First up was Nat Johnson. A good person to get in if you want to get a few more through a Sheffield door on a slow Sunday night. We’ve expended many words on Nat, but not seen her play for a fair while. Always someone to make things happen, she seems to be settling into a role as grande dame (a youthful grande dame natch…) of a broader local scene, launching projects, teaching songwriting, supporting others and peddling lovely music. Although still a bit diffident onstage, her songs have ever greater weight and presence, complete with lovely harmonies and string and brass backing, making her a respected local craftsman (is craftswoman a word?), like a musical Pete McKee (and as he branches out with music, so does she into art).
I first heard Rozi Plain making an excellent fist of covering James Yorkston’s krautfolk epic, The Lang Toun. And, in keeping with her most recent album Friend, (as opposed to the more mannered delights of her other records) there’s something of Yorkston’s use of repetition and slow build in the folky pieces she and her band concoct. But in place of the motorik drive there’s a more loping, African rhythm built up that runs through everything, even the older songs. There’s a gentle humour and niceness throughout, but also a loose feel which roughs up some of Friend’s more lushly produced edges to engaging effect. All in all pretty perfect laid-back Sunday night set.