Last night's Hat Club saw the return, two years to the day, of Adam Beattie and Brooke Sharkey. They had new albums to tout and we were treated to some wonderful moments of balladry and candour. Their album titles tell you everything: Adam's 'The Road Not Taken'; Brooke's 'Wandering Heart'. Both are blithe, wandering spirits, true troubadours who reveal more and more as each song unwinds. Not so much an unravelling, more an open invitation to share in their vulnerabilities.
Adam's tender tales are offered in hushed and halting timbre, confessional, humorously faltering, yet sure darts to the heart. He revealed himself with 'The Man I've Become' and offered stories of past lovers in 'Catch the Biggest Fish and Let it Go'. The biggest emotional catch of the night came with a composition in memory of his centenarian Grandfather 'A Song of a Hundred Years'. It's a simple tote of changing times, a thing of misty eyed wonder:
"I was born when horses pulled the plough
And marriage held by but a vow
A beggar’s hand assumed sincere
Much has changed these hundred years"
We all joined in the chorus and you could hear a catch in the voices of the hardiest hearts:
"Hold me high and send me low
For it is time for me to go
And in my eyes you’ll see no tears
For I have lived one hundred years"
Brooke is a fascinating bundle of whispered wonders.
She sings as daughter, child, mother, lover; there's an exotic and sensual nature to her tremulous delivery that adds to a feeling of otherworldliness. Some songs were in her mother tongue and that impenetrable chanson added to the impression that her performance is as much about feeling as it is about meaning.
Songs from a siren: Brooke floated fragile above Sam Pert's delicate, intelligent drumming, with the warm and dark sensuality of cellist Dominie Hooper's flowing, meandering, syrupy lines adding to a feeling of haunting displacement. It was oddly moving and strangely unsettling: just as you nestled in convention, Brooke led you elsewhere. And it was a beguiling, bewilderingly beautiful journey, one that led all too soon to a stunning finale. 'Sailor's Wife' floated upon a shimmering guitar chord loop, and a lovely, prodding, cyclical drum pattern from Sam. The story is that of a woman who longs to have 'wild in her eyes' but ends in 'a cushioned cage':
"She fell in love, with a man on a boat
His sails were high, he could keep them afloat
But her bones ached and he would grind his ivory body on their love left behind.
She was the type to keep her end of the bet,
but with nothing to feed off, half way she met,
a married man, soft and strong,
his heard of silk had been stamped upon."
The song is worldly, yet not of this world, an intoxicating cocktail of traditional shanty and woozy modernity that perfectly illustrates the duality of this unsettling and enchanting performer's allure. Naive and knowing.
Perfectly petit yet sturdy and strong.
A wandering heart for sure: broken but sanguine, four faithful chambers full of blood, sweat and tears.