The Small Glories, The Green Note, London, 31st May 2018

Whilst it may feel like an extension of your own living room, an instantly familiar and cosy space, the unassuming exterior of The Green Note music venue belies its ability to attract the very best acoustic roots musicians from around the world. If you haven’t added its intimate stage to your performance CV then you probably haven’t fully graduated as a gigging musician.

Tonight The Green Note welcomed back The Small Glories on the seventh date of their ten date Spring tour of the UK. The Canadian duo of Cara Luft and JD Edwards are well known to British Americana fans having previously graced these shores with their delightful harmonies and exquisite playing over the four year period that they have performed together. JD’s strong smoky vocals and driving guitar complement Cara’s heartfelt delivery and exuberant clawhammer banjo playing perfectly. Some things just work together: the Lennon and McCartney syndrome – and to witness a performance by The Small Glories is a rare opportunity to experience that indefinable quality that creates perfection.

Starting their set with a rousing version of ‘Had I Paid,’ the opening track from their 2016 album ‘Wondrous Traveler,’ it was immediately clear that the evening would be high in energy and full of passion. JD’s wonderful bluesy harmonica playing featured in ‘No Friend of Mine’ as they show-cased a succession of self-penned songs that had feet tapping and hands clapping throughout The Green Note. But a show by The Small Glories is not just a succession of songs; the spoken introductions are an integral and important part of the performance – funny and poignant, they create the background against which the songs shine brightly. And no song shone more brightly than a joyous and stirring version of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ that featured Cara dancing and which marked the mid-set break.

The second set continued full of energy as new songs were performed in advance of a planned CD release in November of this year. There can be no greater champion for Canadian tourism than this duo as they took the audience on a musical journey coast-to-coast across their homeland. From sea to mountain and into city life, all were featured in a succession of beautifully crafted songs, none better than a stomping version of ‘Time Wanders On,’ a song writing collaboration between Luft and Bella Hardy. The main set concluded with the title track from their current CD ‘Wondrous Traveler,’ the stunning melodic banjo playing contrasting superbly with JD’s rasping vocals that left the audience wanting more. The single song encore, ‘Waterbound,’ was performed off-stage amongst the audience and captured wonderfully the intimate and sensitive style of The Small Glories that sets them apart from most of their contemporaries.

I was left reminded of a line from a song by their fellow Canadians, Great Big Sea: “Wouldn’t it be great if the band just never ended,” but sadly it will be 2019 before this amazing duo return to these shores again. Let them dazzle you with their glory next time around.

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