Miranda Lee Richards, The Lamplighter, Northampton, June 25th 2017
“There’s a lot of sounds we play. Folk, folk-rock, psychedelic folk-rock, country rock, English folk. Folkin’ folk, haha!” So quips Richards tonight halfway through her beguiling set. It seems there’s a lot you can do with this folk thing.
For the uninitiated Richards is an LA native who grew up in San Francisco. Her first solo album, for Virgin Records, came out in 2001, and she’s in the UK promoting her just-released fourth album, Existential Beast. Over the years she has collaborated with/been in Brian Jonestown Massacre, Tricky, Tim Burgess, Neil Halstead, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, amongst many more. What brings her to Northampton is one of her two guitarists, local musician Joe Woolley. Completing tonight’s quartet are Randy Billings on guitar, and Sandy Smith on backing vocals.
Playing the likes of ‘Ashes and Seeds’ and ‘Lucid I Would Dream’ from Existential Beast there’s an undercurrent of the ongoing political crisis within these seemingly personal songs, as if tumultuous times in the US speak to the heart of who we are as a people. Some of this may be lost on a Sunday night crowd unfamiliar with her oeuvre, but those in attendance are in no doubt as to her sincerity in delivering impassioned roots music. The suitable [and frankly often gorgeous] embellishments provided by her troupe only enhance the uneasy, shifting moods the songs bring forth.
Richards displays an ethereal, floating vocal style that contractually here means a namecheck of Hope Sandoval, but the more earthy, yearning elements of her approach does also recall once-time Northants resident Sandy Denny, or a Jacqui McShee. The sound of the new album is a blend of styles: often it’s a reflection of the popular country/Americana that is almost mainstream now in her native land, but at times it can recall contemporary UK psychedelic acts such as Temples and Jane Weaver [with the instrumentation stripped back, of course], and she treads this merging between the olde worlde of the 60s folk boom and contemporary mores with panache.
Here and now in NN1 every song is greeted with an enthusiastic reaction that Richards herself reciprocates. All in all tonight gives us a mesmerising hour set of haunting psych-folk that no one in attendance will be forgetting in a hurry.