Driving to tonight’s concert I was reminded of how quickly the year is already passing. The seasons have definitely changed with the early evening sun still high enough in the sky to provide perfect daylight travelling as I made my way for the fifth gig of the year at Lincolnshire’s premier Americana venue, The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. My excitement for tonight’s performance was hard to contain as making their first appearance at this venue were Our Man In The Field (the vehicle for Alexander Ellis) who’s debut album ‘The Company Of Strangers’ that came out in 2020 has led to them becoming one of the most exciting and talked about acts to emerge on the UK Americana scene. For this evening’s show Ellis is joined on stage by Henry Senior on pedal steel. Senior had previously played this venue as a member of Danny and the Champions Of The World but in recent years he’s become very much a part of Our Man In The Field, both appearing on the album and regularly on stage with Ellis. Tonight they were joined by Maddy Cundall on cello, piano and backing vocals, helping to give the trio’s sound a broader and more colourful palette.
With no support act, tonight’s show was made up of two sets offering a fine mix of material from the debut album alongside songs from their forth-coming album (recorded in Portland, Oregon with producer Tucker Martine whose previous work has included The Jayhawks, First Aid Kit, Iron & Wine as well as the legend that is Mavis Staples) which, I am reliably informed, is due for release in September. Ellis, sporting a sharper hair cut of late, has a quiet and assuming presence on stage that perfectly matches his songwriting style whilst his soulful vocals and intimate delivery draws the audience in encouraging them to listen intently and which had the ever appreciative congregation hanging on his every word. His songs have a certain timeless quality that generate a faint sense of familiarity, as if you know but don’t, that you understand but are not sure, while a poet’s soul and a keen eye help to reveal a different prospective to his thematic tales of everyday life. Among the many highlights of the first set were ‘Thin (I Use To Be Bullet Proof)’ which showcased some fine pedal steel playing from Senior as Ellis sings of a letter, perhaps written to a younger self, along with ‘Stick Around’ with its waltz time signature and ‘It Is What It Is’, all three songs from the debut album. Also during the first set the audience were treated to two new songs ‘Go Easy’ and ‘So Glad To See You’ which Ellis dedicated to the N.H.S. workers and which certainly whetted the appetite for the forthcoming album release.
The start of the second set saw Ellis return on his own to play two new numbers. So new in fact that they currently have what can only be described as ‘working titles’, the first ‘Doing Alright’ followed by ‘Stars And Stripes’, both excellent offerings that more than deserved their place on the set list. From here Ellis was reunited with Senior and Cundall on stage for another mix of the new such as ‘Come Back to Me’, written during lockdown about the instinctive need to return to your roots, along with ‘Feel Good’ written after being unceremoniously ripped off by a previous manager, with both tracks forming part of the new album. Of the not so new songs in the second set ‘Easy Going Smile’ with its well crafted melody and lyrical narrative that tells of the pain in the difficult goodbye was exquisitely delivered full of aching beauty, fragility and vulnerability that Ellis’s understated vocals captured perfectly.
As the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun” and so it was with a sense of surprise and sadness when the last number of the evening was reached, so absorbed were the audience with all that they had been treated to throughout the show. However, there’s always time for an encore and so it was that Ellis along with Senior and Cundall were rapturously applauded back on to the stage for Our Man In The Field to deliver one last number, again from their debut album ‘The Company Of Strangers’ this time with the sublime ‘Don’t Speak’, bringing this wonderful night’s performance to a close. And as the congregation made their way to the exit you could sense the buzz of excitement from what they had just witnessed but also for what’s to come as one has a feeling that this is just the beginning for Our Man In The Field.