Having first clapped eyes on one of the thieves, Mama Kin – playing support for The Waifs four years ago in the crowded back room of The Northern Hotel, we would have happily left the gig, along with the signed CD of her 2009 release, Beat and Holler, without even seeing the Simpson sisters on their restorative tour. You could see something special had been exposed to this northern NSW loyal and loving crowd. But a certain restraint in her playing and personality that night was evident, she teased us with glimpses – well it wasn’t HER tour.
Since then we have followed Mama Kin tours to local venues and festivals; the historic Mullumbimby Civic Hall, Blues fest and Mullum Music Festival where her resonate beating and hollering have been unleashed along with the humorous banter between her piano accompanist brother, Michael.
Her songs and stories of self, friends and children make you laugh loudly then tear up, misty eyed the next. When has an artist tapped into your psyche like this?
Second ‘Thief’ Emily Lubitz, the elegant lead vocalist of Melbourne based Tin Pan Orange has an equally loving local fan base. Seen at home in similar north coast settings such as the decorative pressed metal lined A & I Hall in Bangalow, Emily and her talented group would send themselves and the audience into a trance-like musical whirling dervish world. Emily is incredibly alluring; her auburn hair and style a mix of heritage and rock n’ roll goddess.
Cut to November 2014, the We Two Thieves idea now a “dream come true” collaboration between Emily Lubitz and Mama Kin. They describe it as “a cluster of mics born out of a kitchen table” – a tour and album dually titled: At Midnight We Ride.
We Two Thieves including guitarist and backing vocalist Dave Mann, walked onto the Marketta stage surrounded by large orchid shaped flower arrangements, styled straight from the immaculate ribbon prized hall of an agricultural show. Designed by Polly Snowden, as people merged into the raw pallet lined venue, it portrayed a definite wow factor, a powerful floral hit of what was in store.
The opening Mama Kin song Only For You, with Emilysinging the soft harmonies,shows the autobiographical angle to much of her work on this album. We then hear them together on Too Old to Die Young, which hints of American Eilen Jewell’s modest country sounds and exposing reminiscent lyrics on life, “I never was a high roller baby… my sin is being ordinary.”
The gospel fed harmonies of the surprise Delta Dawn was a wonderful arrangement of this seventies anthem, sounding not unlike Alabama’s The Secret Sisters with Dave Mann’s lilting mandolin.
Any righteous feelings are gone as we feed off the onstage humour of Mama Kin and her song Slow Down, written as a New Year’s Eve resolution. She had us ALL laughing, revealing to us that at the time she was actually “cracking the shits,” which proved not to be the New Year’s mood setter she’d hoped for. From laughter to the feelings of loneliness, the lyrics from this song; “The business of busyness…” exposes us to familiar feelings, “she finds herself lonely … in a room full of friends.”
From the beautifully intense timbre of Mama Kin we are ready for Emily to tuck us in and drift off with her dreamy lyrics to the lullaby Field of Blue, written for her son. All is good now in the world. But there is no time to rest as we go to a fiery newly completed song led by Mama Kin – Diggers Town Hall, a family inspired song of loss, expressed with her fists and flailing arms, the only accompaniment Mann’s beautiful mandolin and Emily’s serene harmonies.
Back to Emily Lubitz’s raspy innocent vocals on Peach Tree another magical yet biographical song. When their lyrics are sung we understand every word, hungry for the next line until the clear haunting whistle of Dave Mann trails to silence.
Likening their self-deprecating humour to Missy Higgins we laugh at their take on encores –the Two Thieves describing them as “hide and seek for adults!” Their sartorial styling captures us all too. Lipstick red lips and ruffle sleeved flower printed dresses, complete with Americana cowboy boots – we love it all and promise ourselves to dress as stylishly next time.
Where Emily weaves the magical and the mystical, Mama Kin wears her heart on her sleeve, and without hesitation we add their signed album to the collection knowing this music will soothe any of those intense life moments.