Live Review: Brooks Williams & Aaron Catlow, The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle upon Tyne – 23rd April 2023

Photo for Brooks Williams & Aaron Catlow live review

The Cumberland Arms in Newcastle’s trendy and historic Ouseburn district has been a well-established music venue since the 1960s, supporting hundreds of artists and events each year. Tonight it was the turn of Brooks Williams & Aaron Catlow, and there was quite literally standing room only for this magnificent duo. The renowned, American- born now England-based acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter, Williams, and Bristol-based master violinist Catlow put on nothing short of an outstanding performance. Wowing the audience with their incredible talents and mastery.

After a chance meeting on tour in the Netherlands in 2020, the pair have already collaborated on two albums and made it clear from the off that they have no intention of ending their new and winning formula anytime soon. ‘Ghost Owl‘, a collection of guitar & fiddle duets, was released in 2021, and ‘Ready For The Times‘, a mix of covers and original works, followed in 2022.

The packed set list covered everything from ‘Ready For the Times‘ and then some. This included the rhythmic, self-deprecating ‘Love Too Soon‘ (Brooks) and the sultry ‘Snake Oil‘ (Brooks/Hewerdine), the fun ‘If You Want the Rainbow‘ (Oscar Levant, Billy Rose & Mort Dixon), ‘Jackson Greyhound‘, telling the politically-charged tale about “the end of segregation on public transportation across the USA” (Rab Noakes), while ‘Summer Fly‘ (Cheryl Wheeler), ‘CC&O Blues‘ (Pink Anderson) and ‘King of California‘ (Dave Alvin), were among the stellar range of songs which showcased the endless talents of these two seasoned musicians.

Photo of Brooks Williams & Aaron Catlow for live review

How such a complete and sensational sound can come from just two voices and instruments is awe-inspiring. All of the parts played are wonderfully detailed. Playing off one another, the guitar and violin would swoop and soar; they’d be soft & tender and then tenacious and wild -why play just a few notes when you can delight your audience with the full range. Catlow’s command of his violin is remarkable, and his harmony vocals blend beautifully with Williams’ euphonious, warm and comforting tones. With no note or word wasted, you could have heard a pin drop in the audience; such was the mesmerised focus toward the stage. A shout-out must also go to the house sound engineer for her faultless attention to detail, as the house sound was also impeccable.

Williams & Catlow plan to be touring on and off for the foreseeable future, so catch them when you can. To be able to experience this dynamic duo so close up and personal should not be missed. They represent live music at its best.

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