Live From Old York: Krystle Warren, Gwyneth Herbert & Katy Moffatt
The Black Swan
September 12, 2013
The Black Swan was built in the 15th Century, and its folk club has been in existence for almost as long. This pub has ghosts on the uneven staircase that winds up to its cosy music room. Each Thursday night session features a main attraction, as well as a succession of local opening artists. The calendar also features several outbreaks of Americana, nestled inbetween the purveyors of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh folklore. This can even mean that country music is allowed, and Texan singer-guitarist Katy Moffatt has been amongst the club's most regular visitors over a period of nearly three decades.
Moffatt started recording solo albums for Columbia in 1975, also working with Leo Kottke and Willie Nelson. Living in Californian parts certainly hasn't diluted her hollerin' and twangin' essence. At The Black Swan, Moffatt immediately asserted her authority, projecting as if she were in a large theatre rather than a small function room. Her voice and guitar might have been cranked up too loudly for the space, but this situation was mostly defused by her expert microphone technique, re-directing her sweet foghorn high notes by deftly turning aside, or casting the high notes up to the ceiling. Her guitaring involved a vigorously percussive attack, followed by subsequent filigree embellishments, three fingers and her thumb adorned with individual picks. It's a detailed style, but not at the expense of rhythmic drive. By the end of the first set, she'd broken a string and lost a fingerpick.
Moffatt treads the line between being an alternative country singer and a lover of Nashville tradition. Her lyrics are often very specific in their unusual concerns, but she can still pen a traditional sentimental ditty, confounding expectations of where her allegiance lies. She included the distinctive "Fewer Things All The Time," the (almost) title track of her most recent album, the more mainstream "Wings Of A Blackbird" and "Walking On The Moon," plus a song from the vantage point of Lee Harvey Oswald's widow Marina, which is about as specialist as Moffat could get. She also dropped in songs by Phil Ochs and Ann Peebles, with "I Can't Stand The Rain" successfully transposed from soul stippling to country streaking. Most of the more wayward numbers were featured in the first set, the repertoire emanating from a more universal viewpoint during the second half. Moffatt is clearly talented in both spheres, but is was the early part of the gig that was more compelling.
Soazig de la Moissonniere