- Adam Beattie
Stepping into the Cali on a foggy Easter Sunday evening as ADAM BEATTIE, long-time collaborator of headliner BROOKE SHARKEY, takes to the stage, offers some welcome respite from a hectic Bank Holiday weekend. Soaked in the flavours of East Coast 1920s blues, and with a voice to match, Beattie’s strong and laconic melodies seem just as suited to a cross-country hobo boxcar ride as to the busy confines of Liverpool’s greatest music pub. He finishes with a song about his grandfather, The Song Of A Hundred Years, a stunning end to a set of sublime beauties.
London-based singer-songwriter Brooke Sharkey was born in England and spent her teenage years in France. At the age of sixteen, she was advised by her musician father that the best way to hone her skills as a writer was to go out on the streets busking and developing the first batch of songs she’d penned. She clearly listened to Dad’s wise advice. She’s backed here tonight by Beattie on guitar and Jez Horton on French horn. There’s a simple beauty to these songs, and particularly Sharkey’s voice, which can stop you in your tracks, and together with that voice, the guitars and horn, they somehow manage to create intricate soundscapes for the delicate and fascinating melodies. Sharkey’s voice leaps in a moment from fragile delicacy to strong and assured, and she effortlessly floats from singing in English to French, lending a welcome hint of the back street bars of the Pigalle to the otherwise sparse and stripped-bare arrangements of the songs.
Dad was right. All that busking clearly paid off, as it’s given her the confidence to experiment with the voice and guitar, as it did to singers like Karen Dalton, who shows herself as an influence tonight, as do Nick Drake and Tom Waits. Sharkey’s songs deftly work themselves through smoky French gypsy jazz, to the classic blues folk of 60s Greenwich Village and, somehow, the thickening fog outside seems to suit these songs, these harmonies, these structures, perfectly.
Songs such as The Sailor’s Wife, from last year’s shimmering I Crossed The Line EP, which she sings at the end of tonight’s set, backing herself with only a shaker, show the broad dynamic range and simple beauty of Sharkey’s voice, and the harmonies that Beattie delivers only serve to enhance the sound of that dynamic. It’s a picture perfect scene in The Cali, that’s for sure. The crowd are warm and welcoming, and her comfort tonight is plain to see as she fingerpicks and waltzes her way comfortably through this, the first of a 28-day UK tour, and, after an all too short set, we saunter off through the foggy streets of Easter in Liverpool.