Live Review: Kassi Valazza + Eli Winter, Mono, Glasgow, 26th October 2023

With Kassi Valazza’s album, ‘Kassi Valazza Knows Nothing’, riding high in my favourite albums of the year it was with a great deal of anticipation that I attended her first Scottish appearance in Glasgow’s hip Mono café/bar/record store. Suffice to say that Ms. Valazza exceeded my expectations, turning in a set which transfixed the audience.

With her accompanying musicians (Lewi Longmire on guitar, lap steel and harmonica and Tobias Berblinger on keyboards) sat on either side of her, Valazza radiated serenity as her crystal clear voice floated over the hazy psychedelic folk summoned up by the trio, easily equalling and at times surpassing the quiet beauty of the album. A case in point was their spectacular rendition of ‘Watching Planes Go By’, a haunting song to begin with. Tonight it had a luminescent sheen, positively glowing as Longmire and Berblinger headed off into Grateful Dead territory on a cosmic mid song instrumental break. Throughout the night both musicians were quietly magnificent, embroidering the songs just perfectly. We had to wait until the encore for a guitar solo.

While much of the set was taken from the latest album Valazza sang ‘Chino’ and ‘Johnny Dear’ from her ‘Dear Dead Days’ album, showing that she hasn’t just sprung out fully formed but it was her delivery of songs such as ‘Room In The City’ and in particular ‘Rapture’, both from ‘Knows Nothing’, which led to us being quite mesmerised. The latter was introduced by Valazza who explained it was written for a childhood friend who enjoyed setting things alight. When the youthful Valazza expressed her concern, her friend simply said, “You don’t know how fire works.”

A couple of new songs from an album she is currently recording boded well but again it was when she delved into her latest release that she reached new heights. The crepuscular ‘Welcome Song’ was another opportunity for her band mates to adorn the song with their inventive touches. It’s a song which has more than a touch of Valazza’s near neighbourhood friend Michael Hurley to it and it was gratifying to hear her sing a lovely version of Hurley’s ‘Light Green Fellow’.

After a set which had this writer scrambling to think of what he was listening to – Joni Mitchell backed by Pearls Before Swine, an Anne Briggs who grew up in the American southwest ? – Valazza brought us back to earth with an encore which showed she can sing country music with as much verve as she lays down her psychedelic tapestries. ‘Verde River’ was a twangy number very much in a sweet country rock tradition and it allowed Longmire to finally solo on his guitar. A splendid close to what was a perfect night.

The night opened with an instrumental set from guitarist Eli Winter. Channelling the likes of Robbie Basho, John Fahey and, at times, Vini Reilly, he is certainly a proficient player. With echoes of free form playing, Appalachia and ambient country at his fingertips his half hour set was over almost in the blink of an eyelid. One to watch out for.

About Paul Kerr 438 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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