Andrew Combs + Eric McEntee, The Victoria, Dalston, 1st November 2017

If you are a lover of beautifully crafted, passionate and intelligently written Americana songs then an Andrew Combs gig is always going to be something special.  Andrew is one of those enigma artists who everybody that comes across his work is amazed that he is not far more famous than his current standing. Tonight was a small gig in a room behind a pub in the increasingly trendy Dalston.  Sadly for Andrew, Dalston is also one of the places in London not served by the underground and a bit too far out of the way for everyone except the locals and his determined fans.  Continue reading “Andrew Combs + Eric McEntee, The Victoria, Dalston, 1st November 2017”

Billy Bragg, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 7th November 2017

A rainy night in Islington is the setting for this second appearance by Billy Bragg at the elegant Assembly Hall. This has been billed as the Bridges Not Walls Tour – and there’s a new EP of the same name with a set of commentaries on today’s political situation. It’s a delayed reaction to Brexit and the election of Trump. Delayed, as Billy Bragg ruefully acknowledges, because whilst the world was being turned upside down he was out on tour singing songs about trains with a more and more depressed Joe Henry, and thinking long and hard about skiffle for his recent book. Continue reading “Billy Bragg, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 7th November 2017”

Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 3rd November 2017

When you hear another member of the audience say, “This was like Van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra,” on the way out, and you don’t think it’s hyperbole, then you’ve been to a rather special show. Similarities with Morrison abound when one hears and sees Blue Rose Code, the band name for Ross Wilson’s endeavours. There’s the Celtic soul, the blend of folk, jazz and rock that infuses the music and then there’s Wilson’s voice. He doesn’t sound like Morrison but he has a similar way of rolling with the flow, almost scatting at times while his soft brogue has improved to the extent that he has recently been nominated Scots Singer of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2017 Continue reading “Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 3rd November 2017”

Brandy Clark + Jim Lauderdale, Sage, Gateshead, 30th October 2017

Like fellow country singer-songwriters Angaleena Presley and Kacy Musgrave, Brandy Clark has a wonderful, at times sassy, sense of humour. She starts off a little serious, a little dark, but still okay, but then around the fourth song she lets her mask drop. It must be those official photographers; it wasn’t until after the first three songs allowed for stage photos had elapsed did a genuine smile truly emerge from the raven-haired Washington born act. Her humorous wit has become both a staple diet of her shows and the kind that incite her audience to voice their approval. Some no doubt able to relate all too well to her lyrics, while others, were just happy to hear someone voice a feminist viewpoint. Continue reading “Brandy Clark + Jim Lauderdale, Sage, Gateshead, 30th October 2017”

CC Smugglers + All Our Exes Live In Texas, The Cookie, Leicester, 4 November 2017

Although it was a Saturday and therefore de facto Bonfire Night a good-sized crowd piled into the basement of the Cookie and were rewarded with an outstanding evening.  Despite their name openers All Our Exes Live In Texas are from Sydney, Australia and are a delightful blend of folk and Americana.  The female four piece deliver gorgeous harmonies and some great songs while not taking themselves too seriously, happy to laugh at the odd on-stage fluffing of chords or telling of pointless stories.  They clearly enjoy themselves and the crowd respond to them.  Hopefully this won’t be their last visit to either Leicester or the UK. Continue reading “CC Smugglers + All Our Exes Live In Texas, The Cookie, Leicester, 4 November 2017”

Slaid Cleaves, Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, 8th October 2017

A welcome return of the American troubadour to the Hitchin Folk Club for the last night of his UK tour – although he still had several weeks in Europe and the USA to go before he finally headed for home. On this excursion Cleaves was accompanied on electric guitar by M.C. Hanson of Danish band The Sentimentals, whose list of collaborators reads like an Americana Who’s Who.  Slaid Cleaves has a new album – the excellent Ghost on the Car Radio – to promote, but he opened the first half of the gig with what amounted to a greatest hits set. Continue reading “Slaid Cleaves, Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, 8th October 2017”

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017

The resplendent setting of a former Methodist hall in central Manchester was a suitable venue to welcome Jason Isbell back to these shores and an expectant congregation of devotees were not disappointed by an evening that showcased perfectly the strengths of one of America’s finest artists and his excellent band. Continue reading “Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017”