DARIA KULESH & JONNY DYER – live at The Troubadour

Daria Kulesh
Photograph by Tony Birch

The Troubadour is one of the iconic venues in the country. Founded in 1954, it still occupies the coffee shop in Old Brompton Road near Earl’s Court where it started. It has played host to most of the greats on the folk scene, many before anyone else had heard of them. I say that because this was my first visit – it being in That Lunnon and me a country boy – and also Daria and Jonny’s debut performance there. And, as Daria pointed out in her introduction  to ‘Distant Love’, the first time that a song in the Ingush language had been sung on that stage.

They followed ‘Distant Love’ with Daria’s greatest hit, The Moon And The Pilot’, with Daria, resplendent in black and gold, at her expressive best. Then came something new.  Daria and Jonny were premiering some new songs – not a follow-up to Long Lost Home – but covers of some of the singers and songwriters who have graced this stage. What better place to air them first?

The first of them was ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, a song that is so well known that no-one sings it any more. Daria gives a new innocence over some absolutely delicious rolling guitar figures from Jonny. After ‘Amanat’ came ‘Masters Of War’ with Daria playing pulsing shruti and a mini-tambourine strapped to her foot. It is a song that is rapidly becoming relevant once more and one that is very important to Daria; there was a palpable anger in her performance. After ‘Panther’ (modesty forbids me from quoting her introduction) came ‘Northern Sky’. Most singers covering Nick Drake try to find the inner fragility of this notoriously reticent man. The original version of the song is drenched with arrangements that Nick himself disliked but which give it a power but Jonny reduced the arrangement to just a keyboard part and Daria turned it into a torch song. It might be considered revolutionary but it is quite magnificent.

Three more songs from Long Lost Home: ‘Untangle My Bones’, ‘Tamara’ and ‘Only Begun’ followed before they tackled the big one: ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’. Here’s another song that has been sung thousands of times over the years but, over Jonny’s guitar, Daria managed to instil something of herself into it, which is no mean achievement. They encored with another song associated with Sandy Denny, ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’, with attention drawn to the line “love is lord of all”. It brought the set to a reflective end – another old song that is still important and relevant.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.daria-kulesh.co.uk/with-jonny-dyer/

‘Amanat’ when it was new – live: