Live Review: Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys + Stella Prince, The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey – 4th November 2023

Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys, live at The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. 4th November 2023.
photo: Graeme Tait

The persistent rain may have put a damper on proceedings for the weekend’s bonfire festivities but it clearly was no deterrent for the enthusiastic congregation that had crammed into Lincolnshire’s premier Americana Music venue at the Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey to witness the return of Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys. It is less than eleven months since Housley and her band last appeared at this venue but tonight’s concert is the last in a run eight dates across the UK after having shortly returned from a successful sojourn to the States. As well as being the last night of the tour it also has the feel of a home gig for Housley who originates from just down the road in Rotherham and clearly has family and friends in the audience.

Housley’s band The Northern Cowboys have recently expanded to include a brass section with Johnny Murray on trumpet and Dan Berry on saxophone, joining Tom Dibb on guitar, Roberto Ruiz on bass and Dan Wiebe on drums which has added a greater range of colour and energy to the bands overall sound. The benefits of this amalgamation have already borne fruit with the recently released EP ‘Something More’, of which the track ‘High Time’, is the opening song and it appears early in tonight’s set list. Here it quickly sets the tone for the evening’s proceedings, taking the americana rooted songs and soaking them in a bucketful of soul that immediately conjures up the magical Memphis sound created at the legendary Stax Records during the sixties.

Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys live at the Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey, 4th November 2023
photo: Graeme Tait

The bulk of the first set is made of songs from Housley’s most recent albums ‘The Beauty Of Life’, from 2017 and ‘Girl From The North’, released in 2021. From the former is ‘One Step Closer’ and then from the latter we get two of its finest tracks ‘What’s troubling You Child‘ and ‘Why Are You Making It So Hard’. During this period the band are reduced to just a duo on stage with Housley and husband Dibb taking centre stage using this sparser arrangement of just vocal and guitar to enable these personal and intimate numbers to resonate wonderfully with the audience.  The full complement is back on stage for the closing numbers of the first set which includes the the title tracks from both ‘The beauty of Life’ and Housley’s debut album ‘Sweet Surrender’, both benefiting from this broader musical palette. The first half of the night’s performance concludes with a stunning cover version of Levon Helm’s ‘Ophelia’, that first appeared on The Bands album ‘Northern Lights- Southern Cross’. Here the band really stretch out, breathing new life into this timeless classic with some fantastic interplay with Dibb, Murray, and Berry taking their turn in the spotlight, driving each other on, the joy on stage emanating with the audience. Truly the perfect end to a wonderful first set.

Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys, live at the Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. 4th November 2023.
photo: Graeme Tait

After a short interval the second set commences with the upbeat ‘This Ain’t The Life’. Originally from the most recent album this song is another that benefits from the horn section adding a vibrancy that helps to create a sense of gospel joy. The recently released EP is revisited during the second half with both the title track ‘Something More’ and ‘Three Wishes’ emphasising the advantage of the band’s musical prowess, in particular the latter which, with its message of hope becomes almost anthemic in this live setting. By this time the band are simply bouncing off each other musically with an energy, excitement and pure sense of fun that creates an end of term feel that’s immediately infectious. Throughout the evening the level of musicianship on stage has been immaculate, but the focus is less on perfection and more on spontaneity and creating a vibe that connects the band with the audience and to this end they are sublime. Of all the benefits this larger ensemble offers, probably the most important one is the platform it supplies to Housley herself. Now she has the musical support to really let her voice soar, improvising and exploring the newly expanded musical boundaries available to her.

Lauren Housley & The Northern Cowboys, live at theTown Hall, Kirton in Lindsey, 4th November 2023
photo: Graeme Tait

A heart-rending performance of ‘Stay Awake To Dream’ from the most recent album helps slows the pace down and allows everybody a moment to catch their breath and drink in the occasion before a trip back to Hounsley’s debut album helps build the moment for a rousing finale. ‘It Ain’t About You’ gets the ball rolling while ‘Ghost Town Blues’ encapsulates the very essence of tonight’s performance with its infectious level of energy, passion and joy enveloping everyone in the hall. Needless to say a performance of this level demanded an encore from the enthusiastic congregation and so it was that Hounsley and The Northern Cowboys returned to the stage for one more number, bringing the show to a close with a stunning performance of the John Prine classic ‘Angel From Montgomery’. Now, whisper this in hushed tones, and don’t tell Bonnie Raitt, but that might just have been the best version of this Americana classic that I’ve ever heard.

And with that it was goodnight and goodbye until next time, and though the weather outside may have dampened the planned visual displays, here inside the Town Hall at Kirton in Lindsey the festivities crackled and burned with a vibrancy and energy that few could have equalled.

The show was opened by singer songwriter Stella Prince who originally hails from Woodstock in upstate New Yor but last year relocated to Nashville to hopefully further her career. Despite only having just turned nineteen years of age Prince has already eight singles plus an EP under her belt and charted on the Americana Singles Chart garnering many rave reviews on the way. This is her first tour of the UK which considering her relatively tender years proves she has all the bravery to go with her natural talent.

Stella Prince live at the Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. 4th November 2023
photo: Graeme Tait

Her short set tonight of just over 30 minutes was made up of a mix of self penned numbers and three well known covers that aptly displayed her skills as well as her influences. There is a timeless quality about Prince’s vocal delivery that harks back to those heady days of Greenwich Village during the sixties with such luminaries as Joan Baez and Judy Collins being obvious touchstones. Among her own songs, ‘Dear Future Me’,based on a letter to herself, was particularly strong as was recent single ‘Eighteen’ which focuses on the challenges that the global lockdown caused by the Covid pandemic has created, having those important years between adolescence and adulthood stolen and feeling unprepared for the demands of the real world. It is a topic worthy of debate and wonderfully brought into focus within this track. Cover versions of ‘Top Of The World’ and ‘Both Sides Now’ were confidently delivered if rather obvious in choice whilst ‘Blue Moon’ showed a slightly more adventurous slant, sang with equal aplomb. Prince closed her set with another self penned number ‘Closing Doors’, which again highlights her potential skills as a songwriter. On this evidence Stella Prince is most definitely a name we will be hearing a lot more of.

About Graeme Tait 126 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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Alan Peatfield

Graeme – I thought your review was a little restrained and didn’t really convey the energy & enthusiasm of the crowd…. NOT!
As usual, your description perfectly captured the “vibe and drive” of both the band and audience. Well done.