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.

Earlier on The Disappointment Choir (half of them anyway – they’re actually a duo but the female half was absent working) did a great half hour.  It’s always a delight when someone who you haven’t actually come to see turns out to be wallet-lighteningly ace and so it was here.  Electronic trickery and gadgets are not normally this reviewer’s favourite thing but Robert Armiger built them up into gorgeous layered pop songs, adding in keyboards and some nifty guitar playing as well.  He has a real voice too, powerful, emotive and moving.  There was even a cover of “The River” in deference no doubt to the Americana stylings of the Dogs.  He has an occasional tendency to gild the lily a little but in the main this is glorious music.

A superb evening all round.

Author: Jeremy Searle

Deputy Editor & Videos Editor at Americana UK, promoter at Greenbird Promotions, writer for R2 and Maverick magazines, possessor of more CDs than is entirely decent and inveterate hoarder.

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