Tift Merritt, The Lexington, London, 31st January 2017

The weather outside was frightful but in the bijou performance space upstairs at The Lexington things were positively steaming and swamp like – to the extent that Tift Merritt offered to share her backstage beers if the crush (and there was a crush) made it impossible to reach the bar at the back. This is the kind of gig that routinely gets the appellation “intimate” – which means that most of the audience were within mere feet of Tift Merritt who was accompanied only by guitar and pedal steel maestro Eric Heywood. Approaching the microphone – which had been left tilted up by the opening artist – emphasized the diminutive stature of Tift Merritt – something which not even boots with heels of at least a couple of inches were doing much to alleviate. Continue reading “Tift Merritt, The Lexington, London, 31st January 2017”

Nathan Bell @Celtic Connections. Oran Mor, Glasgow: 2nd February 2017

Nathan Bell , a troubadour in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, was sandwiched in between two rather noisy acts for this, his Scottish debut. The fans had packed Oran Mor for the headliner James McMurtry and had been warmed up by the opening act, Alice Drinks The Kool Aid. This peculiarly named act turned out to be an old style blues trio (and yes, from Chicago) who turned in a set that reeked of student unions back in the seventies when everyone and their dog covered Cream and Taste. That may be a tad unfair as the sound system wasn’t doing them any favours but it has been a long long time since I heard a bass solo in a 12 bar workout. Their USP was the fact that guitarist and singer Tony Magee runs a brewery, Lagunitas, and he had donated a keg of his IPA to the bar offering all present free beer until the keg ran dry. So more power to his elbow then and in truth the band did offer up some fine ZZ Top styled boogie. Continue reading “Nathan Bell @Celtic Connections. Oran Mor, Glasgow: 2nd February 2017”

John Paul White @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 1st February 2017

It was a sold out show for John Paul White’s first visit to Glasgow since the collapse of the Grammy award winning The Civil Wars, an episode mired in some mystery as he and Joy Williams imploded. Since then he’s kept a low profile, setting up his record label and producing an excellent album by the legendary Donnie Fritts. Back in September of last year however a solo album, Beulah, was released. An album of bittersweet Southern grooves and creamy country rock Beulah was taken by some to be a veiled response to the breakup of the band. Continue reading “John Paul White @Celtic Connections. The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow: 1st February 2017”

King Creosote, The Barbican, London, 22nd January 2017

On a stage dominated by the Astronaut meets Appleman album cover graphic there is a rag tag band of musicians sporting a variety of Space Age looks – well maybe a ramshackle retro-SF space age look is nearer the mark. So there are silvery wigs the like of which haven’t been seen since Space 1999, and more silver jackets than have been gathered into a single place since the BBC stopped spray painting leather biker jackets to provide the Cybermen with their costumes. NASA t-shirts are the order of the day, and the King himself is resplendent in what appears to be a star adorned chef’s jacket as if to visually ask the question “What am I going to, musically, cook up today?”. Continue reading “King Creosote, The Barbican, London, 22nd January 2017”

Tom Paxton, The Stables, Wavendon, 19th January 2017

His last tour was billed as his last European excursion but here – just a couple of dozen months later – is the return of a folk legend in the form of Tom Paxton. This time he’s brought as musical support Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer – who produced and also helped out musically on his new album Boat in the Water.  Cathy is a marvel on clawhammer banjo – as well as vocals and guitar – whilst Marcy is a multi-instrumentalist (she plays at least fifty instruments Cathy proudly informs us) and a third voice. It makes for a different sound to that we’ve come to know on previous tours. Continue reading “Tom Paxton, The Stables, Wavendon, 19th January 2017”

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ Celtic Connections. The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow: 26th January 2017

A bit fanciful I suppose to imagine that Bragg & Henry were taking their train theme a bit too literally tonight with the show arriving almost 40 minutes late, the pair taking to the stage after 10 pm. The reality was that the hall had hosted an earlier event, the upshot a steady stream of people leaving before the end, no doubt to catch their own transport. Unfortunately this included your intrepid reporter so we can’t comment on the finale or any encores. Continue reading “Billy Bragg & Joe Henry @ Celtic Connections. The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow: 26th January 2017”

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Union Chapel, London, 16th January 2017

Serendipity – it happens all the time, that accidental crossing of life’s tentative threads that seem to indicate something significant when a connection is made. Travelling in London by train one inevitably comes into contact with the free newspapers, and tonight the Standard is proclaiming the death of the £300K home. Seems there has been a steady decline in such houses, deemed affordable because a couple both on average salary who have scraped together a significant deposit can escape crippling rents by purchasing such a dwelling on a slightly less crippling mortgage. Not anymore. There’s only one part of London where the average house price falls into this category – Barking. Whether the Bard of Barking is aware of this I don’t know – but he was in London (with Joe Henry) to sing songs about trains. Continue reading “Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Union Chapel, London, 16th January 2017”