Candles line the tables of The Yardbird, flickering vulnerably as the outside wind swirls in. And it’s these dancing illuminations, breaking up the room’s all-consuming darkness, that foreshadow the quiet beauty of the music soon to be on display. Charlotte Carpenter’s songs have always proven that brightness can come from the blackest of experiences and tonight, as she headlines a folk showcase, the Northamptoner reaffirms this message and demonstrates why she’ll soon be anointed alt’s newest darling.
Like Laura Marling, a songstress to whom she’s already drawn so many comparisons, the diminutive folkie appears to a sensitive vision more normally reserved for those that have lived a great many years. Carpenter’s set, comprised of choice cuts from her quiver of EPs, positively boils over with world-weariness. She metes out this stunning gift on the likes of Sinking, a country ballad in 21st century clothes, and early tune Let It Go, which after a slow-burning start, soon becomes a violent tussle between hushed tones and caustic wails. Even the occasional trade between guitars acoustic and electric fails to dampen her intensity, the poignancy of her words alone capable of reducing the crowd to a reflective silence.
No longer writing as a lone troubadour, the newer songs, including those from the recent Whole EP and the presently album-less Take It All and Siren Song, lean more heavily on Carpenter’s backing band who, despite being deployed sparingly, come properly alive with the latest material. Adding a traditional blues vista to the singer’s usual econo-folk, Siren Song’s swampy guitar line comes lifted from the Mississippi Delta, suggesting another layer to Carpenter’s already inimitable craft.
‘I don’t need no fortune teller…’ she delicately implores as she closes out her modest, bite-sized set with Whole. That’s just as well then as it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see that Charlotte Carpenter is going to be around for a while. And that suits us fine.
Words: Dan Owens| Photos: Sam Wood