Don't be fooled, for this beat-folk duo's unassuming exterior belies a fierce eclecticism...
Preconceptions exist to be rattled, so it should come as no surprise that real-life couple Jo Bartlett and Danny Hagan should be so eager to demonstrate their understated eclecticism from the off. For whilst their name may conjure up images of ’70s kid’s TV dramas and twee bed-sit whimsy, tonight’s beguiling display proves the beat-folksters to be made of somewhat sturdier stuff. True, the air of preciousness which surrounds the duo’s on-stage mannerisms suggests a band still slightly ill at ease with the live format; but the self-conscious delicacy of the delivery only serves to emphasise the assured, poignant quality of the material aired.
Surprisingly perhaps, It’s Jo And Danny fare best when they stray furthest from the folk pop straightjacket. ‘Arkle’, a simmering instrumental shuffle incorporating drum machines and sequencers, evokes the spirit of The Beta Band at their most gleefully exuberant. Slow-burning soul epic ‘Love Expression’ gushes with a bittersweet reverie, Jo’s wispy inflection bolstered by the rhythmic clarity of Danny’s slab bass-lines. ‘Ones With Open Mouths’, meanwhile, is a deliciously lilting swoon which betrays the bands fondness for pastoral ’60s melancholia.
Only occasionally do the abstract collages and bohemian modernity of debut album ‘Lank Haired Boy To Bearded Boy’ lose something in translation, too subtle and intricate for the unforgiving glare of the live setting. But such trifles are cast aside by the warm-blooded urban resonance of the music on display. Eschewing stifling folk convention, It’s Jo And Danny don’t so much tamper with the formula as sneak up on it from behind and administer a sly right hook. Contemporary, yet reassuringly timeless at the same time.