and much more drunk‘ than she expected it be. And in truth she is much lovelier than I expected her to be, with the piano skills of Tori Amos, the creepiness of PJ Harvey, the kookiness of Kate Bush and the vocal similarities to Joanna Newsom, she takes all of these elements and still manages to be original, enthralling and unabashedly herself.