AS THE Floating Palace embarked on its maiden voyage, it was tempting to view this self-styled musical salon as a hipster version of the Transatlantic Sessions
It brought together contrasting but compatible musicians from across the roots spectrum – namely, KT Tunstall, Martin and Eliza Carthy, Missouri blues contralto Krystle Warren, alt.country man of parts Howe Gelb and our urbane and witty host, former Soft Boys frontman Robyn Hitchcock.
At this nascent stage, their tentative but good-natured collaboration mainly comprised backing each other’s songs in varying combinations. Cult hero Gelb quickly won over the audience with a droll jazzy rumination on the Mayan apocalypse. Tunstall and Warren initially kept to the sidelines, though the former showcased some lovely flute playing in service to the Carthys.
Warren, a later addition to the team, was less involved in the group renditions and her solo contributions were marked by an insularity at odds with the informal singaround spirit of the venture. Hitchcock, on the other hand, was always ready to lend a superfluous guitar accompaniment, although his philosophical perambulations concerning periscopes and postage stamps added far more colour to proceedings.
The closing communal covers of The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, Hitchcock’s Uncorrected Personality Traits and a rootsy Staying Alive were novel but throwaway. Tunstall and the Carthys achieved a richer, more resonant musical blend with an earthy unaccompanied three-part harmony shanty which best exhibited the potential of this motley ensemble.