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Chick pickin’ bluegrass

Bournemouth songstress Catherine Burke charmed the audience at Chaplins Bar with her mix of bluegrass and comedy. She interwove songs and stories on subjects such as failing with boys, kissing the wrong kind of man and eating too many doughnuts. Marc Perry reports.
Burke and Hawkeye. Photo: M.Perry

Chick lit has its musical equivalent. Bluegrass style. Judging by the latest set from Bournemouth songstress Catherine Burke.

A buoyant barroom at Chaplins Bar, Boscombe, listened and laughed through more than 16 songs of Exes, Losers and other men, drawn from her debut solo album of the said same title. Ms Burke does not ask us to take her seriously. According to her liner notes, her songs are about “failing with boys, kissing the wrong kind of man and eating too many doughnuts”. They step straight from the world of Bridgette Jones rather than Sex and the City.

Catherine, clad country-style in “Brokeback shirt” and jeans, was joined on stage by bushy-eyed local “Hawkeye” on double bass and banjo. Fiddle player Benny Wain having broken down in his car, left it to Hawkeye to jump into the passenger seat as accompanist. His ability to pick up a tune at the drop of D-string set up the evening with a: ‘not quite sure where were headin’, but sure is a good ride,’ kind o’ feel.

Burke and Hawkeye. Photo: Marc Perry

The duo set off, warming the audience’s engine by skillfully finger picking the old favourite, Bury me beneath the willow. From then on it was Catherine’s material driving most of the way home, starting with I hope I get it right this time, meandering through Mrs.Robinson (a confessional song about fancying a nineteen year old boy), before cranking the old jalopy up a gear for, She left me standing on the mountain. The audience whooped and hollered appreciation for the song and the blistering banjo picking. On songs where Catherine gave full flood to the inflection in her voice, such as Yodel Song, and Don’t look back (a song where trying to be cool makes for failure with a boy) the audience seemed to lap it up.

At other times it was if the signal in the car radio was fading; static interfered with the songs as she faltered on words and had to start again. Some songs gave the impression of having been written and recorded quickly. As a result, they may not yet etched themselves into her memory. Playing to a home crowd Catherine was able to laugh off forgetfulness with witty repartee. An away crowd may have found this a little disconcerting. This, however was a free gig, in a relaxed atmosphere, and the audience was forgiving. Catherine communicated her humor well and on Not quite as good as me she sang straight to couples, alluding that she was the better women than those sitting next to boys in the bar. Self assured, affable and funny as she is, more time to hone the songs will improve her live delivery.

Catherine’s latest album: Exes, losers and other men (songs that make my Dad’s eyes roll) was released on February 5.
Check out: here for more details.

Review: Catherine Burke, Chaplins bar, Boscombe, 7/02/2012.

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