The Glass Mountains, Folk Modern – Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton, 5th October 2017

“If life were a hotel, then I’d be checking out right now,” sings young frontman Owen Davies. A little extreme for a 25 year old maybe, but All kinds of Trouble, written by one of the more senior members of the band, is delivered with credible sincerity by Davies. The Glass Mountains are slightly incongruous in this folk club atop the Brixton branch of the Picturehouse boutique cinema chain. It’s Americana-UK’s first trip to the club and I imagine that the band’s Stetsons and denim shirts are not de-rigueur for this monthly showcase.

Generally, cinemas only accept live music in their cafes and bars when it is kept unplugged and low key. By stripping their set to three part harmonies, acoustic guitar and Memphis soul electric lead, the outfit meet this prerequisite and the result is a surprising triumph.It didn’t start like that. Dalton Highway Blues, their first song, a foot stompin’ pedal to the metal, hard driving country rocker about 18-wheelers, was accompanied by an exodus of part of the audience. That cohort perhaps there to see the earlier acts, but it’s always a hazard when placed at the end of a long bill of eclectic talent. However, the clean harmonies of the band and the Garth Brooks /Alan Jackson inspired vocals of the urban country frontman held those who had remained in their seats. Storm in a Teacup visited founder Malcolm MacWatt’s home town of Elgin. Oklahoma Sunrise by guitarist Michael Espie was up next and the set built to a highpoint of Davies’ self-penned songs, Stay One Night and Heart. Come the encore, One Good Reason, the crowd were warming up and joining in on the call and response chorus.

It’s worth giving a mention to the other acts.  Ali Warren and Penniless Cove. Warren’s earnest and intimate set was topped off by a ticking-off from the management over the London Living Wage dispute with cinema staff and his refusal to cross the picket line in future making it unlikely that he would play the venue again. Penniless Cove / Phoebe Osborne played wry and bittersweet piano songs to follow that and it lifted the mood.  All this topped with NYC Poet Genevieve Grant’s mellow compering gave this night in 2017’s South London the feel of Washington Square 1962. Very modern.

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