Sylvie Lewis / Dawn Landes (Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena)

“I’m freezing my tits off up here!”

Wooden pallets for seating in the grounds of the town’s medieval fortress makes for a pleasant rustic setting. But it’s a bit on the chilly side! Both these folk maidens have underestimated the coolness of the evening and are wearing flimsy sleeveless summer dresses,. Hence Sylvie Lewis’ less than ladylike lament.

This free concert is part of a three-week European tour that also takes in Spain, France and Britain.

Sylvie’s American friend, Dawn Landes is first up. Like 90% of English-speaking singers performing in Italy, she feels the need to apologize for not being able to speak Italian. (The other 10% are uncommunicative grouches who scorn the notion of between song patter so whatever language they speak is academic).

Perhaps when playing her home town of Kentucky or in New York City, where she now lives, Landes gives more expansive introductions to her songs but somehow I doubt it. She’s more the type for nervous giggles and brief asides such as “This song is called Bluebird.It’s about a bluebird”. Being pure-voiced and very pretty, no-one is too concerned about the details.

London-born Lewis has lived in Rome for the past 6 years so is not so tongue-tied. This presents the opposite problem. Rather than let the songs speak for themselves, she prefaces each with rambling anecdotes,

More world-wary than world-weary, she portrays herself as someone with more than her fair share of hangups and insecurities. The incorrect choice of stage attire is, we are given to believe, typical of her capacity to make a bit of an ass of herself in public.One of her songs recommends learning to laugh at one mistakes rather than fret over them.

After a while, her self-deprecation gets a little tiresome; coming across more as mild paranoia than a display of humility. She does write some nice tunes though, especially The City Is Ours, a song about walking the streets of Rome at 4am; salvaging something positive from a bad dose of insomnia.

As well as playing solo, they sing a few songs together . Lewis accompanies Landes on the ukulele and the set includes a none too convincing take of Woody Guthrie’s Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key from the Billy Bragg & Wilco album Mermaid Avenue. Landes needs to read the words from a notebook.

They are a genial double act, complimenting one another very well and warming up a small but appreciative  crowd who were more sensibly dressed than they were.

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