SINGER and songwriter Jo Philby, born and brought up in North Dorset, has lived on Orkney for the past 15 years.
She was back on home turf with her musical partner, Orcadian instrumentalist and harmony singer Elaine Grieve, for evening concerts in Bournemouth and Shaftesbury and one matinee at Wimborne’s Allendale House, newly redecorated thanks to locally-based Farrow and Ball.
An audience of her loyal fans and a few newcomers took the chance of an afternoon of music, joining in with vigour and obvious enjoyment.
Jo is the eldest of five, and her family is deep rooted in music. As children she and her siblings packed into the car and sang songs all the way to … and back from … Sidmouth and other folk festivals. Her father was a Morris dancer, her grandmother a pianist and the whole family enjoyed a good sing-song, from traditional folk songs to more modern music.
Of the family, only Jo continued with the music, gathering songs and performing in clubs and pubs before she upped sticks and headed for Orkney. There she has established a reputation for her warm, powerful and flexible voice, singing unaccompanied as she began, and with Elaine and other instrumentalists.
Her own songs are tinged with influences of Americana, country, folk and old ballads. At Wimborne her set included new interpretations of songs by Alison Krauss, Emily Smith, Lennon and Maisy Stella from Nashville and Chris While, among others, as well as traditional ballads.
Jo and Elaine have written about life on the islands, mournful laments of lost love and women waiting on the shore and celebrations of the landscape and the skies.
Not only does the music transport the audience to Orkney, but everything about Jo and Elaine’s performance makes you want to visit, if only to hear more from this duo. Their show may be full of glittering lights, but it is totally devoid of that self-regard that makes some performers distance themselves from their audiences.
It was a Friday afternoon and a relatively small number of listeners, but everyone joined in and sang, reinforcing that sense of community and continuity that epitomises the best in musical gatherings.
Come back soon