The Travelling Band + Elle Mary & The Bad Men, Water Rats, London, 10th August 2017

An otherwise quiet Thursday night in King’s Cross for the Travelling Band’s album launch. First up though is Elle Mary and the Bad Men. Elle was born in Wales but is  now based in Manchester, something she shares with the headline act as well as being label mates. Their music is a bit hard to categorise although they’ve been described as ‘folk noir’ and Elle herself calls her songs ‘weapons grade lullabies.’

Most of the arrangements have a slow, stripped back, ethereal and haunting quality. On their best songs like ‘Behave’ they exhibit more variety, rocking out in what could be described as something Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses might do.  After the gig I asked if her name was a play on words, to which she responded with a deadpan, “No, it’s just my name.” Definitely one to watch.

Headlining were the Travelling Band showcasing their new album, ‘Sails.’ The band’s use of two keyboards, guitar, occasional saxophone and violin mean that Marc Riley’s attempt to shoehorn them into a category he called ‘Mancunian Americana’ falls somewhat short of capturing the breadth of musical styles on offer. Theirs has a whole range of influences from Belle and Sebastian, Buckingham and Nicks, as well as the Band. Comparisons to Mumford & Sons were also not unreasonable on two favourite tracks from their earlier album, ‘Screaming is Something,’ the excellent ‘Battlescars’ and ‘Sundial.’ Some of the most accessible songs from the new album such as ‘Last Night (I dreamt of killing you),’ the balladic ‘Loser’ and my favourite, ‘Into the Water’ have a darkly lyrical and humorous character- particularly on the quixotic nature of relationships – although the music itself is overwhelmingly positive and life affirming.

Led by the engaging Jo Dudderidge who’s a ball of energy throughout, the band are all accomplished musicians with the growing confidence to match their obvious ability. They encored with a rousing interpretation of Neil Young’s ‘My My, Hey Hey.’ Highly recommended.

The Travelling Band showcase their new album "Sails"

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