In very broad terms, heading south west out of Waterloo station means that the landscape for Americana venues becomes increasingly parched and music fans of this particular bent have to work hard and travel far to find a home. A huge hurrah then to the Railway Inn at Winchester which has been consistently attracting class acts to this humble venue for over 20 years. So, it came to pass that, due to a long-term relationship with the magnificent Willy Vlautin that stretches back to his Richmond Fontaine days, the much lauded Delines land in icy Hampshire to play not one but two sold out gigs in one day.
The management at The Railway Inn are very clear about the respect they believe all the artists they host warrant, with signs that ask for quiet during performances. From the moment that Joana Serrat was welcomed to the stage those signs felt superfluous. Joana arrived fresh from supporting Israel Nash on his recent visit to the UK and, in a very intimidating room with the audience about 3 feet in front of her face, proceeded to work magic with an acoustic guitar and gorgeous, Spanish tinged vocals. Mixing songs from her most recent Israel Nash produced album ‘Dripping Springs’ with older tunes and some new try outs, the mostly male, middle aged audience were rapt and respectful. Interaction and storytelling between songs was abandoned in favour of letting her music speak for her. Any newcomers to her music must have been mightily impressed.
What to say about The Delines that hasn’t already been repeated oft times by this esteemed website? Vlautin’s reputation as a brilliant observer of the minutiae evident in the underbelly of American life as viewed from his rented room in Portland is brought to life by the sultry and soulful voice of Amy Boone, surely one of the great female vocalists out there. The set here was dominated by songs from the new album ‘The Imperial’ but what they sung was almost irrelevant to the audience. Here, on a bleak winter’s Sunday afternoon was a room full of believers. Some had booked for both shows and were coming back for more.
The Railway Inn is one of those venues where the charade of an encore is pointless. The only way out for the band is through the audience and, when the final chords of ‘Let’s Be Us Again’ had drifted away, the band fought their way through a sea of hand shakes and back slaps to rapturous applause. Not quite a crowd surf but the warmth and respect for these talented musicians was obvious. Listen to ‘Roll Back My Life’ from the new album with its sparse vocals and simple piano accompaniment and now imagine that played to a packed crowd in a small room with a hushed reverence. Respect indeed. They just knew it was going to be great. It was.