Live: Ben Kunder & Sarah MacDougall – York House Concerts, 26th November, 2016

Playing as a duo in the round over split sets to an enthusiastic, if older, red wine sipping crowd Kunder and MacDougall win the room with, I would guess, a previously unknown set of songs, Kunder’s album, ‘Golden’ is one of the best of 2016 and its taught songwriting is always going to come away with the spoils. MacDougall, finger picked Martin and double denim, with songs about growing up reading Pippi Longstocking, living in the Yukon is full of unusual phrases and a very confused (and confusing) accent, reel the punters in, easily hooked.  Kunder is a wonderful blend of Young, Taylor, Simon and Van Morrison – he’s a hell of a songwriter, and his first trip to the UK is a definite success. 

Tales of small town serial killers, brushes with the far right and enough edge to keep the crowd wondering what’s next.  Spacious and expansive, talk of an immigrants take on rock n’roll, and the innate sadness of collecting memories for a love one suffering from dementia mean it’s a relatable set and a charmed room is sat neatly in their palm.

The first set closed with Kunder’s album title track, which as well as being one of the best songs of 2016, is even better live and you do wonder if they may have peaked too early?  Fear not, tales of Kate Middleton touching MacDougall’s callouses, living off the grid in Gordie Tentress’ log cabin, songs in Swedish, talk of TV themes all just add more glitter to a sparkling set.  They play a duet written via email. I always wonder how that works and walk into the middle of the room for an impromptu unplugged version ‘Better Days’ to send us home happy, and we’re all glad we are part of that select group that not just like music but love it. Love it.

Author: Rudie Humphrey

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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