By Ed Sills
Those expecting to see a certain chair turning talent show star belting out covers would have left disappointed as Sally Barker proved herself as more than just a voice during a gig at the Queen’s Head, Belper. As a singer-songwriter Sally Barker began her career supporting the likes of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson and Wishbone Ash, but it’s unfair to label her as a folk artist when her own music so easily jumps between different genres. The two sets reflected this, eloquently managing to touch upon all areas of her long career without ever sounding too disjointed. Accompanying Sally was Keith Buck, an accomplished musician who provided backing vocals and guitar. His singing, not unlike that of Peter Gabriel, played second fiddle to his remarkable lead guitar riffs and pedal steel work; an instrument renowned for its difficulty in mastering. With plenty of stories to tell, the recent events seemed not to have affected the Leicester-born singer who presented herself as warm and full of humility throughout. Nevertheless it was clear to see why that voice alone has won her many fans. Take bluesy numbers like, ‘Mr Bang’, ‘Money’s Talking’ and the AC-DC classic ‘Highway to Hell’ for example, three songs that displayed how soulful and edgy her range can be when pushed. But this is, at its core, a folk gig and the songs taken from the 2003 ‘Maid in England’ album gave us a glimpse of how far her songwriting has come. ‘The Ballad Of Mary Rose’ in particular, a tale of the doomed men aboard Henry the VIII’s flagship, was a standout track that managed to effortlessly blend modern folk with traditional whilst also somehow segueing into a jig. On its downbeat conclusion Barker, aptly noted ‘It’s a folk song damn it, everyone’s supposed to die’. For first of three encore songs, somewhat inevitably, Barker brought out her version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.’ Speaking briefly about her brush with show business on The Voice she marvelled at how strange the whole thing was after 30 years of touring and writing songs. Warning us beforehand that she had only rehearsed part of the song -‘I’ve only sung it on the telly’ - her note-perfect version of the Nina Simone song came endearingly to a halt when she forgot the words. It didn’t matter. The crowds already had their chairs facing the right direction and they could see her talent a mile away.