Tonight we are offered a fine double dose of deep Southern drawls at this quasi-legendary venue in the heart of London’s Camden Market. First up is Zack Logan, on his first UK visit and touring his debut album ‘Raised by Wolves’. A Mississippi native now Nashville based, his songs are centred largely around rural and small town America and he’s clearly a man who is a regular visitor to bars.
The sound is based around his acoustic guitar, upright bass played by Sam Weston and some stirring violin by Henry Webster with harmonised vocals strengthening many of the tracks. He actually saves the title track till last and it’s perhaps his most powerful song of the night, the lupine reference used in this context to describe the rough-edged culture of his background (in case one is expecting a Romulus and Remus mythological narrative). “I just follow my instinct/What else can I do?” he wonders. It’s a sentiment similar to the impulsive narrator of ‘Dogs Chase Cars’, the set’s opener, which shows Logan’s debt to John Prine’s style of writing and playing. Recent single ‘Annalee’ is a ballad where the singer is “sick of writing songs about you” – a vignette of unrequited or at least unequal affection. Like most of the set, it’s a concisely packed song. Logan then moves up tempo with the appropriate bar room boogie sound as he sings of “straightening out” in ‘Trouble Doin’ The Right Thing’ where the committed boozer calculates that “2 for 1 means 12 for 6” (don’t try this at home, folks…..). His aversion to big cities is conveyed in ‘Two Weeks At a Time’, a strong melody underpinned by the plaintive violin which is upfront during the track. The song’s about a worker travelling the Southern states keeping him from his partner and he observes how he, “wouldn’t last a single night” in New York or New Orleans. The love of domesticity is reiterated in a song written for his wife for whom he metaphorically “lost his rambling shoes” when he met her.
The headliner is Brent Cobb, cousin of the prolific and hugely esteemed Dave Cobb. It’s a more “in your face” rockier set – blue collar country, if you will, with Cobb himself on acoustic throughout. Much of the set is built around his new album ‘Providence Canyon’. There is a strong thread of Southern rural manhood and environments – creeks, coalmines, physical industrial work, county sheriffs and moonshine. In a nod to the practicalities of professional musicianship, the song about “sitting on a porch on a Sunday afternoon” refers to the office of his record label HQ on Music Row, Nashville. The band are extremely slick and for newcomers such as your reviewer the influences are the likes of Drive By Truckers meets the rootsier side of ZZ Top or the Rich Robinson strands of Black Crowes and his subsequent solo work. A song written by Neil Mason of The Cadillac Three also shows similar tropes to that band’s sound. Cobb saves two standout songs – and they both happen to be slower paced – to close the set, with the lovely Isbell like ‘South of Atlanta’ being followed by the Andrew Combs co-write ‘Shine On Rainy Day’, the poignant title track of his 2016 album.