The Folklore Society of Greater Washington brought two of the more entertaining exponents of British, Irish and Canadian traditional folk music to the Ethical Society Auditorium last night: Ian Robb and Grit Laskin.
Robb, who moved to Canada from his native England a dozen years ago, is a singer and concertina player. His strong, well-defined voice occasionally recalled the crusty balladry of Ewan MacColl. Laskin is a Canadian singer and player of numerous instruments, including some of his own making. Together, with an assist from pianist and stepdancer Kate Murphy, they forged a wonderfully congenial alliance, one which alternately had audience members singing, laughing and tapping their feet.
The performance drew not only on the expected--historical ballads, crisply executed jigs and lovely waltzes (Laskin mostly playing the guitar and a homemade offshoot of the mandolin)--but also on the unexpected: from Laskin a primer on how to write an unblinkingly banal folk song; from Robb, a wickedly funny broadside inspired by the royal wedding.
Murphy also helped to enliven the evening with a delightful display of 19th-century stepdancing, a clog style less kinetic than more recent variations. Unfortunately, many in the packed audience couldn't fully appreciate the demonstration without standing and blocking the vision of others.