The Hanging Stars brought the sound of summer to the Victoria pub in Dalston on an otherwise cold and dismal February night last Thursday. Launching their sophomore release, ‘Songs for Somewhere Else,’ The Hanging Stars were appropriately accompanied by a mindbending liquid light show from Innerstrings which acted as a perfect counterpoint to their music – described by the band as ‘cosmic psychedelic country folk soul.’
What might have been an expected straight run through of the new album was instead a perfect example in how to expertly interweave songs from the new record with their debut, ‘Over The Silvery Lake’. ‘On A Sweet Summer’s Day,’ the first song of the evening – and new album opener – had echoes of ‘Draft Morning’ by the Byrds, a beautiful guitar driven number with four-part harmonies. ‘How I Got This Way,’ was the first opportunity for Anna Robinson from Norton Money to join them on backing harmony vocals – filling in for the part played by Miranda Lee Richards on the record. The song is not only a highlight of their latest release but also of tonight’s set as well, its loping guitar melody offset by the melancholy of the the pedal steel from Joe Harvey-White, and a lovely accompaniment to Richard Olson and Anna Robinson’s shared vocals. The follow up, ‘Honeywater,’ was as mellifluous sounding as its title, but with a bittersweet emotional undercurrent about unrequited love which also had Romeo Stoddart of the Magic Numbers in the audience singing along to the repeated chorus line.
‘For You (My Blue Eyed Son)’ took the tempo up a notch, its bucolic yearning propelled along by a paradiddle from Paulie Cobra on the drums. It’s worth noting also the significant contribution made by Patrick Ralla, the other new permanent member of the band, both in co-writing much of the new album material, and also the additional heft and balance he brings to the band on guitar, keys and vocals.
‘Golden Vanity,’ taking a brief step back in time to the ‘Over The Silvery Lake’ album, harkened back to an original 17th century sea shanty about a cabin boy promised reward and riches but ultimately betrayed by the eponymous ship’s captain of the song title – this reinvention sounding akin to a combination of Ride and Shack at their best. The band persisted with ‘Over The Silvery Lake’ for ‘Crippled Shining Blues’ next, before returning to the new album for ‘Water Song’ and its bossa nova stylings. Ending their set with ‘The House on the Hill,’ its spaghetti western soundtrack propelled by its twangy guitar was another water-themed song about a woman drowning at sea because of a broken heart.
They encored with ‘Crazy Lady Blues,’ a Sandy Denny cover, and ‘Running Waters Wide,’ an appropriate widescreen sounding finalé, the song’s tinkling and descending piano line perfectly conjuring up aquatic imagery – with some evocative flute accompaniment from Luke Barlow.
If The Hanging Stars can be described as something of a hybrid of influences ranging from the Coral through to the Byrds, Ride and Big Star, then it still feels like they’ve managed to fashion a sound which is uniquely their own. As the old saying goes, “talent borrows and genius steals.” The overriding theme of ‘Songs for Somewhere Else’ is escape, and tonight, The Hanging Stars reminded us that spring is on its way. Polar vortex be damned: The Hanging Stars are here to light up your life.