Live: Lucy Roleff @ Grace Darling Hotel – 30/10/13

The intertwined smell of Collingwood and the rolling hills in a faraway land seemed to drift through the doors at the same time as Lucy Roleff began to sing. Maybe that was the feeling I gathered in my half-comatose state, which is no slight on Lucy; I was simply extremely fatigued from a few long days interstate. However, despite this and the occasional sound malfunction, Roleff’s vocals evoked unavoidable comparisons with the late, great Joni Mitchell.Such a comparison is a constant when a young folk singer emerges on the scene. Nonetheless, judging on Roleff’s evocative lyrics that are grounded in a rich and full emotional understanding beyond her years, while at the same time expressing a general admiration for the natural elements, they are deserved.Throughout her debut EP Longbows, Roleff displays a penchant for haunting melodies, particularly exhibited in the track “Bodies” in which the ambiguity of the lyrics forces the listener to consider their meaning.As I reflect on the lyrics, “Now the ceiling is warped and cracked/bed is splinters and some thumbtacks/and I’ve hardly cause to call/when your foot is in the door”, I start to associate the instrumental accompaniment with the landscape of an isolated trip through an ever-expanding desert in the Wild West. One of the strengths (and perhaps weaknesses) of her music is the consistent ambiguity of the setting in which they take place.The entire set fills me with a melancholy uncertainty. The Grace Darling atmosphere warms me; however, Roleff strikes a chord with her audience, judging on the delicate silence that inhabits the floor throughout the set. People sit and watch this young woman and you can’t help but empathise with her hopes and fears during her beautifully crafted melodies.Roleff notes that she is extremely nervous, but apart from a few technical issues and a shaky hand on her guitar, it is hardly noticeable. The able accompaniment from her backing guitarist who learnt every note on the day of the launch and her friend and clarinet player Rosalind Hall add further depth to the murky tones of Roleff. She plays the entire EP through and each song feels connected in such a way that a Laura Marling record would.While “In The Afternoon” is a breezy trip to ‘father’s porch’, “Volkshaus” feels like a tangled web of intrigue where Roleff wonders what “a diamond weighs nestled in a pocket of earth”. Throughout the set, Roleff opens a new window of her young life to the audience; such is the delicacy of her delivery. Her music is deeply poetic and although her vulnerability is clearly expressed in her lyrics, she doesn’t let it become the centrepiece of her music.Roleff’s song writing is fiercely intelligent and her delivery is entrancing without being overdone in the midst of a relatively small audience. Notwithstanding that I am a mere reviewer, I still believe that Roleff can further extend her repertoire by creating music that transcends a very personal story and becomes one that is deeply relatable for a larger audience.However, her EP is an experience that I would thoroughly recommend just as I would recommend witnessing this fine young singer/songwriter live, perhaps in a better condition than I was at the time of viewing. Either way, this young woman has a wonderful William Balme

November 4th 2013
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