Cara Dillon is a mainstay of the UK folk circuit, and there’s good reason for her enduring popularity.
Dillon’s voice has a pleasing clarity to it, a kind of accessible beauty that lends itself perfectly to the folk tradition. There are no over-complications here, and the music benefits from being stripped back to its roots.
Apparently, this simplicity has led to Dillon’s music being put to some unusual uses.
Generations of young Chinese men and women have been taught to speak English by listening to her sing, and she is now something of a celebrity over there – much to her own surprise.
But it’s not just her voice that’s deserving of praise – the musicianship on display here is also impressive, with Dillon’s husband Sam Lakeman (brother of folk troubadour Seth) rotating between acoustic guitar and piano with admirable ease and Niall Murphy driving the beat forward on the fiddle. In some of the more foot-stomping numbers, Dillon herself even proves a dab hand at the tin whistle.
However, the best is saved for last and the strongest moment of the night is final song ‘The Parting Glass’, a softly stunning version of a heart-breaking folk classic – once the most popular parting song in Scotland, before Rabbie Burns penned Auld Lang Syne and the course of drunken history was changed forever.
Unfortunately the set as a whole suffers from being a little repetitive, and there are a few issues with sound quality that distract from the music. But the light-hearted onstage banter livens up the set in parts, and the easy chemistry between Dillon and Lakeman is enjoyably matey.
This might not have been a perfect night, but there was still much to savour in the performance and plenty to admire.