Cool As Folk: Jacob Coran, Cara Roxanne and Raevennan Husbandes

Upstairs at the Ritzy, 11/03/10

For a long time now, Folk has been a much-loved genre, thanks to the likes of e.g. Bob DylanJoni Mitchell and Joan Baez, to name but a few. In the last few years however acts like Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons and Johnny Flynn  have given it a new lease of cool, not to mention the obligatory checked shirt.

So, first act up at Cool As Folk was Raevennan Husbandes with her wonderful lion-mane hair. She sat down in front of the audience consisting of gig-dwellers as well as the pre-cinema diners, catching up before they headed off. Not put off by the chitter-chatter, Raevennan started off with a friendly introduction and her first song ‘Breath’, written when she was 16-years-old. It’s a personal tribute to growing up and is sentimental but without cheesiness. She has a beautiful voice that effortlessly weaves between the notes.

One song told of her trip to Canada via New York. Another song was called ‘Momentarily Blind’ from her album-in-the-making, which had a dreamy visual sound. Also on her list were two covers, the first was Laura Veirs’ ‘I Can See Your Tracks’ and the second, Scott Matthews’ ‘Passing Stranger’. Both were done with respectful delicacy. Her last song was ‘Stay’, a gentle plea for comfort that, even though she forgot the last few lines, was lovely to listen to.

Raevennan Husbandes’ set was a lovely collection of songs with emotion and integrity. She was chatty and charismatic and seemed totally at ease. It’s the kind of music you’d listen to if you needed to relax and re-boot. What was so good was its simplicity, just someone with a great voice and her guitar. I look forward to her upcoming album but I hope the sound won’t get too overproduced. I’m interested to see what’s coming next.

Second to take to the stage was Cara Roxanne. Usually part of the band Kiki and the Toms, it was again a girl and her guitar. But, Cara’s sound was very different to Raevennan’s and the tone changed from gentle to scratchy. This is by no means a criticism and her gutsy style was great. Her first song ‘He Knows’ was throaty and passionate, describing the frustration that her lover knows how much she cares.

She did two covers, which were Anais Mitchell’s ‘Fonder Heart’ and Ani Difranco’s ‘Dilate’. The latter is about the anger one feels at a lover that’s just not good enough. Cara Roxanne thudded the guitar and gave an angry and beguiling performance. After these two songs however, someone else took to the stage to sing a couple of songs. You’re going to have to forgive me, as I couldn’t catch his name when Cara said it –quietly. I know, me bad (and me deaf). Anyway, he had a mellow and fluid voice and reminded me a bit of a folky Thom Yorke. After his second and final song he called Cara back to the stage and she sang her final couple of songs. ‘What If’ told of just that and she used the guitar itself as a percussion instrument. Her last, ‘Love Hangover’ was true to her punchy style and she belted out notes of an impressive range. So yes, there is a theme running through her songs, but hey- who hasn’t felt romantically frustrated and angry at some stage or another? If we could get it out of our systems with such a voice and musical talent as Cara Roxanne, then I’m sure we wouldn’t feel half as bad.

So, the final act and headliner of the night was Jacob Doran. He was accompanied by a drummer and bass player, who had worked with him on the album he was promoting, ‘Lost then Found’. The first song kicked off and the beat created by Pharoah on the drums was packed with energy. A great start. The next song ‘Walk with me’ was far more chilled and Jacon Doran’s lyrics tell how ‘you lift me high but still I feel I will fall’ and he implores you to ‘Walk with me down by the riverside’. Fair enough but after these were repeated a few times I began to wonder what he was talking about. His delivery was fine, but pretty flat.

Next song was ‘Windows’ and he explained beforehand it was about “daydreaming and living in your own head”. Right then. Unfortunately again it was a rather flat performance from Doran and although daydreams are nice, they don’t offer much to talk about. For me, the drums and bass were creating something more interesting than the main man. The next couple of songs followed suit and I started to daydream, which I’m not sure was the point he was trying to get at. He then changed from acoustic to electric guitar and it was rockier and just, well, better. His last song was also much tighter and, unsurprisingly, had a great beat and bass.

I’m sure Jacob Doran is a lovely bloke and you can tell he loves what he does, but I just wasn’t a fan. His lyrics and delivery plodded along a bit and he slipped between an English and a faux-American accent. His bass player and drummer were really good, almost too good and seemed separate from his vocals. At the end he told us his album was on sale and that it would ‘Sound very nice’. I reckon he’s got it in one.