Live Review: Ashley Campbell & Thor Jensen + Rachel Grace, Troubadour, London – 1st June 2022

Ashley and Thor are touring as a duo, playing mainly as the support act for Jimmy Webb, and doing a few headliners at small venues such as this gig at the Troubadour. The good news about this venue is that it has been restored to the original layout of the 60s’. So rather than the previous rabbit warren, it’s now a rectangular room with a very intimate feel i.e. no raised stage and you have to walk past the performers to get to the toilets.

First up was ‘La Bête’, a delightful song of love and regret sung partly in French. This was followed by ‘Careless Weed’, a Jimmy Webb song, the first of six covers which included her dad’s (Glen, just in case you didn’t know) song ‘Gentle On My Mind,’ and also ‘Eleanor Rigby’ which they added to the set when they recently played Liverpool. They played a handful of Ashley’s songs including the poignant ‘Remembering’, inspired by her experience of helping her dad to cope with Alzheimer’s disease.

This performance was definitely as a duo rather than Ashley and her side man, and their choice of covers allowed them to play to their combined strengths. Thor took the lead vocal on a couple of his own songs, including the wistful ‘St. James Lament’. On most of the other songs Thor’s baritone intertwined with Ashley’s honey-toned vocal on the choruses and sometimes they swapped lead vocals, as on the performance of their recent single, Tom Waits’ ‘Long Way Home’. They played a new song called ‘P&P’ which they said was the first song they had written together, so there are probably more to come.

Vocals were to the fore, but the icing on the cake was the superb interplay between the two guitars, and the guitar and banjo. Thor is a great guitar player influenced by the jazzy-country style of Chet Atkins, which he demonstrated brilliantly on their encore of Dolly Parton’s ‘Do I Ever Cross Your Mind’. As well as being an excellent on the guitar Ashley is a very accomplished banjo player, which she showed off to great effect on ‘Moustache Man’, an instrumental which is on her last album.

Ashley and Thor clearly enjoyed engaging with the audience, many of whom were hard-core fans who had already seen her supporting Jimmy Webb. One enthusiastic audience member caused a bit of consternation by coming on stage to say a few words. However, the audience was having none of this and loudly booed until he sat down. Ashley quipped: “This is the first time I’ve been booed to carry on playing”.

Rachel Grace played an excellent support set of emotive, keyboard-driven ballads. Her set was all new numbers and they will be available on an album next year. Ashley and Thor heard her on the Irish leg of their tour and were so impressed they persuaded her to come over for the Troubadour.

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