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Magical Melodies Speak to Modern Times with Lady Maisery

Lady Maisery at Warwick Arts Centre 20 May.

Lady Maisery, at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, 20 May.

Review by Anne Cee

There was nothing miserable or miserly about Lady Maisery when I dropped in on their performance last night at Warwick Arts Centre. What I experienced was a delightful trio that exuded old fashioned grace and charm as they shared their wonderful songs with an audience that might have stayed rooted till dawn.

The repertoire they provided was wide ranging, from an extract (So Far) from a classical Song Cycle composed specifically for the group by Hall and Let, to traditional songs that elicited parallels to Northumbrian band, The Unthanks.

Their voices are beautiful and beautifully balanced in tone and texture, with a warmth that is close to a luxurious hot chocolate. Seemingly at home singing with and without instruments, they give themselves no place to hide in a refreshingly pure and understated simplicity that few could match. Though there’s no shortage of strings and percussion at their fingertips, they reach as happily for a harp and a guitar in one song before transitioning effortlessly to a viola and ankle bells in the next.

Their confident mastery is apparent and yet their characters are so friendly, gentle and modest, seeming to present themselves as ‘a pint of cider crew’ at a local folk festival rather than the queens of harmony they undoubtably are.

This trio of Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans has an exceptional collaborative musicality developed over more than a decade together. At times they felt the song together with remarkable precision despite singing with eyes closed. It was mesmeric.

Teasingly, they drew the concert to a close with a cheeky hint that they might have a bit extra in the tank if required and so the audience were rewarded with one of their most popular songs, Katy Cruel. Katy Cruel has faced adversity but continues to have a strong sense of her identity as her own woman and a determined will to be herself and thrive. It’s a rallying call to all of us to meet our own challenges and overcome them, perhaps with the same spirit as the American soldiers who are said to have sung this song during the Revolutionary War as they marched towards the Redcoats.

Lady Maisery have another seven tour dates in coming weeks, a new album ‘Tender’ available for sale and a participatory singing workshop lined up for September which I’d love to attend. It is astonishing that a group that is so quietly sophisticated in style and so well reviewed in folk circles continues to be a hidden gem, and relatively unknown to mainstream audiences.


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