For a second night in a row I was at the Cafe at St James on Saturday 7th August 2021, this time for an event billed as A Night Of Guernsey Songwriters with Hollie Thorne, Blue Mountains and Kiya Ashton organised by Sacred Works and NexT Events, though in a few ways it nicely complemented much of the music on offer the night before.
Kiya Ashton was first on stage and sounded terrific from the off.
While I’ve seen her play acoustically at the Unplugged Club a few times recently it’s been a while since I’ve been able to properly catch a full set and once again it was clear her confidence and skill has taking another step forward as she delivered a set that went through her entire repertoire from her debut Sweet Decadence to the like of Birdie and Jacket from the Chirrup EP.
While Kiya’s music was great tonight what really stood out was her relaxed nature on stage, be it lightening the mood between songs chatting with the audience while retuning or not being flustered by a couple of slips while she played.
Highlights came with Jacket (with felt like a slightly reworked and extended ending that made its point all the clearer and more impactful) and her cover of Cranberries’ Zombie (a regular feature of her set) but somehow all the more powerful tonight.
Much like with Kiya it’s been a long time since I’ve seen folk trio Blue Mountains at full strength and similarly from the start of their set they sounded great as Mike out paid to any of the usual jokes about banjos.
Over a little more than 45 minutes they mixed a range of their own songs with some well chosen traditional numbers and covers highlighted by their three way harmonies that sounded bigger and better than ever.
An early highpoint came with their take on Emmy Lou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl followed by their own mesmerisingly brutal tale of the Guernsey martyrs, Born In The Fire, which I’d not heard them play in sometime and is in equal measure terrifying and captivating – also proving you don’t have to be loud to be heavy.
The second half of the set was a bit lighter a d featured a few songs I’ve not heard from them before really fully bringing Andrew Degnen’s fiddle fully into proceedings along with a dulcimer played by Colleen Irven on the final two songs.
Of the second half Indian Summer was a particularly transporting moment showcasing all three members playing and vocal work and being sat with a few people who’d not seen the band before it was clearly a song that struck a chord across the room.
Headlining the night was Hollie Thorne (FKA Hollie Lucia) along with John Sealey who took the music in a slightly more lush indie direction, but still based in a similar folky root as the evening’s other acts.
Hollie’s guitar and vocal work sounded as good as we know it can but the addition of John’s acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and Wurlitzer electric piano escalate it to a new level.
The sounds the pair created, especially with the piano, were ones to wallow in as they washed around the room and ranged from light and delicate to surprisingly heavy considering the choice of instruments.
Hollie’s performance across the set was more laid back than sometimes, which continued the relaxed and engaging feel of the evening while Canyon, with a great western twang, new single Requiem, and closer Bunny Bunny provided some of the highlights.
In all this night of Guernsey songwriters took some of the ideas of events like the Guernsey Gigs Unplugged Club and developed it into a relaxed and engaging night of live music focussed on the artists and their songs in a way unlike any other shows currently taking place in the island, so I hope the plans for this to be the first in a series of similar events come to fruition.