|Live Reviews 2010:|
Live Reviews Winter 2010
Quick-links to sub-sections:
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Bush Hall, London - 4th February 2010
The Transatlantic Sessions - Sage, Gateshead - 4th February 2010
Midlake - The Tabernacle, London - 28th January 2010
Laura Veirs - January 20th 2010 - The Junction, Cambridge
Tom Russell, Sam Baker, Slaid Cleaves and Kimmy Rhodes – 02 Abc, Glasgow - 21st January 2010
The Low Anthem - Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow - 28th January 2010
Peter Green and Friends - The Junction, Cambridge - 11th March 2010
|So here's the deal with the live reviews going up, ooooh, about 2 months late - we've been basically working away on our new site but gremlins (yes, the ones from the movie of the same name) have been ongoingly throwing various spanners in the works, so for now, enjoy a collected selection from this year so far, featuring Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Transatlantic Sessions, Midlake, Laura Veirs, Tom Russell, Sam Baker, Slaid Cleaves and Kimmy Rhodes, the Low Anthem, and Peter Green. If you've sent a review in and it's not here yet, don't worry, we're just working through them - watch this space.|
|Carolina Chocolate Drops - Bush Hall, London - 4th February 2010|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Bush Hall is a great venue not just because it gets full but not cramped, not just because it has great bands (although that helps a lot) but mostly because they get an audience that are interested in hearing music. Unlike some venues I could mention. And as quarter to eight approaches Bush Hall is filling up nicely, ahead of a sold out evening. This crowd is predominantly a folk club crowd.
Advertised as Carolina Chocolate Drops and friends but it turns out that collectively they have no friends, half eight sees the Carolina Chocolate Drops take the stage and the next hour and a half is pure magic. A young(ish) trio, they exude charm, are totally relaxed and own the stage from the first cheer to the very last hoarsely shouted pleas for yet more music. Their approach to the string band music of the 1920's and '30's is to play great and to entertain at the same time - it's not about preservation or historical recreation, it is all about making the music live and to push it forward into the 21st century with new songs and adaptations of music from very different styles. Whether it's Dom Flemons twirling his guitar or slow dancing whilst playing the bones; or Rhiannon Giddens doing the Charleston or the haunting tones of Justin Robinson's autoharp there really is everything going on here. Along with the traditional songs of Black string band music picked up from their ninety-one year old mentor Joe Thompson there are their own new songs or contemporary songs bent to their style. And surely this is the very thing that the original bands would have done - pick up a tune here, a snatch of song there, mix it all up and you have something new to the next audience you meet.
Giddens has a fantastic voice and it's no surprise that she also sings opera - her extended vocal riffing on the bluesy Two Time Loser is a gem. Her fiddle and frailing banjo are a joy as well. Dom excels on resonator guitar and both jazz and frailing banjo - he takes great delight in his exaggerated right hand movement - and also adds percussion on bones and jug. Jason's fiddle, foot stomping, vocals and autoharp are the icing on the cake. His song Neptune - which he sings solo with autoharp accompaniment- is a gentle but eerie thing. We'd been offered old and spooky or original, the vote had gone for original, but it's hard to imagine that old would have been any spookier.
As the evening goes on it gets jst a little hot in Bush Hall : Justin resorts to removing his shirt to the delight of his band mates, "he hasn't done that for two years" we're informed. Rhiannon removes her socks "that's as far as I'm going". The temperature continues to rise.
Genuine Negro Jig, the title tune of their new album (also known as Snowden's jig) is a tune that flits between this world and some half glimpsed realm of the dead. Whilst Gidden's plays the violin, Jason sets the pace with a foot stomp and hand clap and Dom adds clacking bones and a surreal slow dance. The tune was written down by Daniel Emmett of "Dixie" fame, and like that latter tune is thought to have actually originated with the Snowden family, and with that history it's odd how much it sounds like a Northern Borders tune - if I closed my eyes I could easily imagine it was the Kathryn Tickell Band on stage. Strange how music travels.
There was not a foot put wrong all night. The audience were actively encouraged to join in the chorus on songs like Trouble in Mind and Cornbread and Butter Beans, Rhiannon jokes "we can't find those over here, so it's been scones and baked beans - not really the same". Salty Dog is the same old song, but done as a strummed banjo jazz song rather than the more familiar Bluegrass standard. An absolute stand out moment was their version of Blu Cantrell's "Hit 'em up Style" - another revenge on straying men song, which just blows the original (a fairly insipid pop song) out of the water. The great thing is that it's done completely devoid of irony - it's a popular song found floating around and given the Carolina Chocolate Drops treatment.
The sole encore - Travelling Shoes - is a spiritual sung acappella, and it's a really fine slow down to kiss goodnight to a frenetic evening.
Trouble in Mind
Your baby ain't sweet like mine
Two time loser
Peace Behind the bridge
Light in the valley
Cornbread and Butter beans
Genuine Negro Jig (Snowden's jig)
Hit 'em up style
|The Transatlantic Sessions - Sage, Gateshead - 4th February 2010|
Review by Maurice Hope
It read like a who’s who of Celtic / Americana music when Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas and friends came to town, and I do not use the term friends loosely, either since the likes of Douglas and Tim O’Brien who spent a great deal of the evening sat next to him are just that. Alternating on fiddle, banjo and mandolin the West Virginian native was joined on stage by his sister, forceful vocalist Mollie O’Brien plus sometimes tour, songwriting and recording partner Darrell Scott and John Doyle with whom he has toured before. Scott’s sometime tour partner, Danny Thompson and the likes of Bain’s buddy, Phil Cunningham and a host more concerned are connected at the hip.
With 18 musicians featured, and the bulk of them involved throughout, the biggest problem on occasions for the audience was on whom it was best to focus. Since, though Douglas, who was immense and along with the occasional prompt from Bain pretty much ran the show with O’Brien, Cunningham and Doyle never far away. You also had the mighty Michael McGoldrick on flute, pipes and whistle and colossal talent Russ Barenberg on acoustic guitar (his work on his son’s tune ‘Drummers On England’ had to be heard for his talent to be appreciated in full) and mandolin along with ace fiddlers Bruce Molsky and Sara Watkins; who also impressed on vocals general enthusiastic approach kept attracting the spotlight. Others in the mix making others sound great you had Donald Shaw (accordion, piano) and, James Mackintosh on percussion who alongside upright bass player Thompson worked tirelessly.
While the opening hour long set was in comparison to the second a little slow —but still mighty, as the outstanding Dan Tyminski of whom we could have had more of perform ‘Wild Bill Jones’, Watkins with Jimmie Rodgers ‘Any Old Time’ and Bruce Molsky show his worth on ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ while O’Brien on old time banjo supplied a version of ‘Red Dog In The Morning’ – that was I suspect just a little too rustic for the audience seated in this immaculate setting. Closing the water testing first set the ‘Sessionettes’; Eddi Reader, Mollie O’Brien who earlier had given a fine interpretation of Terence Trent Darby’s ‘Sign Your Name’, Capercaille’s Karen Matheson who brought something special to the stage every time she gave voice in Gaelic plus Watkins and sweet voiced Cara Dillon gathered in a huddle to pay their respect to the recently deceased Canadian gal, Kate McGarrigle who performed on the first Transatlantic Sessions over a decade ago with her song ‘Mendocino’.
After the break there was no messing - first off Douglas, the undisputed world’s number one Dobro player held the attention of audience as he let rip as with an amazing solo display. After Douglas had lit the fuse the show took off and with the much in demand Tyminski with whom Jerry partners as a member of Alison Krauss’ band, Union Station ‘Down In The Willow Garden’ (a miserable song but nonetheless a great one — especially when it has twin-fiddles and whistle to call upon), ‘Flatwater Fran’ styled as an American waltz time from mighty accordion act Cunningham who, as ever was in great form and had an anecdote or two with him.
While Reader with her showpiece ‘Hummingbird’, Watkins via a Norman Blake song —that was good to hear, plus a her own tune ‘Jefferson’, Matheson with her mouth watering Gaelic fare (featuring McGoldrick on pipes) a powerful voiced O’Brien who sang of her West Virginia coal mining heritage and Carla Dillon who fared better than during the opening set via a Brendan Graham poem turned into a lament proved their worth.
As for the pickers, Molsky — one of the finest of his kind, O’Brien who has a great understanding of the Celtic tradition rattled out a bluegrass-ish version of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ yet it wasn’t till he came back to lead the ensemble through ‘Lay Down Your Weary Tune’ did he do himself justice, vocally. So good was his version and the setting few could or would want to follow him here. Except Aly and Jerry as they cut loose with the cast on the rousing and most fitting finale, ‘Waiting For The Federals.’ Like with O’Brien immediately before the mainstays of the Transatlantic Sessions TV recordings also enjoyed the wonderful support of a remarkable, tuned-in set of musicians. Little wonder the sold-out venue rang out to thunderous applause, cheers and even some stomping of feet as they stood in unison to cheer Bain, Douglas and co. Reader who for so long has was so long has flown the flag for Scottish folk music (and beyond) was so thrilled to be part of the show she was taking photos of the acts as they bowed in appreciation!
Now we just have to wait for the next time - hopefully this will now become a regular occurrence—plus; come late January/early February we do all need a lift as winter takes its toll.
|Midlake - The Tabernacle, London - 28th January 2010|
Review by Jonathan Aird
A new venue to me, The Tabernacle is a wonderful, small - 499 capacity - venue, which even sold out isn't uncomfortably full, the auditorium is upstairs, above a bar and cafe, there's also another small bar upstairs. This was billed as a "New to Q" session, highlighting relatively unknown bands. Which begs the question who hasn't heard of Midlake ? You'd have to have been living under the proverbial rock not to have at least heard of The Trials of Van Occupanther. Anyway, be that what it may, when the support, Bella Union stable mates The Kissaway Trail, took the stage the place was about half full. I'd not been that impressed with The Kissaway Trail at the Bella Union 10th birthday party, they did seem more gutsy in this smaller venue. Much of their Indy-pop sound has a definite Mercury Rev feel to it. Although they are a tight band there seems to be something missing; fourth song in - 61 - kicked off with a dramatic drummed intro, but as soon as the vocal started it just drifted away from me. The Kissaway Trail work hard, but I didn’t connect with it.
An expanded seven piece Midlake casually strolled on stage, checked shirts and beards to the fore. After an unfortunate problem with a non-functioning monitor they stumbled over the first few bars of Winter Dies, but very soon hit their stride. This and the following song - Children of the Grounds, perhaps the most hook filled song - are from the new album which is distinctly, boldly even, different from Van Occupanther. There is Pentangle, there is early Fairport Convention, there's a hint of Espers but mostly there is Midlake. This is music which could have been made 40 years ago, but this is no well intentioned but ultimately poor pastiche. Midlake have succeeded in absorbing their influences and then making music that is theirs alone. And it is glorious, multi-layered music carrying lightning blasts of fuzzy guitar solos, with drums, bass, some keyboards and the flute and the recorder right in there where they should be as the fundamental tools of rock music.
Whilst drawing mostly from The Courage Of Others they peppered the set with Van Occupanther songs (and straight up refused to go near their earlier Bamnan and Silvercork songs) and this works really well in balancing the gig, naturally a lot of the material is new to many and it doesn't have the instant hooks of the earlier album. Dedicating it to Bella Union for seeing something in them, they launch into Roscoe, which is greeted with appropriate rapture, and is just perfect musically, and lyrically reveals something of the brilliance of Midlake. It is the touches of weird abstraction of thought embodied in subtle word choice like "Whenever I was a child" - not when, but whenever, as if childhood is a state that can be revisited.
Rulers, Ruling All Things is a stand out track amongst stand out tracks on the new album - beauty of melody and a plea for a man to be allowed to be himself and to exist within a natural order. Following this with Core Of Nature is a perfect alternative album running order juxtaposition - within this sublime song an alternative reality is entered, a non-human world which is not at odds with but completely separated from the concerns of humanity. Pastoral bliss is reached in this yearning for a total understanding of nature down to the smallest creature.
As an act of wish fulfilment the wonderful Stephanie Dosen reprises her haunting harmonised vocal on an ethereal Bring Down. She's almost unrecognisable with brown hair and without her normal gig clothing. Is it wrong to think “what a bonus it would have been to the evening had she been the opening act” ? Surely a double header tour must happen ?
Midlake are all charm - self deprecating, appreciative and good humoured - When they announced that there was one more song, someone at the stage edge asked "no encore ?", which gets a good natured laughing reply of "yes, of course there's an encore, so actually there are two more songs, but we'll go off stage for a bit and then you cheer and then we come back out".
The set closed out with a pair of Van Occupanther songs, Young Bride and then Branches - which was stretched out with a vibrant jam supporting a sparkling guitar solo. And something made me think of the Grateful Dead - and it must be that this is the hallmark of a great band, a well controlled tight jam that twists, turns, steps back, steps up and then ends just where it's meant to. Once again joined by Stephanie Dosen, the encore had to be, and is, Head Home.
And in the end, as the music soaks into the skin it becomes so clear that this was one of those gigs - those rare precious gigs - of which you're proud to say "I was there and something really happened". Midlake have the crown of any folk(rock) revival that may be going on, their magic realism just pips out Fleet Foxes, but how great is it to have two bands making mature music of depth ? Midlake are going to be in the UK again later this year for some festivals I learnt, whilst with stumbling sentences gushing praise, thanks and appreciation over any and all bemused band members I could bend the ear of. Lets hope for some concert dates too.
Children of the grounds
Rulers, Ruling all things
Core of Nature
Acts of Man
|Laura Veirs - January 20th 2010 - The Junction, Cambridge|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Having had some difficulty finding The Junction it was a pleasant surprise to find the hall still filling up and several seats remaining in the front row. It's a nice little venue - capacity of 222 all seated ensures no-one is too far from the stage; Laura later let's slip that during the sound check Eric Andersen (bass, guitar, drum) had mused that it would be easy for someone to get on the stage and kill them "so don't kill us, ok ?" she added.
There were two supports listed - Old Believers (Time Out praise their harmonies) and Cataldo - in fact only one member from each band was present, they were doubling up as Laura Veirs' backing band. So a couple of half-hour stripped back sets, of which Eric Andersen's (Cataldo) was the more memorable primarily because he was more confident in his stage craft.
Laura Veirs - sporting a green dress with white polka dots and a bump and looking every inch the pregnant schoolteacher - took the stage at about 9:30, with the aforementioned band members and another on violin. Although there was an impressive array of guitars and a banjo standing in a line mid-stage, as an ensemble they are less impressive looking than the last time I caught her - at the 100 club promoting Saltbreakers. That had been a mature band and then there was a grand piano, and a full drum kit and percussion - tonight there's a keyboard and a single drum and a much reduced average age. This stripped back appearance is reflected in the stripped back sound of the new album July Flame, and is much closer to the pre-Year of Meteor's Laura Veirs than the full on rocking that characterised her later albums. As band members often switch instruments between songs there's also a more relaxed "down-home" vibe to the gig. These aren't bad things, it's not worse it's just different.
As the set goes on it's striking that the songs seem, taken as a whole, to be more positive in feel. Opener and closer songs - Carol Kaye (eulogising the wrecking crew bassist/guitarist to be heard on so many of your favourite songs) and I Can See Your Tracks have a bit of a Fleet Foxes thing going on with the harmonising backing vocals. Sun Is King could be a cover of a lost outtake from Harvest Moon. Leavening the mix with a couple of older songs serves up the gift of a beautiful acoustic Through December, and also offers an audience participation moment on To The Country where the hall is divided into halves to perform the backing vocals (luckily we get let off the handclaps !).
It's a riveting hour and a bit, new songs easily slip into place and old songs are welcome freinds returning, all making for a great evening. Undoubtedly Make Something Good is a metaphor for Laura Veirs' pregnancy - "I wanted to make something sweet, blood inside the maple tree ...it's gonna take a long long time but we're going to make something so fine". And maybe that being the closer also tells us we should make an extra effort to bottle up the enjoyment to be gathered in from this gig - it may just be a while before her next European tour.
1. Carol Kaye
2. Sun is king
3. Life is good
4. July Flame
5. Silo song
6. Cast a hook
7. Through December
8. Where are you driving ?
9. Cluck old hen
10. Wide-eyed, legless
12.When you give
13.To the country
14. I can see your tracks
Encore ("it's a tradition that never gets old")
1. Sleeper in the valley
3. Make something good
|Tom Russell, Sam Baker, Slaid Cleaves and Kimmy Rhodes – 02 Abc, Glasgow - 21st January 2010|
Review by Mike Ritchie
Songwriters representing the Lone Star State landed in the Dear Green Place and showed why Texas is probably unbeatable when it comes to classy, heartfelt rootsy music with storylines that burrow into the mind.
It’s not just me but our images of that vast place, via various songsmiths, include a hefty slice of dusty roads, a healthy dose of big skies, plenty of railroad tracks, an abundance of tough guys, a (welcome?) group of heartbreaker women, countless people on the move, loadsa drinking, bumper-to-bumper open top trucks, rearing horses and sweat-marked Stetsons. So the material covered by Tom Russell, Sam Baker, Slaid Cleaves and Kimmy Rhodes at this fine Fallen Angels’ Club promotion at Celtic Connections did nothing to disavow us of our notions and ideas.
The quartet shared a stage, their stories and selections from their individual catalogues as well as a subdued togetherness. Tom, in his unofficial capacity as MC, was his usual lugubrious self and his songs are never less than intriguing, eye-opening and thoughtful. For this observer, however, Sam Baker’s contribution was even more intoxicating. A latecomer to the scene, in comparison to Tom, his contributions from his three CDs to date were utterly compelling, delivered to a hush in the auditorium. Waves, the opening track on his debut album “Mercy” is an aching testimony to long-lasting love, to commitment and, finally, an ending: “…writes her name in the sand, waves wash it away.” Sauchiehall Street silenced to it. He’s got one-word titles for most of his songs but he says a helluva lot more.
Overall, the gig, although a bit one-paced, ticked all the right boxes. Slaid Cleaves’ comical Horses and Divorces from his 2004 release “Wishbone” is always a gig pleaser and Kimmy Rhodes, who seemed quite nervy, certainly relaxed when her chum and big Glasgow favourite, Beth Nielsen Chapman, made a surprise appearance to join in.
Relaxed and enjoyable, it was a back-to-work, pay-the-taxman, turn-the-collar-up-against-the-rain-type session that worked well in the company of effortless, inventive story-tellers.
|The Low Anthem - Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow - 28th January 2010|
Review by Mike Ritchie
THE clock on the wall behind the stage was stuck frozen at eight o’clock but, unfortunately, real time all-too-quickly ran out for us at this stunning performance by The Low Anthem, part of the Celtic Connections’ extravaganza. The Rhode Island band are true originals even though the music ploughs the traditional rootsy, poetic, story-telling fields where so many artistes before them have found a rich harvest of melodies and lyrics. There is an endearing bashfulness about the group, underpinned by a quiet confidence that shines through their songs. Without any difficulty, they can sway and swerve from hushed, organ droning, harmonic arrangements to rockin’ Tom Waits’ covers in the time it changes them to swap instruments. It was all totally captivating, ninety minutes passing way too quickly.
Seemingly, the four of them - Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams and latest recruit, Mat Davidson - play something like 30 instruments all told, not all at once. It was hard to keep track of who was playing what during the gig. Ben at the organ then on guitar; Jeff on bass, then on drums; Jocie on clarinet then lead guitar; Mat on pump organ, then on something or other. If one of them had started playing the bagpipes to be accompanied by the others on the spoons, tambourines and sousaphone no-one would have been surprised. And I’m sure it would have sounded just great, too. This superb level of musicianship, allied to a hypnotic set list, thrilled and enthralled in equal measure.
Knox Miller, happy to hide beneath a longish fringe, has a brilliant voice that’s tender with a plaintiff, jagged edge that cuts right through and showed up never better than on Ticket Taker from the wonderful “Oh My God Charlie Darwin” CD of last year. A fair selection from it, naturally, was delivered here but Knox-Miller said they had been in a recording studio in recent weeks so we got previews of new songs (no titles were announced) that fit the band’s canon frighteningly well. The band’s harmonies were simply delicious – To Ohio a highlight, as it is on CD – while the Home I’ll Never Be cover of the Waits/Kerouac song raced out of the speakers with drive, force and not a little fun. Delicate music it may be in parts, raucous in others but the intensity in each song, matched by the band’s obvious delight in entertaining us, never wavered with a change in style or temp.
Best gig I’ll attend this year? A strong possibility - it was a joy to be there.
|Peter Green and Friends - The Junction, Cambridge - 11th March 2010|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Blimey it's cold in The Junction, and it seems like it's not going to be packed out tonight. The support, Dot Allisson, struggled for attention - maybe a sort of folkie / buddy of Pete Doherty wasn't the best choice for Peter Green's crowd. Soon gone and not very memorable; not all bad - although there's an irritating tendency to be wayward with her vocal delivery - just in the wrong place.
Around half eight there was a surge in numbers and, if not quite sold out The Junction was certainly a lot warmer now. Peter Green and friends (which included Geraint Watkins on keyboards) came on stage about nine, the band fleshed out with rhythm guitar, upright bass and saxophone. So, it wasn't going to be a classic Fleetwood Mac line-up they'd be going for tonight, much more in the way of a BB King style blues revue band.
Peter himself remained seated throughout and seemed to be struggling with a cold which made his already damaged vocals at times almost inaudible. Yet from the start there were flashes of the old guitar brilliance.
I couldn't help thinking, as time went on, of a line from Mr Richmond's Favourite Song - "the time has come the walrus said to call your fans by name". It's something the band must realise as well - all the merchandise used variants on the logo "I'm a friend of Peter Green", and there was a lot of goodwill in the room (and after about half an hour a steady stream of early leavers - but not a large number), and we got what we got - the days of the 10 second sustained note and the 15 minute jam around a song's structure are long gone.
There were plenty of early Mac' songs - "Long Grey Mare", "Stranger Blues", “Just The Blues” - on "Dust My Broom" the Peter Green vocal was clear, but sounded eerily like Eric Clapton rather than the anticipated deeper blues yowl. Watkins’s keyboards put a bit of drive into a number of songs which otherwise could have sunk into pub blues band territory. There was a definite thought during a couple of band (without Peter Green) songs of "Would I be here if Peter Green wasn't?" to which the only honest answer was no. It was a competent blues band, but no better than a hundred others.
A huge lift came towards the end of the set with a hard hitting "Oh Well", which really pulsated with energy and blasted out one of rock's great riffs. This segued straight into a mellow floating Albatross, and we'd had our money's worth. It was, maybe, a little unwise to slip in BB King's "The thrill is gone" before the end of the set, but Green handled it pretty well.
There was a short two song encore, a two hander on guitars only recreating a Bluesbreakers track, and then of course the closer had to be Black Magic Woman, and there is still something special in hearing a song sung and played by it's author, especially when it's another of rock's greatest moments. Still grittier than Santana's version, and with lovely chiming on the guitar, the perfect way to send a crowd away happy.