Folk at the Maltings, The Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans, Friday 29th March 2019

After many months of recording, mixing and mastering, followed by further weeks of planning and background work, the time had finally come for Rob and me to launch our new album, Sisters & Brothers. 

Earlier in the day, copies of the album had been sent to forty or so BBC and internet folk radio programmes and specialist folk magazines based in the UK and overseas and sound files had been sent to a number of online folk programmes like Acoustic Routes and Strummers Music.  That done, we were ready for the show.

So, it was in party mood that Rob and I made our way early over to the Maltings Arts Theatre to get ready to make our contribution to the evening’s Folk at the Maltings event.  Once our gear was safely unloaded and into The Maltings’ capacious green room, we were properly able to catch up with event organisers Alison MacFarlane and Bill Redway and talk about the evening ahead.

Shortly afterwards, headliner for the evening, Gren Bartley, arrived and we had a very pleasant conversation with him hearing about some of his exciting current projects and gig programme.  Soon after that, we were joined by Dan Garcia who, having guested as percussionist on the new album, had kindly agreed to travel over to St Albans to perform again with us at the launch event.

Finally, having travelled down from County Durham for the evening, young Kirstie McLachlan arrived to complete the artist roster for the evening. 

As the audience for the evening began to assemble, perhaps they could hear faintly the tuning that was going on in each corner of the green room. 

Kirstie kicked the evening off very well with a mix of songs, self-written and traditional, performed with her baritone and regular ukulele.  Kirstie is a recent New Roots finalist and it was easy to see why.  She possesses great skill with her instruments, has an exceptional vocal delivery and a very good and endearing line of patter. 

Gren then took to the stage for his first set.  Interestingly, and testimony to the value of the competition, Gren had been a New Roots finalist some twelve years earlier and had gone on to do great things with his music.  As followers of his music will already know, he has a terrific right hand.  Oh, and he has a terrific left hand too – great playing and powerful songs, often delivered in alternative tunings on his lovely Guild guitar and his dobro.

The evening's programme then paused for a drinks break and immediately after the audience returned, Na-Mara went on.  A fair proportion of the audience were friends and followers of ours from around the local area and the reception we received was terrific.  Naturally, it being an album launch event, our 30 minute set was comprised entirely by tracks from Sisters & Brothers and, as best we could, showcasing the range of our musical styles.  It was great to have Dan behind us on bodhrán for the more pacey numbers.

Gren then finished the evening with another excellent set of his own compositions.  His engaging style made everyone feel very at home in his presence, on and off the stage.

I’m pleased to report that sales of the new album were pretty brisk after the show and it was nice to receive good feedback on what we had performed through the course of the evening. Both ourselves and many in the audience were excited and keen to converse after the show and, as such, it was only slowly that the auditorium and foyer cleared.

Eventually, we said our goodbyes to Gren and Kirstie, both of whom had lengthy journeys ahead of them after the gig, and then to Alison and Bill.  After that, it was a case of loading up the car with the gear and travelling all of two miles home.  A great gig and still home in good time to have a beer before bed.  Luxury.

Many thanks to Alison Macfarlane and to Malcom Hobbs for making the necessary arrangements, at relatively short notice, to accommodate us on the bill for the evening.  Very much appreciated.  Thanks also to Bill for the lighting that evening.  We wish Gren and Kirstie all the best with their forthcoming gigs and look forward to meeting them again somewhere on the circuit.