Saving Grace + The Rails, Birmingham Town Hall, 22nd December 2019

Folk duo, The Rails, begin the evening’s proceedings with their crisp vocal melodies enhanced by the acoustic guitar parts flitting between lead and rhythm lines without missing a beat. Their set comprises of a variety of songs from their back catalogue mixed in with songs from their latest album, ‘Cancel the Sun’, including ‘Something Is Slipping My Mind’. This relaxed country number demonstrates The Rails’ capacity for harmonies and an immaculate sense of timing at the end of phrases that is appreciated by much of the audience. Continue reading “Saving Grace + The Rails, Birmingham Town Hall, 22nd December 2019”

Alabama 3 + Curse Of Lono, 02 Academy, Bristol, 20th December 2019

It’s been a long time coming but Brixton’s perennial sharp-shooters Alabama 3 are once again hungry for that “Sweet Pretty Muthafuckin Country Acid House Music.” The unholy congregation of talent who put the menace into ‘The Sopranos’ and whose lifestyle choices have frequently put both Keith Richards and Old Nick himself to shame have just completed an epic collection of shows, dedicated to founding member Jake Black, AKA The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love, who died on 21 May 2019. Continue reading “Alabama 3 + Curse Of Lono, 02 Academy, Bristol, 20th December 2019”

Vetiver, Islington Academy, London, 17th December 2019

The Islington Academy is one of London’s smaller venues, a room that revels in its awkward layout that surely aspires to non-Euclidean geometry, its poor lighting, and its really sticky floor. If it were a pub then it’d be of the spit and sawdust variety. Which is all very down and dirty and rock and roll – the only thing that lets it down on the Indie Cool factor is that it’s located on the first floor of a fairly modern shopping mall, quite near the food court. It’s very odd to step into this dark pit straight from a world of escalators, metal banisters and glass fronted shops. Once in this rock and roll Narnia though it’s easy to forget that the location isn’t just a little more hip. Continue reading “Vetiver, Islington Academy, London, 17th December 2019”

Ralph McTell, Royal Festival Hall, London, 13th December 2019

Ending the year with a concert to celebrate his 75th birthday, it was Ralph McTell plus a lot of friends at the prestigious Royal Festival Hall for an event that was definitely not your usual Ralph McTell gig. In fact this was a triple celebration – McTell has recently released ‘Hill of Beans’, his first studio album for 9 years and which had also seen him reunite with Tony Visconti as producer and string section arranger. That last would be quite significant on this evening. The new album meant new songs, albeit that some had been knocking around for years before getting their full studio recording, and the set list was peppered with what might be regarded as “deep cuts” from the McTell catalogue – songs that are unlikely to be on the average “best of” collection. On the whole these songs tended to emphasize McTell’s more nostalgic and romantic side. Continue reading “Ralph McTell, Royal Festival Hall, London, 13th December 2019”

Dean Owens & The Southerners, Sounds In The Suburbs @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 15th December 2019

The irony of this cross border trio appearing in Glasgow in the wake of an election which saw England and Scotland diametrically opposed was not lost on Dean Owens tonight. The prankster in him surreptitiously arranged for the sold out crowd to chant the terrace anthem of ‘Cheerio, Cheerio’ as the actual southerners, Jim Maving and Tom Collison, joined him on stage. Seasoned troupers, they took it in their stride, humbly apologising for inflicting BJ on us and asking if they could stay up north permanently. This was of course, good-natured jousting, and it set the scene for a fabulous and good humoured show with lots of banter and audience interaction amidst the tremendous music the trio performed. Continue reading “Dean Owens & The Southerners, Sounds In The Suburbs @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow, 15th December 2019”

Andrew Combs + Kirby Brown, the Lexington, London, 10th December, 2019

Andrew Combs isn’t someone who can be accused of sticking to a tried and tested formula in an attempt to court popularity. Quite the contrary. Since he burst onto the music scene in 2012 with the classic country folk of ‘Worried Man’ (recently re-issued by Loose), he’s since gravitated towards a more psychedelic and indie sounding release with this year’s ‘Ideal Man’ via the cocktail of Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, and Nilsson vibes he created on 2015 ‘All These Dreams’. But the underlying themes of his writing have still persisted – musings on personal relationships and wider societal issues – the former in his opening number tonight, ‘Firestarter’, from his latest album. Continue reading “Andrew Combs + Kirby Brown, the Lexington, London, 10th December, 2019”

Dawn Landes + Jonah Tolchin, Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, 8th December 2019

Dawn Landes is an artist that for some years now has seemed set for a breakthrough. That it hasn’t really happened for her is one of life’s mysteries. With a catalogue of fine albums to her name and a great live reputation, she has built up an enthusiastic fan base, just not in the numbers that might have been expected. However, the world’s loss was tonight Leeds’ gain as the audience filled the intimate, if somewhat dilapidated, surroundings of The Hyde Park Book Club. Continue reading “Dawn Landes + Jonah Tolchin, Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, 8th December 2019”

Yola, Gorilla, Manchester, 3rd December 2019

It’s been a big year for Yola. Her Dan Auerbach produced debut album ‘Walk Through Fire’ was released in February to wide critical acclaim. It has since gone on to be nominated for a Grammy Award for ‘Best Americana Album’ whilst Yola herself has also been nominated for ‘Best New Artist’. Given the current upward trajectory of her career, most of those arriving for tonight’s show probably realised that this may well be their last chance to see her perform in a small to mid-sized venue. Continue reading “Yola, Gorilla, Manchester, 3rd December 2019”

Frank Turner + Emily Barker, Alexandra Palace, London, 30th November 2019

Frank Turner’s sold out show at the wonderful Ally Pally was his 2,431st gig since setting out as a solo artist in 2004. This is, in itself, a phenomenal achievement and is a sign of his fans’ passion and of his incredible endurance. Turner has re-invented himself on this tour, delivering a very different show from his usual high-energy performances. This was a reflective affair with many fascinating or humorous stories used to introduce each song; these insights undoubtedly helped give a greater appreciation of the songs and was pitched perfectly. Continue reading “Frank Turner + Emily Barker, Alexandra Palace, London, 30th November 2019”

Karine Polwart, The Barbican, London, 27th November 2019

Karine Polwart came to The Barbican to showcase her latest album ‘Scottish Songbook’ which consists of re-imagined songs by Scottish pop artists – using the term pop quite loosely – of the last fifty years. The album (available on Vinyl, CD and, yes, even cassette, at all good Merch stalls) came out of a show organised as part of the National Museum of Scotland’s exhibition ‘Rip it up: The Story of Scottish Pop’ and features eleven tracks – these all appeared at this gig, expanded to include another nine songs making the gig the Deluxe Edition of the album. Continue reading “Karine Polwart, The Barbican, London, 27th November 2019”