The singer-songwriter headlines Hackney’s Folklore as part of this year’s First Fifty
The Great Escape festival heads back to Brighton in May 2024, with a roster of impressive new talent. But for the more impatient fans among us, the festival gathered 50 of its acts in east London last night for special preview performances across a number of local stages. Amongst them was Oscar Browne, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist bringing saxophones and trombones into his ethereal alt folk. Headlining the Folklore stage in Hackney, Browne was as good an endorsement of The Great Escape as it gets.
A quiet presence onstage, Browne doesn’t try hard to win over his audience but lets his setlist speak for itself. He holds the anecdotal chatter in favour of quick transitions between tracks, a brief reveal of a song title or an aside that “this is a new one.” Which works, because Browne doesn’t need to convince anyone that his set is worth watching. Musically, he has every tool at his disposal, as skilful a songwriter as he is a guitarist. It’s his vocals that truly put the audience under his spell – for anyone who hasn’t been on Browne’s Spotify, it would be hard to imagine a recorded vocal more flawless than his live one. His tone is warm and rich, the north London lifting from his body and leaving his vowels a little Irish. He floats up into a dreamy falsetto with startling ease. This is a vocalist to watch.
Browne’s releases so far are limited. His debut single, ‘Never Quite Right’, was released in June 2022, followed by EP, If Only, in October of this year. His discography amounts to six tracks in total, with new material filling in the gaps in his live set. It’s a brilliantly curated collection of songs, meticulously arranged, and their live versions preserve the whimsical brass details in ‘All Or Nothing’, the emotive crescendo of ‘You and I’. Watching Browne play feels like watching a musician preview their third studio album. By the time that’s the case, who knows how good he’ll be.
Photo credit: Megan Wales-Harding