I will confess I’m not Cara Dillon’s greatest fan, but countless car rides with her music as the background and she has seeped inside my skin. Glancing around Queen Elizabeth Hall it’s obvious that tonight is going to appeal to the middle class masses, underdressed and underage (at least in relation to the rest of the crowd) I can only begin to wonder if Cara will cut it, as far as I’m concerned.
Still, Cara kicks off with The High Walls Of Derry/Johnny Oh Lovely Johnny and my trepidation subsides. I have always believed that folk music is the heart and soul of modern music to date, and tonight Cara’s carefully crafted vocals combine with a faultless band to create music that most musicians should aspire to. Sure for many the folk songs of old might seem a little dated, but content aside the rhythmic perfection of the band (as highlighted by the visual brilliance of all members tapping their feet as one) cannot be overlooked.
Whilst Cara’s voice is not at full power (when compared to other gigs) and the set shorter than most would have liked, she holds her own and given that she’s recently given birth, real fault is nothing but a dream. Whether it’s the A Capella Fil, Fil A Run Ó the piano lead The Verdant Braes Of Skreen or the foot tapping Spencer The Rover she delivers song after song. All it needs is the whistle start of Black Is The Colour and like many around me I’m ultimately sold.
Cara herself jokes before Jimmy Mó Mhile Stór that ‘you didn’t go to the Priory or anything like that, you just went to the woods…there’s a lesson there’ and currently my battle to embrace more traditional folk makes sense. It’s easy to forget in the current day that songs of yesterday have worth, but Cara (like many of her contemporaries) rekindles their life, much like a history lesson set to music. Similarly my dispassion for music only ensembles vanishes with a mid set interlude from Cara’s band. Reels ad traditional tunes give welcome breadth, the only fault being the fact that I never quite feel this class of musicianship translates so well for a seated crowd.
Still, venue complaints aside, Cara and crew ultimately win this more modern folk lover over. Reminding me of the value of ‘old school’ ways as she rounds off with The Parting Glass, I am more than suitably moved. Mesmerising musicianship, combine with Cara’s untainted voice to create a winning formula time after time, though it’s safe to say the quality seeps through in subtle ways, her army of fans are not wrong and after tonight’s performance I can only hope there’s space for one more.
Photos © Jo Cox