The Orphanage Sessions kicked off on Saturday 23 February with a simply stunning set by Caitlin Harnett. Caitlin is 17 years old and hails from Richmond, on the northern outskirts of Sydney. It is worth mentioning her age only because it’s almost impossible to believe that she hasn’t been alive longer than that – her songwriting and live skills would put many older singer-songwriters to shame.
Caitlin’s set was a mixture of original songs – several of which can be heard on her website and MySpace page – and nicely chosen covers; there was a gorgeous version of Patty Griffin’s ‘Oh Heavenly Day’. She’s a quietly confident performer – not showy, but already relaxed enough to get the audience laughing when she chats in between songs. She’s a star in the making, of the Kasey Chambers order.
The venue – upstairs at the Mars Hill Cafe in Parramatta – was an excellent setting for the songs: cosy, with tables and chairs and couches, coffee and food at hand and no real time pressures. Caitlin’s set came first and then The Orphans got up. Although I couldn’t stay for much of their set, I saw enough to know I’ll definitely hang around for the rest of it next time.
A few weeks ago I attended a cosy little gig at the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Folk Club. The drawcard was Madviolet, a duo from the Maritime Provinces of Canada who have produced two albums (Worry the Jury and Caravan) of folk-type music with a chaser of country. Lisa MacIsaac plays fiddle and acoustic guitar, Brenley MacEachern sticks to the guitar, and both sing. And oh what a treat it was – so much so that I bought both their albums and drove to Canberra to see them last weekend, converting two friends in the process (they swooned at the live performance, then bought CDs).
Madviolet have been touring Australia since the new year, playing at the odd festival. For some reason Hornsby was their only Sydney gig, and that’s a shame for Sydneysiders, because those who weren’t there missed out on delicate, beautifully balanced playing, good on-stage repartee, wonderful musicianship and joy. These two gals clearly love what they do. I can’t even really describe how their sound works, because they can play their instruments so gently that it sounds like the guitars are whispering, yet Lisa really gets stuck into the fiddle in an old-fashioned Cape Breton shindig way. They’re also no slouches in the singing department – their harmonies work a treat, and they have lovely clear, strong voices.
So if you’re in Melbourne or the south coast of NSW in the next week or so, go and see them. If you’re in the Blue Mountains, they’re doing a little house concert this Thursday, the 21st of February. If you’re not able to see them this time around, cross your fingers for a return visit. I don’t know why they didn’t play at Tamworth, since they were in the country at the time, but they should be invited for next year. Please!