Gig review: Haley Heynderickx at Holy Trinity Church, Leeds

Haley Heynderickx. Picture: Photo by Alessandra Leimer
Haley Heynderickx. Picture: Photo by Alessandra Leimer
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It’s fitting that Haley Heynderickx is playing in a church.

The Portland singer-songwriter’s lyrics are full of references to priests and olives while on ‘Untitled God Song’, with which she finishes this short set, she questions the perceived identity of her maker. “Maybe my god has thick hips and big lips,” she muses over finger-picked folk blues.

She brings this sense of thoughtful wonder to all of her songs, which ponder her place as a mixed-race millennial in a world of growing chaos. At the moment this includes trying to keep her soul intact, having taken to the stage 15-minutes after arriving in Leeds from London.

The gruelling touring schedule, in support of her debut album I Need To Start A Garden, is something to which she may have to grow accustomed. With the powerful vibrato of Angel Olsen, the emotional intimacy of Sharon Van Etten, and the intricate playing of someone tutored in bluegrass she already has the self-contained poise to command silence from the audience.

This response is quite a feat given that she’s performing solo on an electric guitar, yet it signals the strength of her material. Bearing a superficial familiarity to hushed 60s folk singers – she covers ‘Blues Run The Game’ by cult American artist Jackson C. Frank – she nonetheless tips the style almost imperceptibly on its axis by injecting it with a fresh sense of Generation Y anxieties and naturalistic metaphors.

It’s a subtle change to the genre but it’s enough to make Heynderickx shine brightly in a garden overgrown with troubadours.