Back in the mists of time, people like Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Kate Rusby were taking their first tentative steps along the road to a career as a musical superstar. All of them started out playing in pubs, village halls and folk clubs, and you can be sure that anyone present takes great delight in saying, “I was there”.

On a chilly March evening in a South Gloucestershire village hall, the emerging talent that is Harri Endersby has a near sell-out crowd utterly spellbound with her music, and it seems certain that, in a few years time, those of us present will be saying, “I was there”. You see, if there’s any justice in the world, HARRI ENDERSBY is headed for big things.

Is it because of her voice? It’s a thing of rare beauty, her range incredible. It soars to the rafters of Frenchay Village Hall, seemingly desperate to break the confines of the room.

Or is it is her musicianship? With three guitars at her disposal, Harri’s fingers dance over the fretboard with the ease and comfort of someone who is utterly at home with a guitar in their hands.

Perhaps it’s her songwriting? Harri has been writing songs since she was quite young, and she knows her craft. The subject matter and style is varied; memories of a beautiful sunset on a remote Scottish island (Golden Hour), stories of trees falling in love with girls (I kid you not! Love Song of a Willow Tree), a slightly darker reflection on dingy student accommodation in Durham (Shadows) and an evocative tale of stirred memories (Tobacco Tin). Harri Endersby can write songs. Really, really good ones.

It’s all those things, but there’s more to it than that. There’s just… something… that tells you that you’re in the presence of a very special talent. Harri draws you into her world, with her beautifully-written and performed songs, and her bewitching personality.

Alongside Harri sits her husband, Rich Marsh, perched on a cajon and surrounded by an array of percussion instruments and guitars, including, gasp, an electric one. This is a folk club, are electric guitars even allowed? “It’s nice to see Rich on an electric guitar again, because his roots are in metal, aren’t they?”, quips Harri. Rich nods and says yes; this is what he does on stage, no microphone for him, and one suspects that this is exactly how he likes it. He’s an unassuming presence, the perfect foil to Harri’s effervescent stage-presence, but his subtle percussion and understated and gentle guitar playing adds another dimension to Harri’s beautifully-crafted songs. A drumbeat here, a harmonic there… his contribution really lifts the songs to another level. The man is a seriously talented and sensitive musician, and Harri’s songs are all the better for it.

Together, the pair create layer-upon-beautiful-layer, songs rising to a crescendo before falling again into almost silence. It’s dynamic and enthralling, and you don’t want the evening to end.

Alongside Harri’s songs, there’s room for a couple of songs written by other people. A nice version of Johnny Flynn’s Detectorists and a stunning unaccompanied rendition of Ger Wolfe’s The Currah Road, a rendition of a traditional lullaby (sung in Scots Gaelic), and Wild Mountain Thyme are given the Harri Endersby treatment, and sit comfortably alongside her self-penned numbers.

Harri was not the only exciting young talent on display at Downend Folk Club on this night. BEN ROBERTSON is a young fingerstyle guitarist and singer, and he opened the evening’s entertainment with a range of folk instrumentals and songs from across the British Isles and Europe. Included are tunes like Warlocks and The King of the Faeries, which showcase his incredible guitar-playing, and songs like Going To California, in which we are treated to his voice, a resonant, character-filled thing. Ben went down a storm, and left the gathered music-lovers wanting more. More they shall have, surely, along the road.

But this is Harri Endersby’s evening. A special night in the presence of a special performer.

And “I was there”.

Words: Ant Miles
Photo: Chris Dobson