Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Stray Birds - The Bullingdon, Oxford. Friday 21st October 2016

With so much unsubstantial and bland music getting peddled around the UK under the country banner these days, it is refreshing when a touring band free of label pretensions shows the true qualities of the genre. In fact, The Stray Birds have been primarily courted by the folk fraternity on these shores with the obvious attraction being the band’s entirely acoustic live sound blending vibes from the roots tradition. Yet observing the band from a close up quarter as they headed into the final shows of their latest UK tour, there was an avalanche of evidence to suggest that they should be an example of the marker to assess country music genre claimants.

For this tour, The Stray Birds have expanded from a core trio to an enhanced quartet with the addition of Dominic Billet on percussion. This was in line with the evolution of their overall sound on the new album MAGIC FIRE which had a more contemporary feel to it. As expected, this top notch record was the focal point of the set list at The Bullingdon in Oxford, a popular venue hosting the band for the first time. Having seen them in their previous format last summer when they tagged on a series of dates around their prestigious and acclaimed Cambridge Folk Festival slot, there was zero danger of a 150 mile round trip not being worthwhile.

The obvious initial impact of assessing The Stray Birds’ ability to impress is the unison of Maya, Oliver and Charlie as focussed by their trademark single mic approach. A distinctive edge of vocal diversity pours out of their focal point, whether in traded lead, exquisite duet or sublime harmony. Charlie, the permanent double bassist, stepped up with some of the intended country numbers such as a cover of ‘Blue Yodel #7’ and a song introduced early in the set titled ‘New Shoes’. Oliver, a triple instrumentalist on fiddle, standard acoustic and resonator guitar, had possibly the strongest vocal output of the three, yet it was the sound of Maya that made the proverbial hairs stand to attention. You were left to wander where on earth the vocals were being dragged up from; a clear expression of a gut driven sound echoing the aural pleasure of Gillian Welch at her best.

Of course Maya’s effortless input didn’t just end at the vocals as she proved to be an exceptional fiddle player and adept guitar picker. Perhaps Oliver shaded the instrumental stakes in overall impact with his stellar fiddle playing and the blow away sound from his unplugged resonator utilising the central mic set up. Needless to say the double pronged rhythm section set the pace and the luscious onslaught of a twenty-song strong set list soared the evening to a stratospheric success level.

Although as mentioned previously MAGIC FIRE was the album being showcased, the evening began with the finest song from their back catalogue in ‘Best Medicine’. The position as set opener meant the back story to this song was omitted and this was generally the tone of the evening with the continual flow of songs supplanting meaningful insightful interludes. Not a bad thing when your venue imposes a pre-club night early curfew. It wasn’t long before the new music took hold and over the duration of the set, eleven of the twelve tracks from the new album were featured.

My three highlights from the gig were in this bunch of tracks, with the vibrant and rather excellent, ‘Sabrina’ being lined up as one of the songs that will shape 2016. This was closely followed by the powerful encore number ‘When I Die’ and the blissful country duet ‘Somehow’ delivered perfectly by Oliver and Maya at their primary best. The strength and immense stature of the new album was exemplified by further incursions into it to reveal: ‘Third Day in a Row’, ‘Mississippi Pearl’ and ‘Shining in the Distance’.

We have already mentioned one of the three moments when the band went off ‘The Stray Birds script’ with a hat tipped to Jimmy Rodgers c/o Doc Watson. The others were a tribute to Townes Van Zandt with a triumphant version of ‘Loretta’ and a take on Susanna Clark’s ‘I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose’ inspired by Maya listening to Emmylou Harris singing it.

This show was promoted by the established and enlightened Empty Rooms team who without doubt know their music. For the evening’s support artist, they acted quickly to secure the services of local based American sibling duo Loud Mountains when the original planned performer had to pull out. The brothers, Kevin and Sean Duggan, were first seen when supporting Cale Tyson at the same venue in May and this evening were just celebrating being the latest addition to the Clubhouse Records stable. Their bold Americana sound displayed distinct potential with the clearest evidence of this being in the final song of the set – ‘Remedy’. Vocally the duo was spot on and further liaison with more experienced practitioners of their chosen style will enable the raw components to evolve into a meaningful addition to the UK Americana circuit.

If they only match The Stray Birds half the distance, the effect will be profound. The core trio of Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charles Muench plus Dominic on percussion continue to be a band capable of moving audiences and exploiting the vast expanses of what is deemed to be Americana music. For me they press all the country music buttons, led by highly crafted musicianship, a vocal depth from an infinite core and songs dressed with rich trimmings. The Stray Birds continue to attract plaudits endlessly seeking music utopia and kindly return the compliments with a step in this direction. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Anna Elizabeth Laube - Tree : Ahh…Pockets! Records

Anna Laube crossed my path for the first time last year with her delightful eponymous album. She now returns in 2016 with record number 4 and her middle name added to the credits. The good news is that there is very little change in the album’s reception as TREE shapes up to be one of the year’s chill out releases. Straddling the imaginary boundary between country and folk is probably far from the thoughts of Anna Elizabeth Laube when she sets out on the path of filtering her creative thoughts into a packaged offering. Yet those in tune with this virtual marker will lap up each of the nine tracks that make the sum of the album.

These tracks are spit between seven of Anna’s originals and two interesting covers that add value rather than mere repetition. Bob Dylan’s ‘Wallflower’ took a while to surface in the recording world and has since been picked up by artists such as Buddy Miller and Uncle Earl. Anna’s gorgeously sung version opens the record and is always going to be in stark contrast to that of its master originator. The other cover has a more contemporary origin and there will always be a significant minority who will enjoy Anna’s sensually passive version of Beyoncé’s ‘XO’ over the popped up original. But good songs stand an alternative take and this one delivers.

The soul of the album resides in Anna’s originals which are blessed with engaging lyrical structure, graceful melodies and liberally sprinkled with magical tunes. ‘Please Let it Rain in California Tonight’ may or may not have literal tendencies but its interpreted plea for a better world is spot on and certainly profound in sentiment. Its structure is also akin to some of Danny Schmidt’s work. While in the namedropping territory, the opening bar to ‘I Miss You So Much’ immediately brings Hannah Aldridge to mind and her most striking opening line. Also the chorus part of the final track ‘All My Runnin’’ throws up a glimpse of Jason Isbell’s ‘Alabama Pines’. Of course the general gentle sound of Anna is far different overall, but great song writing transcends this.

There is a definite theme of stripping away life’s excessive layer whether seeking solace in a natural haven or getting to grips with emotive feelings in a personal setting. The back-to-back tracks in the record’s opening phase convey the former with the title song ‘Tree’ ripe with folk basics and the carefree figurative number ‘Sunny Days’ possessing a dreamy jazz-like feel. If shelter, refuge and safety are life’s basics then the ‘Longshoreman’ does its bit to transfer such feelings into the serene medium of the crafted song. ‘Lose, Lose, Lose’ is another top notch offering albeit with a mood switch amidst a similar soft approach. Here Anna lyrically excels with the lines ‘’cause you’re more like a bottle of whiskey. And a razor blade wrapped in two’. Listener complacency is jettisoned at this point, if existing at all.

The journey for Anna has been from Iowa to Seattle via Wisconsin and Europe, with perhaps a little hope that the latter can be visited again to share some her work in a live setting. The soothing and satin vocals found on the record will blossom in the idyllic listening environment. This cordial body of work minimally sound tracked at its best with piano, fiddle and pedal steel is primed for discerning destinations. Ultimately it’s a beautiful piece of artistic elegance using the spirit of song to burrow deep into the basement of the natural and intimate world.

Jess Morgan - Edison Gloriette : Drabant Music

One admirable quality of a recording artist is an ability to develop and build on a core sound which has been initially responsible for turning heads. Upon release of her fourth album EDISON GLORIETTE, Jess Morgan is one such artist with the vibes from the record suggesting the bravest and biggest step to date. This Norwich-based singer-songwriter has made her name on the national folk and acoustic circuit as a stylish solo act. An opportunity to have a more varied instrument input has been grasped during the recording progress on this latest release. The result is an absorbing collection of eleven self-penned songs, never losing sight of Jess’s trademark slightly husky vocals giving the sound a reassuring warm feel.

The music of Jess Morgan first crossed my path in spring 2013 when one of her many gigs came to town and this sealed an intent to casually keep track of her across the wires, circuit and ever increasing world of social media connectivity. The ability to put to song many an engaging story has long been an innate trait of Jess and wide reaching evidence exists to re-enforce this view on the new record.

Characters, life observations and deep inner thoughts are the starting points for many of Jess’s songs and quite often in the past it has been the live performance, with accompanying narrative, which truly allows them to bloom. While Jess’s albums and shows are almost at one, the new record sparkles with a sense of independence suggesting a reach out far from the gig sale. The mood of the album indicates it is best savoured during one of life’s quieter moments when you can let the overall vibes soothe you and full attention can be paid to the literary content. To aid this process, the record does make great strides in the melody department, an area work-in-progress across her back catalogue. While there perhaps is not a song as strong as her finest composition to date in my opinion, ‘Freckles in the Sun’, the overall balance of the eleven tracks as an entity enhances the album’s accessibility and sustainability.

The word Americana has been banded around this album in the run up to its release, but the label contemporary roots sits more comfortably with the liberal use of harmonica and the welcome twang via the Dobro clearly being advancements in the instrumental stakes. Labels aside, Jess continues to make music the right way and her growing popularity aided by the successful crowd funding campaign preluding the album release continues to reflect well on her hard work and talent.

These two attributes are an essential tandem to success and throw in Jess’s open response to sharing her artistic flair, the blossoming of her recording career has been a shoe in for a long time. The continual full length playing of EDISON GLORIETTE has been a satisfying experience and this is set to continue especially when an opportunity to catch her live again presents itself. The stand out track award for this album is going to be shared evenly between all eleven songs to reflect the raising of the consistency bar and fully embracing the strong album concept.

Jess Morgan succeeds in making this singer-songwriter thing a breeze and has rewarded those who have supported her over the years with a record of true quality. Of course this further opens the door to new admirers and if you wish to soak up the emotive tones of many songs pulsating with real life feeling, EDISON GLORIETTE should head your way.

Austin Lucas with The Dreaming Spires - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham. Wednesday 19th October 2016

Last November the supertruth was found in the small rural town of Bewdley, this evening it appeared somewhere between the moon and the Midwest. At the end of 2015 SEARCHING FOR THE SUPERTRUTH was hailed as one of the favourite albums to hit the stores over the year and now momentum is building as to whether BETWEEN THE MOON AND THE MIDWEST reaches similar lofty accolade territory when the book for this year closes in two months. Sneaking up on the blind side though is SONGS OF THE RIVER REA, but more on that later.

For the initiated, The Dreaming Spires and Austin Lucas will need little introduction as recording artists of distinction. For others they lie in wait as the discovery to edge you a little closer to finding the golden key of live connective music. Opportunity had presented itself when their combined tour was announced, no doubt on the back of the At The Helm Records connection. The result was a classic display of cultured musicianship, devoid of external control and ripe with the ideals of artists exploiting the mood of a distinctive style.

Travelling to Birmingham this evening all the way from Bloomington Indiana (well semi-literally) was Austin Lucas. Although a seasoned visitor to these shores, this year the focus has been from a different angle with a brand new record successfully turning heads and a new team providing the industry structure. While Austin toured the album release earlier this year, it was the delightfully anointed ‘leftist Mecca in a sea of red’ aka Asheville North Carolina which hosted my first experience of catching him live. The upgrade from that evening in The Mothlight was the involvement of a four piece backing band in The Dreaming Spires, while the downgrade was the sad passing of Austin’s trusty sidekick Sally. Surely her spirit is there at every show.

The set up at the Hare and Hounds this evening aided the ease of getting up close and personal with the emotive spontaneity of Austin Lucas’s artistic expression. Fired up by a mid-set rant-fuelled outburst on a shared sentiment, this crowned the tone of a performance which began and almost ended in solo mode, the latter unplugged among the audience; the ultimate uncensored and unfiltered moment of music consumption. The focus throughout was primarily on the excellent current album BETWEEN THE MOON AND THE MIDWEST. Its stellar lead-off track ‘Unbroken Hearts’ is now almost sealed as one of the songs that will shape 2016, with tonight possibly just missing the pedal steel input from perfection. Regardless of this, it is deeply personal, highly emotive and a potential anthem for the unsigned. This along with others such as ‘Pray for Rain’, ‘Wrong Side of the Dream’, ‘Ain’t We Free’ and ‘Kristie Rae’ is country music you won’t hear packaged. Any tampering would be purely superfluous to a successful feat of making music that matters. The pick of Austin’s oldies was the wonderfully catchy ‘Alone in Memphis’, which conveniently allows us to rewind to The Dreaming Spires, and their own homage to west Tennessee.

Apart from playing an important part in this evening’s upgrade of Austin Lucas from that hot July night across the pond, The Dreaming Spires played a forty-five minute support set packed with an abundance of stylish cultured moments. Austin’s aforementioned classic ‘Unbroken Hearts’ ascension into the ‘songs that shape the year’ category will follow in the footsteps to what ‘Dusty in Memphis’ did for The Dreaming Spires in 2015. Once again this was a strong candidate for the pick of the set, with a pulsating opening version of ‘Easy Rider’ and the finely executed playing of a now Spires oldie ‘Not Every Song From the Sixties is a Classic’, making similar exalted cases.

Give The Dreaming Spires a five minutes sample of your valuable limited listening time and the rewards will be long lasting. They rarely stay still as active collaborators even in years where a full length band record is not on the agenda. Folks could enjoy their PAISLEY OVERGROUND interim release this year, but the highly anticipated moment is when the brilliant SEARCHING FOR THE SUPERTRUTH (and its unlimited pun potential) gets its fully fledged follow up. In the meantime, The Dreaming Spires continue to cultivate a niche as England’s premium purveyors of transatlantic alt-country rock laced with an inner layer of classic melody driven alt-pop.

On a gig held in Birmingham, it is only apt to hear a bunch of songs to open the evening from an album inspired by the city’s hidden river, SONGS OF THE RIVER REA. The architect of this fine album is Katy Rose Bennett, a Birmingham resident and conveniently this evening the sister of Robin and Joe Bennett from The Dreaming Spires. Hence Joe accompanied Katy on a couple of songs with backing vocals and lap steel, while the full band (only Austin missing) joining her for the final number ‘My Friend’. Katy’s album surfaced earlier this year and has evolved into one of the surprise hits of the year, if only in the fact that it has probably been down on her priority list over the last few years. However ‘Rusted Ring’, ‘Jack and Ivy’ and ‘Cold November Day’ all sounded great live for the first time and now the spotlight turns to Katy’s headline full band show in early November. Ironically in Bewdley, at the scene of the supertruth discovery, though alas no Dreaming Spires!

Nights like this make venturing out to live music a magical experience. Three artists compounding the innovation of original music; fully committed to sharing the wares of their creative endeavours and fusing the art of reactionary song. If ‘music of the soul’ needs three ambassadors, look no further than Austin Lucas, The Dreaming Spires and Katy Rose Bennett.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker - Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Wednesday 12th October 2016

There is both a dividing and unifying side to the aura surrounding pioneering folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. A tuned-in mind of synchronised misery is helpful to buy into their ideals of music dealing with one of life’s most profound emotions. However aligning your stars with Josienne’s dry stage persona opens your mind to a mesmerising cavern of alluring sentiment providing a dark wrapping for the intoxicating music that immortalises moments in their musical company. On a more literal level, the intrinsic delicacy of her diverse vocal acumen and the virtuoso optimised guitar playing of Ben closes all doors of artistic detachment.

This evening Josienne and Ben were the weekly guests of the Red Lion Folk Club in Kings Heath Birmingham and were afforded a couple of slots edging into the overall hour and half realm to showcase the depth and psyche to their music. The focal point of their time in the spotlight was the delights unveiled from their upcoming new album OVERNIGHT ahead of its October 14th release day. Maybe the pioneering statement made in the opening sentence is reflected in their link up with the iconic record label Rough Trade for the new record. This led to Josienne mischievously heralding the genre of corduroy punk. On a more serious note, there is enormous exposure potential for the new record and the duo will not disappoint fans old and new who like a touch of depth, class and substantive intelligence to their music.

Dietrich Strause
If the lure of catching Josienne and Ben live was not sufficient enough, they brought along a supporting artist they recently hooked with at the prestigious Folk Alliance gathering in Kansas City earlier this year. Dietrich Strause left observers in little doubt as to his influences, inspiration and style models. This was straight down the middle early sixties American folk revival territory and for a near forty five minute stage time allotted to him you could quite easily be watching a scene from the acclaimed cult film Inside Llewyn Davies. The crux of the observation is that the highly crafted Dietrich did this really well, matching a variety of acoustic guitar pieces with strong vocals delivering the messages of his songs. He is a native of Boston Massachusetts, an area renowned for its thriving folk scene, and the architect of a brand new album HOW CRUEL THAT HUNGER BINDS that gets a formal UK launch in November. In addition to supporting his buddies Josienne and Ben on a number of dates, he has also landed the opening slot for Sarah Jarosz in the UK soon, thus ample opportunities to engage with fans this side of the pond. While boundaries may not be stretched, there is a distinguished assuredness to how Dietrich presents his songs and there is little hesitation in marking him as one to watch.

Ben Walker
While it was previously stated that the music of Josienne and Ben is unifying, there are two distinct strands to her vocal style. Some folk fans will drool over the celestial neo classical moments when you have to reach high to connect, while others are more drawn to the closer terra firma feel that accompanies some of her songs. Repeat listens to the new album does reveal these contrasts and more so live when she wanders into the song sphere of Gillian Welch, Sandy Denny and Nick Drake. Throw in Nina Simone and Elgar moments and echoes of a structured randomness emerge in the mix. One constant though is the acute skilled picking of Ben who succeeds in matching the mood perfectly with his accompaniment for each song. Occasionally a more prolonged instrumental segment emerged and it would be no hardship if future compositions headed more in this direction.

The keys to success for this evening were surrounded around Josienne’s introduction to the new album and its conceptual origin. Subsequent plays have proved compelling and it is sure to be lauded as one of the most significant British folk releases of the year. Maybe in this age of national re-alignment it is more pertinent to hail it as a triumph of English sensibility. Literal words aside, the spiralling deluge of melancholic misery housing an inner beauty best sums up the work of Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. This show revealed and tantalised so much leaving those of us in tune with this artistic approach delightfully satisfied.

Otis Gibbs - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 11th October 2016

Over the last decade there has always been an air of familiarity when Otis Gibbs hits town. The old stories never lose their charm and frequently Otis updates his song base with a new record of unrelenting quality. With my occasions of seeing Otis live now possibly running into double figures there was a double pronged freshness to his return to Birmingham and a renewal date at the Kitchen Garden Café.

On one hand the evening was blessed with a bunch of new songs as an Otis Gibbs ‘below the radar’ album has emerged over the summer months. To a greater extent, the opening set did not feature a single old time story, a definite first from a hazy but reliable memory of so many Otis shows. However any sense of re-assurance lacking was firmly rectified after the break with the return of ‘tractor day’, ‘interesting uncles’ and ‘work comradeship’. Essentially these provide the backdrop to two Otis Gibbs classics and the twin tracks of ‘Small Town Saturday Night’ and ‘Something More’ should always remain staples of his show.

While other old songs such as ‘Kansas City’, ‘Caroline’ and ‘Town That Killed Kennedy’ retain a timeless appeal, the key to the success of this show was the unveiling of a number of tracks from the album Otis recorded in his home over the summer. MOUNT RENRAW was introduced as an indulgent milestone birthday present and has provided the ideal outlet to house yet another supreme bunch of songs. Five of these had their Birmingham premiere this evening with ‘Great American Roadside’ and ‘Sputnik Monroe’ leaving the most distinct mark on first listens. The first of these goes a long way into defining the curiosity surrounding Otis’s song writing purpose as he revealed the sheer inspiration derived from surveying the vastness and quirkiness of his home land. The second formed the basis of the evening’s most interesting story following his account of a wrestler in Memphis Tennessee being at the centre of a chain of circumstances leading to a seismic moment in the advance of de-segregated entertainment in America’s South.

Empire Hole’, a song based on the cultural and economic impact of Indiana’s limestone quarrying industry, ‘Ed’s Blues (Survival)’ and ‘Bison’ were the other new songs revealed. The latter took its inspiration from the occupants of his East Nashville home a long time before modern life entrenched its practices and values. The surname of a key person in the backdrop story to the song – Warner – was intriguingly reflected in the album’s title. MOUNT RENRAW has not had a conventional release yet and it remains to be seen whether this happens. Copies have been available at the shows and it is important in the widening of the appeal of Otis Gibbs that as many folks as possible get to listen to this and any other record that has emerged under his name over the last fifteen years. This guy is a song writing legend and a body of legacy-laden work is already intact for future generations to discover.

Otis Gibbs will always be a touring treasure and a creative person powered by an independent spirit devoid of trend setting gimmicks. Grateful, humble and sincere are other attributes that spring to mind. His songs combined with a serious desire to preserve and further signify the unfiltered relationship between artisan and partisan make him stand out in a crowded environment. Long may the Kitchen Garden Café and many other venues around Britain continue to host a welcome visitor from Wanamaker Indiana, via East Nashville Tennessee.

Friday, 14 October 2016

My Darling Clementine - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 13th October 2016

Three years ago the same seven piece line-up graced the stage at the Hare and Hounds, Birmingham to herald the launch of the second My Darling Clementine album. That evening proved a resounding success and a repeat was always on the cards at this re-convening to effectively launch the next phase of the project. Maybe project is a word that should be confined to history as Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish have cultivated a distinguished niche in the My Darling Clementine duo format which is now set to branch out from its classic country revue style. While the song from their back catalogue ‘Our Race Is Run’ stood out on the evening, the sentiment of the saying is far from reality for My Darling Clementine and the plenty they still have to offer.

With the new songs in the bank, the next hurdle is to get them out in the available recording world and when accessible, the reception is sure to be positive. Michael and Lou previewed over half a dozen of them across the two hours on stage in a show that was hailed ‘a homecoming’, although Michael reminded folks of his non-Birmingham roots. It had been indicated that the style would see a movement away from the traditional country sound in a more soulful direction. The extent of this will be increasingly evident when the horns are added, both on record and when opportunity presents a full live rendition. One constant between the old and new My Darling Clementine is a retro feel to the sound, and while country elements could still be detected, the overall feel was akin to classic sixties soul and pop. However great songs transcend genres and the initial impact of first hearing these shed any remnants of disappointment. Expect more on this in the run up to the release, but look out for a great personal piece courtesy of Lou’s American experience from a West Coast road trip, a dark twist to ‘Tear Stained Smile’ and some stark references to the petroleum industry.

While the bridging analogy to this gig has been implied, the songs and tunes from the two My Darling Clementine albums to date still sound as fresh as their first airing and will always remain core to how Michael and Lou formalised their performing arrangement. 2011’s HOW DO YOU PLEAD will live long in my interpretation of a strong concept album that could easily evolve into another art form. This has happened to a degree with their work with crime writer Mark Billingham on The Other Half project. This was effectively weaving the songs into a story courtesy of a Memphis background, but adrift to what could have been done with the marital disintegration laid out in the first album. It’s all about the rich tapestry of subjective artistic interpretation I suppose.

Lou and Michael at Cambridge in 2014 
Anyhow back to the gig and from the first album ‘Going Back to Memphis’ and ‘Departure Lounge’ formed part of a seamless opening segment. In contrast ‘Goodbye Week’ and the ‘hit’ ‘100,000 Words’ were essential components of a rousing finale, and thus letting a fine band loose from a tight leash. Also from that album, ‘Put Your Hair Back’ acted as one of the show’s stripped back moments when the contrasting heights of the duo’s individual vocal styles can shine. This segment saw a couple of covers giving the MDC originals a breather with Lou returning to deliver her piano-led version of ‘Good Year For The Roses’ and Michael celebrating the legacy of Hank with ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’.

A strong candidate for the golden moment of My Darling Clementine’s time in the spotlight is their ‘Stand by your Man’ response, and ‘No Matter What Tammy Said’ has just had the honour of being in Country Music People magazine ’50 Best Country Songs of the last 30 Years’. While I have issues with the word ‘best’ being bounded around, the song has always been a winner with me. This was lifted from THE RECONCILIATION album as was set entrants – ‘No Heart in this Heartache’, ‘King of the Carnaval’, the previously mentioned ‘Our Race is Run’ and the Ronnie Self song ‘I Can’t Live With You’. The latter won my award as the song which raised its head most above the album version.

Apart from the song excellence, other factors making this a gig to remember included the now infamous dry, cutting banter between the pair, executed by the sharp wit of Lou and the high degree of competence exuding from the five assembled players. From left to right in stage position, and remaining in place from 2013, were Liam Grundy (keys/organ), Martin Belmont (lead guitar), Neil Bullock (drums), Kevin Foster (bass guitar) and Alan Cook (pedal steel/mandolin/Dobro). Hats off guys you did a grand job.

So the gun has been fired to ignite the next phase of My Darling Clementine. They are a core duo/occasional enhanced band who make very good accessible music that succeeds with fusing the wire between artist and audience. The spirit of 2013 was re-visited, with Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish demonstrating a talent to share music that matters to them with like minded folks.