Grace Petrie/Hannah James. The Folk House, Bristol.

I had heard of Grace, but not Hannah. Fab venue I visited for the first time recently, I was very pleased to be returning.

I’d seen Grace at the Slapstick Festival earlier this year and have wanted to see her again ever since. Although she has played Bristol quite a lot, none of them have been dates I could make. Until tonight. I was excited to be seeing her play again, and to see Hannah for the first time as their styles are quite different and I was intrigued to hear the mix.

The Folk House is ruddy lovely. Just go to see a gig there, any gig. Or pop in for coffee and a cake. They are friendly and welcoming and sell gluten free millionaires shortbread for heaven’s sake. I will most definitely be returning.

As this was a double bill gig, there was no support act and Grace and Hannah played together and solo, taking it in turns to decry “how do I follow that” to each other. When they sang together their voices blended into the most glorious harmonies. When they sang solo there was nothing disappointing at all, they both have amazing voices to communicate with. The subjects they share are more similar than you would initially think, one more traditional in style & presentation, perhaps, but themes of equality and justice were in both. It worked so much better than if they had played separate sets. Watching them watch each other play was almost as joyous as watching them play together.

Tonight had some firsts for 40 gigs. Chiefly clog dancing, accordion playing and yodeling.  All breathtaking from Hannah, whose skill at all three was just a wonder to behold. Multi talented and a really lovely person to boot. A year ago I would have dismissed this as silly nonsense and I would have been wrong to do so. The talent it takes to be good at any one of those things is huge, to be able to do all three. Well, I take my hat off to you, Hannah. A door called folk music has been opened to me and I am well and truly not in Kansas anymore! I’m not sure I’m ready for a waistcoat yet, but then I am not a singer/songwriter so I think I’ll be ok 🙂

Grace is more of a troubadour, from the fine tradition of protest singers, a sort of punk poet, an impassioned singer with heart. Which is as much a part of the folk tradition as songs about crows, murders and the sea. Her songs had a safe audience in Bristol, a place with a Labour council, represented entirely by Labour MP’s, where 70% of the population voted for Remain, and a city open to music in its many forms and for trying new things. I may not agree with all of Grace’s politics, but I share the sentiment in which her songs are written. They are gifted, shared and are sung with love. That has a special beauty of its own.

What I also really loved about tonight was that it was two women headlining together. Being funny and political and brilliant and talented. I have tried to seek out female musicians for 40 gigs, solidarity to the sisterhood. Women in music face barriers much as they do elsewhere. It was refreshing to be in an audience tonight that was at least 50% female.

What is really lovely about folk clubs, folk music and folk musicians, is that they are about community. Stories being told and shared and embellished and altered, becoming part of the rich tapestry of life. I have felt so welcomed by folksters, it has been wonderful.

Thank you Hannah, thank you Grace, thank you Folk House for another gig memory I will treasure.

36 down, 4 to go.


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