Tuning in to watch Josie Duncan’s ‘New Voices’ concert on Sunday, it was a joy to be back in the Royal Concert Hall, even virtually. The sound and visuals have been brilliant for the whole festival so far – the camerawork even took you onto the stage at times, where you could see how happy the performers were to be back on familiar territory.
Josie’s newly-written songs made for an engaging listen, and her relaxed performance made it easy to sit back and take in the songs. She was accompanied by a well chosen band who were able to span both the traditional and contemporary styles her pieces inhabit, allowing the arrangements to tilt into each as required.
This was shown particularly well in her second song, ‘Be Around’, which started softly before developing into an almost indie-pop upbeat number. These stylistic changes were aided in particular by the rhythm section, with Louis Abbott (of Admiral Fallow) on drums, Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion and Charlotte Printer on bass. With them driving the beat, the whole band were able to balance each arrangement and take it where it needed to go. Each song contained an interesting new musical detail, whether it was a keyboard synth, a string part or one of Signy’s fascinating instruments.
Josie’s mixture of reflective, humorous and observational lyrics combined with the band setup reminded me of Lisa Hannigan. ‘Anyone But You’ was a highlight for me, with its catchy chorus and optimistic chord progression. Matt Carmichael’s saxophone lines complemented the reflective tone beautifully, and the guitar and strings also stood out nicely on this song.
The New Voices concerts have always been a good place to find interesting new music, and Josie’s set of songs was no different. The mixture of styles really works for her pieces, and gives the whole sound a spacious, expansive feel. Her last piece, ‘Finish Line’ – with its positive lyrics and whole-band energy – was a fine way to finish what was altogether a very enjoyable gig.