If you have not come across the music of Kate Shayler and Chris Brooke then their excellent first full CD will provide you with a great way to dip your toe in the water. It is difficult not to think of the label Americana when faced with high class harmony vocals and great guitar and banjo playing like this, but Kate is a Londoner and Chris hails from Dorset. Americana with a British accent, maybe? They get some help from Ben Somers and Daisy Corder on double bass and Tim Giles on drums, but the sensitive production by Chris never allows the essential lyrical and melodic quality of the songs to be overpowered. And, make no mistake, these are strong songs.
‘Hops and Hallelujahs’ talks about a yearning for Chris’ Dorset home and nostalgia for the old brewery in the town while ‘Dublin’ tells of the city that holds memories of the passing of his grandfather and allows some space for Chris’ own fine fiddle playing. Homesickness is there again as he sings “Dublin is not done with me.” Beautiful harmonies weave in and out among Kate’s frailing banjo in ‘Setting Street’ to great effect. This is no album of catchy tunes and singalong choruses. You’re meant to engage with the words of these songs and the sentiments.
I would struggle to name a favourite track, I don’t feel there is a weak song on the album. As with many others the gig list for Shayler and Brooke is sparse at present but I hope that, when circumstances permit, they find their way west down to my neck of the woods. I’m eager to see them live.