Another uplifting trip then to this much-lauded Camden venue where even the chocolate brownie and the rickety wooden chair may be close to assuming a place in North London roots music folklore. We’re here to hear Amelia White, a seasoned East Nashville performer. Lucinda Williams’ comparisons are, admittedly, obvious and facile for a reviewer to throw out, but they are not far off the mark either. Perhaps a little less downcast and focused on the grimmer side of life than some of Ms Williams’ more recent work, the voice and rhythms are of that ilk. With a swathe of albums over her last 20 years since relocating from her Boston roots, Ms. White has no shortage of material and has several UK tours on her resume.
Tonight White sports a regal gold jacket and her musical offerings are as striking as her sartorial choice. She chose, in this set, to focus on more of her slower- paced cuts and in particular several from her latest album ‘Rhythm Of The Rain’. Opener ‘Let The Wind Blow’ was a wonderfully sparse and haunting song with Scott Warman’s silky double bass support underpinning her electric guitar (traded for an acoustic at various points). Musically it is in similar territory to a later highlight, ‘Dangerous Angel’, where she sang of, “Finding a crack that I can snake through,” with some shared sonic ground with Mary Gauthier while some numbers majored on a bluesier country style a la Rolling Stones Muscle Shoals period. White has a ‘lived in’ voice which wraps itself around her carefully wrought lyrics and the stealthy pace is compelling. ‘Madeline’ is in this vein – “Lonely is the only place I know.”
Some of White’s words are informed by her life as a touring female musician. ‘Free Advice’ lambasts male industry insiders who try to steer her into an uncomfortable girly demeanour with remarks such as, “You look good for your age.” ‘Get To The Show’ actually finds her pondering on retirement after a stopover at a less than enthralling city in the USA only to get all fired up again when she finds that she has garnered a glowing review in Rolling Stone. On tonight’s showing, one can see why the esteemed Rolling Stone rates her highly.
Jamie Freeman has an impressive set of recording and song-writing alliances on his CV, having been based for some while in Nashville although his Britishness comes through in his delivery and style. The opening song, ‘Hasia Dreams’, was the tale of a Syrian refugee as she makes a troubled boat journey and showed his crystal clear voice and great way with a melody to good effect. A murder ballad, ‘Hey Hey Indiana’, delivered largely acapella, was set in the harsh winter of an Indiana farming community. But most of his songs tonight were about tight social or domestic situations – indeed one details the hanging of a picture on the wall as the trigger for analysing a couple’s tribulations. With a new album poised for release he played the radio friendly single plucked from it, ‘All In The Name’, and, maybe paradoxically, its more straightforward accessible pop-folk approach is the lesser example of his lyrical and melodic strengths.