A worthy crowd turned out on a dreich Glasgow night to hear and see Terry Lee Hale in this intimate upstairs pub room. Although not a household name, Hale was at the forefront of the nascent Americana scene in the 1990’s, particularly in Europe through his relationship with Glitterhouse Records. This decade has seen him release two magnificent albums, both on Glitterhouse, ‘The Long Draw’, released in 2013, and then ‘Bound, Chained, Fettered’, from 2015 and tonight featured a fine selection from both along with a smattering of songs from earlier releases.
Tall, slim, and wearing an exquisite shirt (not a Dandy & Rose number, I asked him about it), Hale was an extremely engaging host for the evening. Whether talking about the notions behind some of his songs or explaining that he’s been told he needs to get an Instagram account to raise his profile, he held the audience’s attention but it was his songs, some quite spellbinding, which really grabbed you by the throat. There were elements of blues and folk, Mexican styled guitar interludes and American road trip itineraries along with dark ruminations on his upbringing and some frontier menace.
He opened with the powerful ‘Long Draw’, a stark portrait of a community on its uppers which remains unfortunately all too topical. Almost growling the words and laying down some fine bluesy guitar, Hale set the scene for several similar offerings which peppered the set. ‘Goldmine’ saw him use some guitar loops on a song which reeked of European murky mysteries along with a whiff of the existentialist angst of ‘Last Year In Marienbad’ or Antonioni’s ‘The Passenger’, a reminder of Hale’s longtime affinity with The Walkabouts. ‘Reminiscent’ was another bluesy slope into his hinterland as Hale led us through a song which was like a mash up of Jack Kerouac and Sam Spade searching for an answer while an older song, ‘Edenless’, was a Bukowski like trip into barfly life.
There was some upbeat stuff as Hale sang about his Pentecostal upbringing on ‘What She Wrote‘, which recalled Dylan’s saved era songs, along with the classic western stylings of ‘Someone’s Coming’. ‘Acorns’ was a wonderfully delicate love song of sorts. He paid tribute to an old friend, dedicating ‘Black Forest Phone Call‘ to Vic Chesnutt and signed off by coming into the audience for an unplugged rendition of ‘Land Of Plenty‘, a song from 1994. With its Woody Guthrie like sentiment and call for strangers to like strangers, it was another, sadly, topical song for these days but a grand end to what was in essence a magnificent evening with a masterful singer songwriter.
Supporting Hale was Chiara Berardelli, a local singer/songwriter who certainly wears her heart on her sleeve. An accomplished pianist, she sang with a slightly husky delivery on a selection of topics including the difficulties of being in a long distance romance and a desire to hibernate to get over a bad patch. Reminiscent of seventies bedsit favourites at times she did perk up for a jaunty rendition of ‘Sea Monster’ but she was at her best when she addressed vulnerabilities as on the excellent ‘Deep Space Hibernation‘. ‘Rodeo‘, a song written about her New Zealand romance, ended her short set on a high note