The hosts for this particular night of what was Country Music Week at Bush Hall were none other than Bob Harris’s Under The Apple Tree, the digital platform for Harris, his son Miles and various family members. No surprise then that Harris elected to showcase two acts he has selected for his AMAUK Emerging Artist award over the past years, namely, Robert Vincent and Curse Of Lono. Endless gratitude should always head Whispering Bob’s way, who even after another recent brush of health issues shows no sign of easing his ever-enthusiastic musical passions. Keep well Bob.
First on the bill of tonight’s showcase were Foreign Affairs, a gospel country rock inspired duo of Bristolian brothers Adam and Lawrence Purnell. Musical duties were very much split between them, one taking bass drum, the other a floor tom, one strums acoustic whilst singing a confident lead vocal, the other harmonising and throwing some raw lead guitar on top. Tracks such as ‘I’m Your Man’ ‘Say What You Want About Me’ were fine foot stomping numbers, but the finger plucked ‘Faded’ worked best with its more melodic simplicity and emphatic charm.
Next up were London based Curse of Lono. They were reviewed in greater detail by Americana UK only just recently so I’ll elaborate not hugely. Although they were the recipients of Harris’s 2018 Emerging Artist award, this is a band who’d already accrued much musical mileage along the way as Felix Bechtolsheimer referring to his mid-nineties rock band past, lost in heroin addiction, certainly seemed to confirm. Drummer Neil Findlay had a control and ease only gathered by surely many a gig played. The Alabama 3’s Nick Reynolds special guested with some spirited harmonica, filling the bands southern rock sound so brilliantly, the only shame being it was just for the one song. They left the stage to much enthusiastic applause. Not for the first time no doubt.
Headliner of the night was Crosby troubadour Robert Vincent (he could headline Wembley as far as this reviewer’s concerned). Not long since returning from a fresh USA jaunt, tonight was the first date of a small UK tour to perhaps gather momentum for his eagerly awaited new album. ‘So In Love’ was first and ever powerfully out of the blocks, then a handful of fresh tracks were given an airing. ‘My Neighbours Ghost’ was a rattling rockabilly of a tune whilst ‘This Town’ was a fiddle enthused observation on these divisive modern times. “You’d better know your friend, better know your foe,” he wistfully noted. The strumming ballad ‘The Ending’ had classic strained aching melodic Vincent hallmarks set to a ‘Love Has a Way’ mantra. Although ‘Conundrum’ began with a twee banjo twang it evolved and rumbled into something far more epic.
A brooding ‘Burns Like Cotton In the Fields’ from the 2013 debut LP was aired, in his words, “To tick off the sad country song of the night bracket.” ‘November’and ‘Riots Cry’ followed with some deliberately stuttered, staggered yet brilliant guitar and fiddle duelling solos. The set closed with another fresh debut, ‘Cuckoo’, delivered with a spacious minimalism perhaps testament to Ethan Johns being on board for the new LP’s production duties.
Whilst introducing the band, Bob Harris reminisced upon his first encounter with Vincent (at a Nashville styled in the round session) and his first excited impressions being akin to uncovering a new Roy Orbison. Robert Vincent may not quite be of the ‘Big O’ stature nor aura yet, but on this current form, ‘The Big V’ …just possibly so…‘The Flying V’ for now, for sure.