Live Review: Katie Spencer at The Crescent

I’d picked up on singer songwriter Katie Spencer’s Facebook appearances, and was intrigued to find out more. Her online presence, with good quality photographs and a string of tour dates, set her apart from many less ambitious acts, and I headed to the Crescent on Sunday evening in May to catch her perform.

By Miles Salter

Katie played a solo set, as part of her tour to launch her new album, The Edge Of The Land, following sets by Chris Brain and Iona Lane. Around 40 people were at the gig – not a massive crowd, but not bad for a post-pandemic Sunday evening. Katie’s guitar playing and singing are excellent. She avoids the usual female singer songwriter clichés, and sings in a deeper register than you’d expect. She’s obviously an admirer of John Martyn and Martin Simpson, both of whom she mentioned, but I thought I detected a bit of Sandy Denny and June Tabor in there as well. Joni Mitchell fans would find much to enjoy here. The songs are idiosyncratic, and fully her own, mostly slow-paced, but with lots of space. Her playing is excellent, with touches of folk, jazz and blues. The ‘less is more’ accent works well – this is music that is thoughtful, evocative, and oddly moving. 

A number of the songs are inspired by places, such as the title track of the new album, written about East Yorkshire, and Shannon Road, one of the set’s best songs, written about Longhill Estate in East Hull, where this writer once worked as a youth worker. This is a really good song, evocative and poignant, with references to Plain Clothes Police and flickering street lights. She ended with a cover of John Martyn’s Small Hours, which she said was one of her favourite songs. She played it with the same shimmering chords and volume changes as the original – a neat trick. 

Thirty years ago I saw Kate Rusby play to forty people in a pub in York before her career took off. Katie Spencer could be headed for the same path. She may need stronger hooks in the choruses of her songs to penetrate a larger audience, but make no mistake – she’s a real talent.

Chris Brain, Iona Lane and Katie Spencer played at the Crescent on Sunday 22 May 2022.