|Live Reviews July/August 2009|
Quick-links to sub-sections:
Crosby Stills & Nash - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st July 2009
Crosby Stills & Nash - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st July 2009
James Taylor & His Excellent Band - 02 Arena, London - 6th July 2009
The Wilders - Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline - 7th July 2009
White Denim - Talking Heads, Southampton - 5th July 2009
Le Vent Du Nord - The Stables, Wavendon - 23rd July 2009
Lucinda Williams – Concert Hall, Perth - 1st August 2009
The Flatlanders and Rodney Crowell - Sage, Gateshead - 26th July 2009
Lucinda Williams - O2 Shepherds Bush Empire - 27th July 2009
The Wilders - Classic Grand, Glasgow - 14th July 2009
Sunday Saloon - Quorn Village Hall, Quorn - 9th August 2009
David Ferrard - The Royal Oak, Edinburgh - 16th August 2009
Pokey LaFarge - St. Bride’s, Edinburgh - 29th August 2009
Chuck Prophet - The Miner’s Arms, Lydney - 9th August 2009
|Reviews so far this month for CSN, James Taylor, the Wilders (twice), White Denim, Le Vent Du Nord, the amazing Lucinda Williams (twice), the Flatlanders with Rodney Crowell, the Sunday Saloon event in Quorn, David Ferrard, Pokey LaFarge and Chuck Prophet. If you fancy submitting a review for any recent gig you've been to, just send it to us via the address on the contacts page and we'll happily publish it.|
|Crosby Stills & Nash - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st July 2009|
Review by Andy Riggs
Almost 40 years since their ‘scared shitlesss second gig at Woodstock’, CSN were back in London and played a surprisingly sprightly set. Whilst the voices have diminished from their peak, Crosby & Nash still combine together beautifully. Stephen Stills guitar playing once again showed the talent of the man, highlighting what talent he once held within his fingers and pen.
Crosby exclaims before playing ‘Déjà vu’: ‘Stephen writes great rock ‘n roll songs, Nash writes great anthems, and I write the weird stuff’. In the light of the proposed new cover record due in 2010, it shows that neither writes decent songs anymore and that is demonstrated by the safe set list. Don’t get me wrong - I love their music but I think they now believe their own myth and have become ‘park bench mutations’. I know Stills & Crosby have not been in the best of health in last few years, but some of the heavy arrangements drowned out the once innovative arrangements of songs such as ‘Déjà Vu’ & ‘Wooden Ships’.
CSN are backed by a great band with Joe Vitale, Bob Glaub & James Raymond (Crosby’s lost son from way back when he was on another planet).
When playing their ‘wooden’ music and JT’s ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ CSN are brilliant.
You Don't Have To Cry
You Can Close Your Eyes
Reason To Believe
Lady Of The North Country
Dream For Him
In Your Name (new Nash song)
Uncle John's Band
Rock 'n Roll Woman
Long Time Gone
Almost 'found my hair'
For What It's Worth
Teach Your Children
We have all been here before.
|Crosby Stills & Nash - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st July 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Strange thing, gathering of tribes...and it is a strange thing that I can spot the other people going to see CSN at the station as I start my journey into London, and more when I arrive and again more on the tube. There is a stream of humanity being drawn to the Royal Albert Hall for CSN's first ever gig there. And it would be a nice cliche to say they were all aging hippies, but no there really were all ages, and not just men either. Even before the rumours that this was their last tour started circulating, the RAH had been long sold out and by 8PM was very nearly packed out . And if it was more than warm outside, well it was truly hot inside; it was steaming - a sweaty miasma hovering over the stalls.
Five minutes past eight CSN came onto a stage adorned with Persian rugs to receive the first of many standing ovations; they seemed mildly taken aback by their welcome. And they all looked really well, Stills and Crosby thinner than they've been for years, Nash only conceding hair colour to the passing of time. Only taking time to exchange grins as the applause died down before launching into Helplessly Hoping. All the voices were working, a shoeless sprightly Nash to the fore but Stills seemed to be croke free, and Crosby was in the mix. Following this up with You Don't Have To Cry, with Stills alone on acoustic guitar, their voices were straining a little on some of the harmonies. It is perhaps unfair to expect the perfection of 40 years ago, but it is CSN's curse that the songs held most strongly in their audience's affections rely predominantly on the harmonising of their voices. This well received opening double punch was then followed with new material - songs from the forthcoming covers album. Ruby Tuesday with Nash taking the lead could have been a classic Hollies song, and it got a good response. Crosby informed us that we'd done it now - they'd carry on in the same vein. Three more covers in quick succession - James Taylor's You Can Close Your Eyes, Tim Hardin's Reason To Believe and Dylan's North Country Fair, the last at least being familiar from the Stills solo gigs of last year. I found this big segment of covers sapped my enthusiasm a bit, mabye they could have mixed them into the set more - although that might have caused it to have a high-low-high-low pattern. And each cover inevitably meant one less CSN song - and realistically would I, through choice, swap Lee Shore or Chicago or Suite:Judy Blue Eyes for a James Taylor song?
Fortunately it was back to real CSN music for a while - the hall silencer of Guinevere with Crosby and Nash harmonising nicely, followed up with Crosby's unusually wordy Dream For Him, a song written for his son ("what all 28 of them ?" quips Nash). Captain Manyhands took bass duties on this, various acoustic and electric guitars not having been enough for him so far. Nash unveiled a new song - In Your Name - which is musically akin to solo songs like Military Madness and lyrically covers similar ground to Cathedral in criticising organised religions and war in any god's name. Once on keyboards Nash led off onto a fine rendition of Our House, a song that some find over sweet, but its celebration of a shared love is nothing to be ashamed of enjoying. Things are well and truly back on track now, and even the introduction of another cover can't bring things down, especially when it is dedicated to "our friend Jerry Garcia". Uncle John's Band is the best of tonight's covers, CSN have given it a bit of a Tex-Mex lilt, which worked quite well but lacked a little of the original's power. Certainly the "hot damn well I declare have you seen the like ?" segment was, to my ears, crying out for the band to pause and allow the voices alone to declaim - and really why wasn't Crosby leading on this ? It's a line that could have been written with him in mind. Things really hit a high with Southern Cross, which features one of CSN's most dramatic choruses, and which also gave Stills a chance to let rip on guitar. It had an astonishing uplifting power, and the only worry was - could they keep this momentum up after the interval?
No worries about getting the momentum going again as the familiar intro' revealed that they were kicking off the second half with Rock And Roll Woman with which CSN immediately took hold of the hall again, and Stills gave the first of many blistering guitar solos. Throughout the second set you could easily believed that you were at a Stills gig, so to the fore was his playing, and it was so spot on and pleasing that he thoroughly answered the "where's Neil ?" query that so often floats around CSN tours. With playing this vibrant, who needs Neil Young anyway ?
Nash's breezy Marakesh Express was followed up with his Wild Tales track Military Madness, another breezy track with a mixture of autobiographical and anti-war lyrics, a song now firmly settled into the CSN live cannon, and tonight featuring a superb solo by Stills between the 2nd and 3rd verses. Then it was time for The Croz to lay some heavy messages on us with a pair of his hard hitting sparse lyriced numbers - Long Time Gone followed up with Deja Vu. If he'd been saving his voice a little in the first set then it was a wise decision as he dropped these songs like tablets inscribed inch deep with firey letters proclaiming The Truth. Aware of, and clearly happy with, his position in CSN, Crosby introduced the second of the two songs with a comment that everyone has their role "Steve provides the rock and roll, Graham writes the anthems, and I write the weird shit". To say that got a rapturous reception would be to understate wildly. An extended version of the song gave the whole band (with the exception of Joe Vittale on drums) a chance to solo, with Stills as ever taking control at the end.
If I had had any lingering doubts over that first set all was by now well and truly forgiven. Nash took to the keyboards once more to produce a huge church organ intro for Cathedral which swirled in wild confusion as Nash wrestled with the vagaries of religion and death and drug induced clarity. With Stills rocking out on Bluebird the night just got better and better, these three were unable to put a foot wrong. A devastating Almost Cut My Hair further upped the ante, Crosby's voice still sweet and utterly commanding as he declared his intention to remain true to himself, and if anyone can be said to have done so for good or - too often - ill then it is David Crosby. He literally has stuck to his guns, and allowed his freak flag to fly. It is the pure strength of his delivery that makes this song a set highlight - no highlight of the night is more like it - and who but Crosby could sing it ? By this time the standing ovations were becoming routine - routine but deserved.
They finished out the evening with another Buffalo Springfield song - For What It's Worth. Huge and lasting cheers got the encore - the hippy dream defining Wooden Ships with Crosby and Nash taking the spoken exchange. And finally Nash's Teach Your Children, the audience on their feet and singing along. Try as we might that was it. But, hey, what a night it had been.
|James Taylor & His Excellent Band - 02 Arena, London - 6th July 2009|
Review by Andy Riggs
Firstly, who on earth booked JT for the wide open spaces of the 02? The arena was two-thirds full, and even JT looked surprised at the size of the place. Fortunately, the upper levels had been closed off but it was still a ludicrous venue for this concert.
Secondly, and I know JT has just released two recent covers record but why on earth did 75% of the songs come from these rather bland records when JT has some gems from his halcyon period of song writing from the early 70s? Three songs from Sweet Baby James (SBJ, Steamroller & Fire & Rain) and only ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ from Mud Slide Slim and nothing from the excellent ‘Hourglass’ from 1997.
As I say, most of the evening was spent on the covers - these were just fine and some like ‘Everyday’ & ‘Midnight Hour’ presented the audience with an opportunity to get up and have a dance. The low point of the evening was the cover version of Jimmy Webb’s ‘Galveston’ – it lost all its impact with the bland arrangement and dare I say JT’s voice just doesn’t have the depth for a song of this stature.
JT was supported with a great band which included Steve Gadd (drums), Michael Landau (guitar) & Jimmy Johnson (bass) plus some excellent backing singers with Andrea Zonn also on fiddle.
As ever JT holds the evening together really well with his downbeat humour and modesty - it was pleasant but personally it would have been a great evening at a much smaller venue and a reduction in the number of covers to 2-3.
|The Wilders - Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline - 7th July 2009|
Review by Graeme Scott
This is one of those wonderful occasions where it is just so easy to write up a review of a gig you have been to. The Wilders came blasting out of the starting blocks at a hundred miles an hour and never really let up for the rest of the set. Of course there was light and shade plus a smattering of different tempos including very subtle, gentle ballads but this quartet from Kansas just blew right through the hall like a breath of fresh air. Betse Ellis vocals and violin, Ike Sheldon guitar and vocals, Phil Wade banjo, guitar, mandolin and vocals plus Nate Gawron on upright bass and vocals are a joy to be around. The music is completely infectious and addictive, the band pounding out the rhythms leaving you with a mighty grin all over your face. It's a little bit Country, Hillbilly, Old-time, Traditional, Mountain with the odd element of Folk thrown into the pot as well. About all that was missing was some Gospel and I am sure they could turn that into a hoe-down as well. For that was the essence of tonight, a foot-stomping party. loved it from the moment they opened with the first of two sets with songs like 'Happy That Way', 'Someone's Got To Pay', 'When The Levee's Gone', 'Collard Greens', 'My Final Plea', 'Honky Tonk Habit' and 'Hey Little Darlin''. Add in the odd cover from Hank Williams, Jim Lauderdale and Johnny Cash and it all amounted to a thoroughly entertaining evening. High energy does not always rest with the hard rocking bands. As the Wilders proved tonight all you need is music that you believe in, is fun and that can reach down inside you. The music may be steeped in the past but it is certainly very welcome in the here and now.
|White Denim - Talking Heads, Southampton - 5th July 2009|
Review by Oliver Gray
A pleasingly young audience belied a distinct seventies vibe on this evening, heads shaking and dandruff cascading. Some of us old lags were trying to find a reference point for a noodling power guitar trio like White Denim. Taste? Similar energy but more bluesy. Groundhogs? Similar attitude but a bit more psychedelic. Spirit? That¹s more like it. In the figure of bandana-ed guitarist James Petralli there¹s even a hint of Randy California.
A White Denim show consists of three ³medleys², in which songs from their albums ³Workout Holiday² and ³Fits² merge into each other in a bewildering series of time signature changes which keep the head shakers on their toes.
In great jazz tradition, there¹s strict discipline in the arrangements, leaving room for improvisation between musicians who are impressively attuned to each other. Ugly Betty bassist Steve Terebecki and elaborate drummer Joshua Block are a powerhouse rhythm section very much in the mould of Bruce and Baker, while Petralli yelps enthusiastically in a mix of soul and garage styles.
Sounds unlikely? Well, this band sure is different and it makes for exciting viewing and listening. Whether the general public will become so enthused remains to be seen.
|Le Vent Du Nord - The Stables, Wavendon - 23rd July 2009|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Le Vent Du Nord are a band that I've wanted to see for some years, ever since accidentally coming across them on an edition of Late Junction on Radio 3 (hey, can you get more rock'n'roll ?). They are a Quebecoise folk band, playing music from the Quebec, Canadian and Acadian traditions, singing in French and thus guaranteeing that there will be no set list attached to the review.
The four band members play guitar/mandolin, violin/foot percussion, bass/melodeon/piano/jaw harp, and piano/piano accordian/hurdy-gurdy, it's quite a heady mixture, the hurdy-gurdy in particular drags the sound a long way from France. And whilst they are obviously well rehearsed and professional they are also quite clearly having a great time and giving it their all (and that despite the venue only being a third full, at a generous estimate). And it's a tradition of music I'm less familiar with than, say, Cajun.
They mix in tune sets which feature French, Breton, Scots, English (was that a Morris tune ?) and Irish influences, they sing songs they've collected from singers in the Quebec countryside. Sometimes the baby grand piano is adding a jazz line to the traditional tunes. It all work very well indeed. Even the call and response songs - "ok and then you say...." and unfortunately it's something long and really complicated in French, but we give it a go. They even got us up on our feet and stomping the rhythm of a tired horse walking (I think this was in the song "the very tired horse", but I could be making that up).
It is during the second half, whilst Le Vent Du Nord are racing through a set of tunes that it suddenly strikes me that this music is in a very real sense the sound of being alive. Which is why this music lasts.
If you've been spending too long recently listening to the sound of "lost weird americana" then this could be the band that could lift you up again for a while, and refresh your palette. There is no harm in positiveness and, oh let's say it, fun, every now and again. Catch them next time they're in the UK, they're off to France and Denmark through August.
|Lucinda Williams – Concert Hall, Perth - 1st August 2009|
Review by Mike Ritchie
MOMMA, aka Lucinda Williams, said she was happy, and that meant the band was happy. Ultimately, we were all happy. Catching Lucinda Williams in such a joyful mood was a treat in this near two-hour triumph of a show. She liked her digs, the acoustics of the “room” and, she confessed, she found this part of Scotland “uplifting.” Nothing was needling her in the Fair City of Perth.
Immediately striking was the quality of her singing. It was just fantastic. On acoustic heartbreakers her voice crackled and gripped while on the big ballsy songs like “Drunken Angel” – I always think of The Faces during the intro – the vocals were all bar-room brawler with that glorious broken tail-off on last line words that keep you longing for more and wondering if she’ll make it to the next line.
Last time I was in her company was at Barrowland in Glasgow back in November ’06 and this latest show before 1,200 devotees was another driving slab of sleazy, bluesy, country rock, backed by the excellent Buick 6. Her recording output recently has not, for my money, been a patch on earlier releases so it was pleasing that she delved way back over 30 years of recording to perform oldies, but goldies like Lafayette from 1980’s “Happy Woman Blues” and Motherless Children, off the 1979 “Ramblin,” where her delta influences flourished. In that three decade period, she has carved out some brilliant tracks – People Talkin’, Over Time, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (not played here,) Real Live Bleeding Fingers, Essence, which was given a cranked up outing this time round.
Metal Firecracker (that’s a nickname for a tour bus, she told us) from “Car Wheels…” sums up a lot about her. It’s a gem, a kick-up-the-dust melody sprinkled with aching lyrics about a tortured romance collapsing, delivered as she swayed from side to side. “Don’t tell anyone the secrets, I told you” she pleads with her departed or departing lover: familiar territory, a staple, tear-stained diet for award-winning Lady Lu.
She sings her songs with a true, unmatched passion, almost as if she’s visiting them for the first and possibly, the last time. There are no half measures on the rockers and the gentler tunes, gutsy and glorious throughout, pitch her to the edge of something lost and vulnerable and captivating. If the AC/DC cover of “It's a Long Way to the Top” seemed slightly out of place, it was nonetheless enjoyable. She grinned and bopped all the way through, as did the entire crowd, well pleased with what we’d been fed at this Southern Fried Festival gig.
|The Flatlanders and Rodney Crowell - Sage, Gateshead - 26th July 2009|
Review by Maurice Hope
A fitting climax of the Americana Weekend on the banks of the River Tyne at Gateshead’s Sage and outside at the free live Jumpin’ Hot Club Stage came to a climax in Hall One on Sunday evening.
Texans, singer-songwriter, Rodney Crowell —former rhythm guitarist in Emmylou Harris Hot Band and recording act in his own right, he shared the bill with Lubbock’s Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Collectively known as the Flatlanders, but with their own respective careers going.
Crowell accompanied by Will Kimbrough and Australian guitarist/ vocalist Jedd Hughes was first up, and who like the former is a superb talent. Just what the doctor ordered. Immediately they reached the stage they were up and running and sounding sharp and incisive as Crowell set the tone and own personal benchmark a couple of songs (‘Moving Work Of Art’ and ‘The Rise And Fall Of Intelligent Desire’) from his latest album, Sex And Gasoline. Struck by the aplomb and lyrical content the venue had backed a winner here, and as for Hughes and Kimbrough, they proved stout, sympathetic supportive pillars.
Speaking more, and being open about his thoughts and past failings Crowell had the audience warm to him. He spoke of how an old friend (Stewart Smith) started questioning life and how he was no longer able to become motivated, only to get a call to go and play guitar with the Eagles the next day which underlined how fickle life can be. It was a fabulous experience, listening to them play and allowing the lyrics to develop into vivid imagery.
Ever since he made one of the best American albums of the millennium, Houston Kid Crowell has hit his stride and continued to look deep into his life as well as political and social issues of the world like few others. Consistently he has hit the mark. Crowell peaked on a number of occasions as he sang about being ‘Earthbound’ and from Houston Kid there wasn’t only huge crowd pleaser, ‘I Walk The Line (Revisited)’ —that had Kimbrough play the part of the late Johnny Cash plus two songs dedicated to a childhood friend who became infected with H.I.V.
While he didn’t dip way back into his vast reservoir of material too often, Rodney did give us ‘Till’ I Gain Control Again’. Master class if there ever was such a thing. It did not stop there as the boys played some sublime riffs and he delivered the clever ‘Closer To Heaven’ and the first gospel song he has ever written that he dedicated to his late mother, ‘Jesus Talk To Moma’. We also had a couple of songs from Kimbrough, a man of whom I have a great deal of time for (be sure to check out a raft of solo albums and with the group, Daddy featuring his good friend Tommy Womack) and there was his story concerning Johnny Cash when he went to visit him in Jamaica with his former wife, Rosanne Cash. Honest, pure, and innovative Crowell’s songs were a study and like in the title of his song, ‘Moving Work Of Art’ —he is still creating, learning his craft and at the same time remaining earthbound.
The Flatlanders: It has been a long time in coming boys, but it was worth the wait. So much so that I would be tempted to say the performance was way beyond my wildest dreams. Heady stuff.
While it was Joe Ely who took up the early running it was Jimmy Dale Gilmore singing like his life depended upon it. Getting better with every note he shone like a big ol’ moon on a clear evening and to whom by the time the trio and likewise numbered band waved their last farewells my eyes gravitated come the start of each song. Hoping it was he who sang lead! Butch, the least known this side of the water regards live shows wasn’t to be outdone by either, or for that matter the herculean electric lead guitar work of Rob Gjersoe, who aided by Pat Manske (superb on drums) and bass ensured a musical treat was served. It was of no surprise that their recent album Hills And Valleys (New West), the best they have made since reforming, figured strongly. No problems there since it gave me the opportunity to get closer to the likes of fantastic ode ‘Homeland Refugee’, and ‘No Way I’ll Never Need You’ as Hancock stoked up the furnace with his extraordinary harmonica playing and Gilmore placed his stamp on the vocals. Equal in tone and volume of most accordionists, Butch shifted up the gears as a sound not a million miles away from Los Lobos performing music steeped in borderland influences.
With a host of material to get through there were still a few words now and again from an enthusiastic Ely, who as ever displayed a muscular stance as he shared his deep love for songs that bring to life imagery laden in borderland and rural scenarios. A man who though a star to many, when he joins his old buddies he is every bit the team player, and keen to allow Gilmore shows his worth with his distinctive nasal style vocals - something he took no prompting to serve up in spades on his old classic Dallas, eased into ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ or exchanged lead with Butch and Joe as they rattled out ‘Sowing On the Mountain’ and ‘Wishing For A Rainbow’ —that Hancock opened in style, and as the show progressed his presence became greater.
Genuine encores don’t come along too often, but when Joe, Jimmie, Butch and the band returned to perform versions of the latter’s ‘I Wish I Was A Bluebird’ and bow out with Terry Allen’s ‘Gimme Me A Ride To Heaven Boy,’ a humorous song, it hit the spot as good as anything performed and didn’t the audience let them know. It was hard to believe that it was 90 minutes since Ely had opened with a ripping version of ‘Hello Stranger’ - hopefully, the boys will be back over to the UK soon because they are the real deal.
|Lucinda Williams - O2 Shepherds Bush Empire - 27th July 2009|
Review by Nic Fildes
It’s been said that Lucinda Williams can be a “nervous” performer yet there are few excuses for throwing a wobbly mid-show. Williams appeared a little disinterested when she first came on stage but had turned hostile and antagonistic within ten minutes and all because of a photo or two.
The concert kicked off with ‘Real Love’ from new album Little Honey before she introduced a slew of songs from classic album Carwheels on a Gravel Road – with ‘Right in Time’ a particular highlight.
Yet Williams was clearly not happy and confessed to being “kinda out of it” before launching into a blistering tirade against photographers as well as people in the crowd that take photos during the show. “It’s not a fucking fashion shoot…I’m trying to fucking sing up here,” she spat before complaining at length about the pernicious impact of mobile phones on live music which she described as “not conducive to rock and roll”. The jury is still out on whether bitching and moaning is conductive to rock and roll either.
“Y’all are making things really difficult for me,” she opined before fluffing the start of ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’. The audience was again to blame. “You see, I’m distracted,” she glowered and despite turning in a creditable performance of the song, there was little doubt the crowd had become as jittery as she was.
The rest of the uninspired performance veered between creaky acoustic numbers and the spiky Lynyrd Skynyrd-infused rock of ‘Change the Locks’ but it was clear her heart was not in it. Her backing band seemed to overcompensate and the guitarist went into overdrive for ‘Tears of Joy’ when a little restraint would have complemented the slow blues shuffle. The familiar ‘Drunken Angel’ provided some respite for the audience who were perhaps too nervous to check their watches in case she snapped again.
There is no doubt that Williams is a brilliant songwriter but on this evidence it is unclear whether she is enjoying life on the tour bus. Crowd baiting may work wonders for the likes of Primal Scream but it is hard to launch into a heartfelt ballad after beating an audience into timidity. Those fans that have tickets to see her anytime soon would be best advised to leave their phones in their pockets.
|The Wilders - Classic Grand, Glasgow - 14th July 2009|
Review by Paul Kerr
On a welcome return to Glasgow, Kansas City band The Wilders managed the impressive feat of drawing a near capacity crowd despite the Boss himself, Springsteen, playing his first Scottish gig in aeons a few miles away. As Schumaker said, Small is Beautiful, and those who chose to pass on a stadium experience were treated to a tremendous band turning a little bit of Glasgow into a honky tonk for the evening.
Well drilled and dapper (great hats and pressed trousers on Ike Sheldon and Phil Wade) they launched into the gig with gusto and didn’t let up for a moment. Following an impromptu Happy Birthday from the band to a member of the audience (one of a contingent from The Alamo Bar in nearby Paisley) they launched into Honky Tonk Habit and My Final Plea setting the template for the evening. The latter showcased the tremendous fiddle playing of Betse Ellis, the first of many to do so.
Whether whipping up a storm on hillbilly and bluegrass numbers or showcasing their songwriting and ensemble playing on Someone’s Gotta Pay, the title song of their last album, this was a rousing experience. With the crowd in their hands they eventually broke the audience’s reserve in their second set with a cover of Hank William’s’ My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It and ended up with a crowd at the stagefront dancing away.
Joined on several tunes in the second set by Tim Matthews of Edinburgh band, Mystery Juice on fiddle, the band allowed a Celtic influence to creep into some tunes. As they sped to the end of their set there was no doubt however that this was a genuine slice of American music that is open and welcoming and infectious as hell. Ending with a cover of Ring of Fire the band strode into the audience who carried on singing as the band exited.
On the way home the reviewer encountered many returning from the Springsteen gig. They were joyous but muttered of tiny figures and windblown sound. Those who chose the down-home abandon of The Wilders might be excused for patting themselves on the back for making the right choice.
|Sunday Saloon - Quorn Village Hall, Quorn - 9th August 2009|
Review by Jeremy Searle
One of the things that the Midlands has lacked is the equivalent of London’s legendary Come Down And Meet the Folks, a Sunday post-lunch meet with a good vibe, good music and a good time for all who attend. Nick Bott, of Leicester’s The Hi and Lo, has decided to remedy this situation, and the inaugural outing of the Sunday Saloon was a real triumph.
Dan Raza was first up on the nicely decorated stage. Since last year he’s moved more to the gentle acoustic side of things, which is a role he fills well, but he’s better at the power house stuff, as his final jaw-dropping cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” demonstrates. Next on are The Hi and Lo, a duo who have come on astonishingly in the last couple of years. Paul McClure’s lugubriously witty between song rambles punctuate a mighty set that justifies their self-proclaimed status of “trustees of twang” and shows impressive songwriting talent to boot. McClure pre-orchestrates an encore but they’d have got one anyway, and quite right too.
A short break later and London’s Cedars take the stage. Front woman Chantal Hill has the presence and sass of Imelda May and, although the band members are a little anonymous her performance alone would be enough to deliver another win, and when allied to music that moves effortless across the last eighty years we’re three for three.
After another beer break (all hail the organic ale!) it’s time for the headliners, the snappily named Water Tower Bucket Boys. An acoustic bluegrass quartet from Oregon, they’re supposed to be off stage at 7pm but are still going strong and showing no signs of leaving at 7.30pm, much to the delight of the audience. Young and energetic, they mix classic covers with originals (at least one of which they weren’t allowed to play on their Radio 2 session because of its drug references!) and develop a real rapport with the audience.
All in all, the perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon.
|David Ferrard - The Royal Oak, Edinburgh - 16th August 2009|
Review by Graeme Scott
I could have picked any of over forty shows that this fine singer songwriter is doing as part of the Edinburgh Festival. The Oak, well known as venue for Folk, Acoustic and Traditional music, was absolutely packed and it was it was just as well that I had booked in advance. The show was somewhat different from his usual fare in that for the most part David was exploring his musical heritage stemming from his American and Scottish roots rather than performing his own repertoire. Today's journey began in Scotland with two Robert Burns songs 'A Parcel Of Rogues' and 'The Slaves Lament' before heading to the Appalachian Mountains for 'Pretty Saro' a fine wistful love song. We stayed in the America's for the jaunty sing-a-long of 'Peg And Awl' dealing with the less than romantic fact of the effect industrialisation has on craftsmanship in this case shoe making. Tales of the slave trade and the Underground Railroad were explored in 'Follow The Drinking Gourd'. A passionate believer in the futility of war and man's inhumanity to his fellow man saw David exposing the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Scottish Highlands during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds in 'Gilmartin' and today's wars through the eyes of one scared infantry man in 'The Hills Of Virginia'. The latter and the lovely romantic 'Take Me Out Waltzing Tonight' were, I think, the only self-penned numbers to make it on to the set. David was an engaging host, knowledgeable and informative with a fine melodic voice that quickly had the international audience on his side. A lot of the songs featured tonight came from his new album "Across The Troubled Wave" produced by the wonderful North Carolina multi-instrumentalist Josh Goforth. All too soon, and with many more songs completed, the hour and a quarter passed and the venue was handed over to the next act. Edinburgh at this time of year has entertainment coming at you thick and fast but I commend this particular artist as one to check out.
|Pokey LaFarge - St. Bride’s, Edinburgh - 29th August 2009|
Review by Paul Kerr
Pokey LaFarge, having freewheeled around Scotland for the previous fortnight berthed tonight in Edinburgh as part of the festival fringe. As often is the case in this frantic festival, venues have three or four shows a night so he was squeezed into an hour’s worth of prime time entertainment.
A small, dapper chap the first thing to note was his voice. Huge and powerful, roaring at times, it is an instrument in itself. Add to this his frantic, skilful (although at times deceptively scrappy) guitar playing and a kazoo (with added horn power) and you have a veritable one-man band.
LaFarge, from Kentucky, is steeped in old time American music, able to carry off songs by the likes of Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith & His Dixieliners (Chitlin' Cookin' Time In Cheatham County) with ease. On some songs you could close your eyes and imagine you were listening to a grizzled veteran swinging a pigfoot around. Channelling, gospel, blues and folk he is also a great showman, cajoling the audience to join in, whether getting them to hold their breath for the duration of a guitar solo or to hum, hit or hiss an imaginary musical instrument.
Above all LaFarge has the ability to create great songs of his own. The highlights tonight were a rousing rendition of “Born In St. Louis” which had some improvised lyrics based on his experiences in Edinburgh pubs. Even better was “Arkansas” a tender ballad from his latest album which has the pathos of early Loudon Wainright and some of the vocal mannerisms of Michael Hurley.
Ably assisted on some songs by Josh Bearman (of The Hot Seats, Virginia’ premier string band) on mandolin, this was a great show, similar in style and excellence to Justin Townes Earle’s solo shows over here some time back. Pokey expects to return early next year with his full band line up. Book your seats now.
|Chuck Prophet - The Miner’s Arms, Lydney - 9th August 2009|
Review by Oliver Gray
Skirting round the Hells Angels and into the skittle alley of this Forest of Dean pub, Chuck had caused consternation by demanding the removal of chairs from the venue. A half-and-half compromise having been reached, the solo Chuck hit the stage for a warm evening of conviviality which included a Q and A session (of which the most hilarious section was a convoluted answer to the question “Why are you here?”).
Adapting the rockers from his new “Let Freedom Ring” album to an acoustic environment proved no problem for a virtuoso like Chuck, with simple beauties such as the title track and “Sonny Liston’s Blues” nestling comfortably alongside back catalogue classics like “You Did” and “Balinese Dancer”. An audience made up of keen fans who had travelled and locals who had never heard of him warmed to a man whose career looks as if it is about to hit a very belated high. He’ll be back in the UK with his band in the Autumn, but for now, this was a rare and treasured cameo.