We seem to say this every time, but these nights just keep on getting better. Sabrina Francis and her fabulous band joined us all the way from Grenada in the West Indies. The Caribbean four-piece were on a European tour and playing in Madrid and Paris, as well as the illustrious Bishop’s Stortford! Hemel Hempstead’s Minnie Birch was also on the bill, as was local lad and Retune founder Tom Ryder, playing an extended set to open the show.
Tom started with the usual introduction to Retune but added in some more details about his own mental health struggles, and how he used songwriting as a coping mechanism to make sense of what was going on in his head. He played four original songs including One Room At A Time and One For The Team, before calling up Greg Camburn on the tin whistle to play a brand new track – Partners In Crime.
Minnie was up next. Her musical story is remarkable, not least because she uses her skills to deliver sessions to prison inmates. “I think it’s great that nowadays we can be broken, and it’s OK,” she said. She treated the Retune audience to some powerful originals including Floundering from her debut album. Her vocal is haunting and shiver-inducing, and her songs are incredibly heartfelt. She closed with a rousing acapella number.
We have seen some terrific acts at Retune, but Sabrina Francis’ set was one polished performance, from start to finish. The Grenadian singer’s songwriting is exemplary, and is really brought to life by her excellent band, led by musical director Dieter Burkhalter on keys. The arrangements are super tight and Sabrina’s vocal control is sublime. Her set included This Is Home, a song about Grenada that she has performed in the national stadium, and a newer track called Break that was very powerful and ended on an almost impossible high note that Sabrina delivered with total poise.
We haven’t had full on dancing at Retune yet, but there is no doubt that much of the audience wanted to, and there was some enthusiastic jigging in the seats going on, not too mention plenty of singing along!
The atmosphere of this show perfectly encapsulated what the Retune project is all about, and all three artists brought their unique and thoroughly interesting songs and stories to the table.