Live Review: Carter Sampson + Malcolm MacWatt, The Sun Inn, Beverley – 5th June 2024

photo: Graeme Tait

Having crammed in half a dozen gigs in the last couple of weeks my own personal tour came to a close with a visit to, what for me is a new venue, The Sun Inn, nestled in the heart of the historic Minster town of Beverley. The pub, regarded to be the premier live venue for the local congregation, is widely considered the oldest in the town and can trace it’s heritage back to around 1530, with its traditional beams and cosy nooks reflecting the age of the site that literally sits in the shadow of the magnificent gothic masterpiece that is also one of the largest parish churches in the UK.

Promoter Chris Lee can be credited with bringing much quality music to the area, with Filey and Scarborough also benefiting from his tireless endeavours in booking many of the finest artist of Americana and Folk music from both sides of the Atlantic. Tonight is no exception with what could rightfully be described as a double header as one of Oklahoma’s finest singer songwriters Carter Sampson is supported by one of the best UK artist to appear on the scene in many years, Malcolm MacWatt.

MacWatt kicks off proceedings with two songs from his much lauded 2021 album “Settler”, which marked his first collaboration with California music producer Brian Brinkerhoff, opening with ‘ Trespass’ followed by ‘The Miller’s Daughter’. Many of MacWatt’s song’s are charged with a strong social conscience, both historically and current, that has unsurprisingly seen him compared to the legendary Dick Gaughan but his between song patter here is softly spoken, choosing to regale us with stories of growing up in the wild idyllic scenery of Morayshire where the Highlands and the North Sea offer a constant backdrop and an abundance of inspiration for a poetic soul. Earlier this year MacWatt released his most recent album “Dark Matter” to glowing reviews, including a much deserved 9/10 from these hallowed pages, and next up is ‘Empire In Me’, one of the album’s many highlights and a prime example of his ability to draw from history’s unsavoury past and create a narrative that connects immediately with his audience. That skill is again emphasised on ‘The Curse Of Molly McPhee’ that recounts ‘The Great Scottish Witch Hunt’ of the late 16th and early 17th century, where as many as 200 women were executed, MacWatt’s delivery perfectly identifying with this emotive tale.

Malcolm MacWatt live at The Sun Inn, Beverley - 5th June 2024
Photo: Graeme Tait

Having informed the congregation that he didn’t actually write love songs, MacWatt offered up a new song entitled ‘Wish Craft’, that was every note a love ballad, complete with a gorgeous guitar accompaniment. In fact, with just one guitar and a selection of strategically positioned capos, MacWatt demonstrated throughout the 50 minute set his abundant guile and dexterity on the fretboard, re-imagining his songs from the album’s full band arrangement to suit this solo performance. Towards the end of the set he returned to one of his earliest compositions with ‘Selkie’, a song he wrote in memory of an old school friend who sadly took his own life, before closing out with two songs from his most recent release. Firstly the title track, where he wonderfully recounts the tale of Gruinard Island, which in 1942 became the site of military experiments with anthrax, again emphasising MacWatt’s social and historical awareness as well as his deft craft at putting it all to song for a new generation to discover. Finally,‘The Nightjar’s Fall From Grace’, offers up more intricate guitar playing and a narrative that ditches history for a touch of traditional storytelling, bringing this fabulous set to a close.

There was however time for one more number, much to the delight of the appreciative audience with MacWatt returning to the stage to pay homage to another of his countrymen, the great and much missed Michael Marra, with a beautiful cover of ‘The Beast’, that concluded a set that ably demonstrated that Malcolm MacWatt is most definitely the real deal.

Carter Sampson live at The Sun Inn, Beverley, - 5th June 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

After a short interval the night’s main attraction, Carter Sampson took to the stage, her red glasses perfectly matching her red Fender acoustic guitar that she had borrowed from close friend Amelia White. Oklahoma born and raised and winner of numerous awards, singer songwriter Sampson has so far released six albums with the most recent, “Gold”, seeing the light of day last year to rave reviews. Across in the UK for a solo tour to promote the new album, Sampson quickly got things underway with four tracks from “Gold” starting with ‘Can’t Stop Me Now’, it’s driving rhythm and autobiographical narrative of a restless spirit emphasising Sampson’s lyrical openness and honesty that immediately endears her to tonight’s audience. The beautiful and reflective ‘Home’, is next, followed by the modern-day love song ‘Drunk Text’ before the title track, a song of hard earned wisdom, written for and inspired by Sampson’s mother. In-between songs her interaction with the locals was relaxed and intimate, less like the meeting of strangers and more akin to old friends catching up over a drink, which suited the surroundings perfectly.

Back in 2018 Sampson released her fifth album “Lucky”, which like last years offering received a glowing review in these pages earning a 9/10, and during the middle section of the night’s show she performed three numbers from that record. The first ‘Ten Penny Nail’, is a powerful and emotive song inspired by the great Guy Clark, his relationship with his wife Susanne and best friend Townes Van Zandt with Sampson’s vocals providing just the right amount of indignation to this tale of ménage á trois. ‘Wild Ride’, is next followed by the popular ‘Rattlesnake Kate’ which tells the tale of Katherine McHale Slaughterback, a woman from Colorado who gained fame for an incident in 1925, where she allegedly killed 140 rattlesnakes, a story that clearly raise a few eyebrows among the local congregation.

Carter Sampson live at The Sun Inn, Beverley. -5th June 2024
photo: Graeme Tait

The second half of the set saw Sampson visit her 2011 album “Mockingbird Sing” with the track ‘Queen Of Oklahoma’, a song that has become something of an anthem at ‘The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls OKC’, a non profit volunteer run organisation that empowers girls through music education, of which Sampson is both founder and director. There’s still time for two more tracks from the latest album with ‘Black Blizzard’ a personal favourite with its tale of life during the 1930’s dust bowl period along with the song of perennial hope ‘There’s Always Next Year’.

Sampson closed her set with the award winning song ‘Wild Bird’, the only track tonight from her 2016 breakthrough album “Wilder Side”, which was met with vociferous approval from an audience which though slightly lacking in numbers were highly receptive throughout the evening. Needless to say they demanded an encore and were not disappointed as Sampson returned to the stage to deliver a lilting version of the classic ‘Moon River’. Word has it she will be back to tour the UK next spring, this time with a full band, so keep an eye out for the tour dates and keep your diary free.

About Graeme Tait 130 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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