Helen & the Neighbourhood Dogs + The Disappointment Choir, The Institute, Kelvedon, 9 December 2017

When you see a band a like Helen & the Neighbourhood Dogs and listen to their “East Angliacana” (sic) your first thought is “why aren’t this lot huge?  Or at least significantly bigger.”  This is said of many outfits of course but this lot really should be.  With four singers, all of whom can take lead or deliver great harmonies, casually excellent playing, particularly from Shane Kirk on guitar and “Fiddly” on, of course, fiddle, and a truck load of great songs – there wasn’t a single piece that could be classed as filler all night – they really are a class act.  “Not The Kind Of Girl”, resurrected from their previous incarnation as Songs From The Blue House, Tony Winn’s “What’s A Rainbow” and the loping “Harrogate” were perhaps highlights but throughout the set the band laid down a serious groove, rocked out when they needed to, sang their hearts out – Helen Mulley has a fabulously aching voice – and generally had a ball, as did the audience. Continue reading “Helen & the Neighbourhood Dogs + The Disappointment Choir, The Institute, Kelvedon, 9 December 2017”

Tom Russell, The 100 Club, London, 1st December 2017

It doesn’t pay to be late to a Tom Russell gig, you might miss the opening act who takes the stage to do a little “guess that tune” as he plays snippets of road songs. A little bit of Pancho and Lefty, a little snippet of Guy Clark, it could be anything, even Leonard Cohen.  Since he’s a gruff voiced seventy year old American in a cowboy hat with an easy line of patter then you really don’t want to miss the support. Having warmed up both the audience and his own voice it was time for Tom Russell to emerge from his carefully crafted disguise as himself – a gruff voiced seventy year old American in a cowboy hat, with an easy line of patter. Continue reading “Tom Russell, The 100 Club, London, 1st December 2017”

Ian Felice + Gill Landry, The Borderline, London. 27th November 2017

Pretty much a sell out at the revamped Borderline for Ian Felice’s first solo foray to these shores. It’s been a busy period what with a new baby, propping up the excellent Conor Oberst’s album and tour and now an excellent new album full of image soaked Americana and a tour to support it. The crowd ( including Loose alumni Danny Champ and label boss Tom – here as a fan as much as management) can’t wait, but they have to for tonight it’s no tacked on support but a full blown talent in his own right. Continue reading “Ian Felice + Gill Landry, The Borderline, London. 27th November 2017”

Rhiannon Giddens + Kaia Kater, The Stables, Milton Keynes, 21st November 2017

Sometimes the frequent gig goer gets lucky and catches a big performance with a full band in a smaller, more intimate venue that results in a truly fabulous night.  Rhiannon Giddens, on her latest tour, was clearly playing to 1000+ venues with a 7 piece big name band which must have made very little economic sense in the 400 seat Stables.  Built by Cleo Lane and Johnny Dankworth as an intimate jazz venue with phenomenal acoustics, The Stables is a really enjoyable place to see live music – lots of parking and friendly volunteers who staff the hall make it a warm and comfortable music lover’s delight. Giddens has had an amazingly busy year with almost nonstop touring building on the huge success of her Freedom Highway album which was produced by T Bone Burnett and which cemented her departure from the far more roots based Carolina Chocolate Drops.  She has really spread her wings and soared, winning multiple awards and even a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Foundation worth $625k. Continue reading “Rhiannon Giddens + Kaia Kater, The Stables, Milton Keynes, 21st November 2017”

Imelda May, Royal Albert Hall, London, 22nd November 2017

On the last night of her UK tour Imelda May walked onstage to rapturous applause for her first headline gig at the Royal Albert Hall and performed a stunning stripped back rendition of Call Me.  This immediately demonstrated both her confidence and her clear and strong vocals.  The respectful silence showed that the crowd were spellbound which was confirmed by the reception she received once the song had finished. Her latest album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, produced in Nashville by the legendary T Bone Burnett, has been the most successful and critically reviewed of her career. She showcased many tracks from the album and it was easy to see why she has won several awards this year and been nominated for International Artist of the Year for the UK Americana Awards 2018 Continue reading “Imelda May, Royal Albert Hall, London, 22nd November 2017”

Rachael Yamagata + Brandon Jenner, Islington Assembly Halls, London 21st November 2017

“Oh, you need to get up here” says Rachael Yamagata. The young man in middle of the sixth row needs no more encouragement as he skips out of his seat nimbly and bounds up on to the high stage to join her on Let Me Be Your Girl, arguably her most commercial and instantly catchy song to date. Think Al Green’s Sha-La-La, or Barbara Acklin’s Am I the Same Girl? and you get a flavour of this. Continue reading “Rachael Yamagata + Brandon Jenner, Islington Assembly Halls, London 21st November 2017”

The Travelling Band – The Borderline, 21 November 2017

Having premiered their Sails album live in full for the first time back in August at the Water Rats in King’s Cross, The Travelling Band returned to the Borderline in London on Tuesday as part of a tour to promote the new record. The scope and breadth of The Travelling Band’s ambition is fully apparent throughout Sails – traversing a range of styles from pop to folk, and from indie to Americana. Continue reading “The Travelling Band – The Borderline, 21 November 2017”

Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, Scala, London, 22nd November 2017

Those who still pine for the folk excesses of Bellowhead can take some comfort from Jon Boden’s latest outfit. After a solo tour Jon Boden has got the old band back together and is taking new album Afterglow out on tour with The Remnant Kings, backed up by the string trio that is the Remnant Strings. This makes the stage at the Scala impressively full with eleven musicians, and since most of them are also multi-instrumentalists an almost excessive number of instrument stands and microphone setups. Continue reading “Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, Scala, London, 22nd November 2017”

Jim White + Cicada Rhythm, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 19th November 2017

It was pleasing to see a near capacity crowd turn up on a wet and cold Sunday night in Glasgow to see Jim White. Often seen as a cult artist and with an idiosyncratic style that rarely bothers the airwaves, White is a bit of a polymath. Aside from his songs he has worked in books, art and film while he had a well noted list of occupations before making his music debut at a relatively late age with (The Mysterious Tale Of How I Shouted) Wrong Eye Jesus. Tonight’s show saw him backed by Cicada Rhythm, a Georgia two piece, and drummer, Colin Agnew, also from Georgia,  who were just about the perfect accompanists for his richly textured songs. Continue reading “Jim White + Cicada Rhythm, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 19th November 2017”

William The Conqueror, Moth Club, London, 14th November 2017

Expectations for William the Conqueror’s first headline London performance were high given that Ruarrri Joseph’s latest musical project has resulted in a debut album which is one of four nominees for UK Americana album of the year in 2018. The buzz around the three piece has already been building through a recent touring slot supporting Danny and the Champions of the World, and also with the band forming part of the UK cohort of the Americana Music Association’s delegation to Nashville’s Americana Music Festival. However, the MOTH Club – which is an acronym for the Memorable Order of Tin Hats – is about as low key a place as possible for a headline slot, a former ex-serviceman’s club converted into a nightlife and music venue, the only glitz provided by the glittery ceiling and a gold tinsel curtain by way of stage backdrop. Continue reading “William The Conqueror, Moth Club, London, 14th November 2017”