Sunday, 4 December 2016

Lissie - O2 Institute Birmingham. Saturday 3rd December 2016

Each year my peripheral horizon is expanded to bring into focus a successful artist from outside an ever increasing core musical domain. In 2015 Norwegian band Katzenjammer took the honour and their lauded steps have been followed this year by American performer Lissie. This enhanced focus began at the start of the year with the release of her third full length album MY WILD WEST and was sealed when she returned to Birmingham to play a date on her solo acoustic tour. This spotlight exposure revealed what a talented and versatile artist Lissie is and how there is so much potential for her to achieve in the ensuing years.

However coming right back to the present, and for this first opportunity to catch Lissie live she was accompanied by classy guitarist Nick Tesoriero who brought a near full room to a rapturous applause with a stunning piece of mesmerising playing on the final song. By the time that Lissie had sealed her promise to end on an upbeat note with the track ‘In Sleep’, the committed and vociferous faithful had witnessed a blistering performance of singer-songwriter prowess complete with the trademark energy that has powered much of her recorded material to date.

Lissie was expressive in talking about the current transitional status of both her life and career, primarily focussed on uprooting a twelve year stint in California and heading home to a simpler life in the Midwest. The theme of this change runs like a streak through the new album which mixes the brashness of a pop/rock past with the sensibilities of a singer-songwriter destined for influential status. There is an unashamed bias towards the stripping down of Lissie’s music in these quarters, as evidenced on the very recent live album release of her Union Chapel experience and more pertinently during this current UK solo acoustic tour.

This evening’s show at the O2 Institute had the most fitting five song finale that went a long way to defining why finding her music has been delightful pursuit this year. While this segment did include sparkling covers of Joni Mitchell’s festive classic ‘River’ and the Bonnie Raitt standard ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, they implied that Lissie’s ongoing influence is in good hands and eventually reach a point where she can impart some guidance on the next generation of artists designed on spreading the best to popular appeal. This run of songs began with the poignant ‘Ojai’ from the new record and a track which pinpoints her move from the town in the title. Also within this scope of her time on stage, we heard the best of new and slightly older Lissie. ‘Don’t You Give Up on Me’, especially the acoustic version, has evolved into one of my favourite songs of 2106, while it is impossible not to be moved when hearing ‘Oh Mississippi’ for the first time of many listens.

This song appeared on Lissie’s first album CATCHING THE TIGER and throughout the show there was an equilibrium approach to compiling the set list with regards to this record, the latest one and 2013’s BACK TO FOREVER. Of course the room was packed with many long-time Lissie devotees, lapping up popular numbers such as ‘The Habit’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘They All Want You’. It was during the first of these where the night’s sole blip occurred with a broken string, but Nick, and a re-arranged set list, rescued the moment with little detrimental effect.

The evening was awarded greater significance with the coup of getting Teddy Thompson to open these shows with forty minutes of his own acclaimed acoustic songs. While possibly a low key set from Teddy, you quickly got into the groove of how his voice has graced so many good songs over the last decade and a half. It brought back memories of his 2007 country album UP FRONT & DOWN LOW and on a similar note Teddy closed his short spell back in the solo spotlight with a version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Ballad of the Absent Mare’ complete with an impressive lyrical balancing act.

While no doubt Teddy Thompson’s flame will continue to flicker brightly in several guises in the crowded world of the singer-songwriter, Lissie’s is destined to soar. We were given an insight to that further new material is likely to be on the agenda soon and a continued operation free from major label intervention signifies an independent spirit. While the charismatic appeal and enthusiastic song delivery that helped mould her commercial success is always likely to remain, a similar special trait of composing highly engaging and meaningful songs could be the key to an influential future.

Whichever route you are exposed to the music of Lissie, the rich results will leave that feeling of a key legacy in your midst. While it was a pleasure to get my inaugural Lissie live experience in this solo acoustic setting, there will likely to be many more variations in the future. On either front it is a mouth-watering and exciting prospect.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Whiskey Myers - O2 Institute, Birmingham. Friday 2nd December 2016

Mud is the title of the new Whiskey Myers album and deep down on terra firma is also where they take their live show. Raw energy and a powerful punch ruled the evening as this Texas combo, steeped in the lore of Southern Rock, continued their current UK tour with a sold out show at Birmingham’s O2 Institute. The venue had called time on ticket sales for its second room just prior to the gig and fans flocked from a multitude of angles to view a band subject to serious press in recent times.

Two possible routes into Whiskey Myers are from their association with country music, albeit on a distant right field edge, and a far more straightforward rock perspective. Traditionally the latter has been an easier sell in the UK and it is more convenient to define the live show from that angle. However the near two hours on stage could not be wholly described as a full-on rock show as the band was not afraid to bring the fiddle to the forefront and frequently intersperse ballads heavily reliant on the acoustic guitar.

One clear assertion on this show was that the refinements of the latest album, produced by in-vogue country fringe steering man Dave Cobb, were left in the studio and there was a significantly different feel to the band live than on record. Of course these two mediums for listening to music are, and should be, different beasts with the live element probably best served in the moment and far more face value centric. On that note, Whiskey Myers led by frontman Cody Cannon and flanked by his stalwart guitarists John Jeffers and Cody Tate, delivered ferociously to this packed gathering. Maybe a different sound environment could have served the band better, but this was not going to detract from what this seven piece line up intended to do.

On the set list front, an older song in ‘Early Morning Shakes’ started things off on the stroke of nine and the venue’s curfew was getting close when the impressive ‘Stone’ from the new album acted as the pre-encore finale. Early in the gig, parts of the audience participated passionately in ‘Bar, Guitar and a Honky Tonk Crowd’ and midway through there was widespread approval for an emotive version of The White Stripes standard ‘Seven Nation Army’. Perhaps summing up the flexibility of the show, apart from frequent bursts of fiddle, keys and brass, was a top live version of ‘Trailer We Call Home’, and a slight hint of sensibility.

The evening’s entertainment began with an acoustic set by John David Kent who later doubled up as Whiskey Myers bass player. This was followed by the support band in the guise of Birmingham’s own Broken Witt Rebels who far from held back in exuding their brand of blues rock. Both acts were synonymous with the tone of the evening and ready to strip down a sound before building it back up in an organic way, whether acoustically or in full amplification.

Maybe Whiskey Myers will remain a conundrum for those who engage in overt analysis, but they are far from complicated when strutting their stuff on stage led by the charismatic posturing of Cody Cannon complete with archetypal bruised rock vocals. Few would argue that Whiskey Myers is a market leader of what we refer to as contemporary Southern Rock in 2016, and an exporting one as well. Many in this sold out Birmingham crowd would testify to the justification of their standing. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Emily Portman and the Coracle Band - MAC, Birmingham. Thursday 1st December 2016

Possessing a fertile imagination and engaging the musical side of her creative capacity has worked wonders for the career of Emily Portman. A voice beautifully formed to extol the mystique of her thoughts and observations has also played a significant part alongside working with a host of premium musicians and collaborators. Her latest venture is to harness the talents of the Coracle Band and undertake a series of full shows around the country in the run up to the holiday season. Birmingham’s premier eclectic arts venue – the MAC – was first up to host Emily and her band thus giving Midlands’ folks another opportunity to hear a range of songs primarily from her three studio albums.

Emily’s core inner circle comprises Lucy Farrell and Rachel Newton, a pair of high class musicians with a lengthy association and also integral members of the traditional leaning side project, the Furrow Collective. To give the Coracle a fuller sound, the ladies are joined by established folk circuit fiddle player Sam Sweeney, the multi guitarist input from cross genre picker Matthew Boulter and the omnipresent percussion playing from an eleventh hour substitute for this tour following an accident to Emily’s husband. Together they brought to life the magic of a bunch of songs inspired by mystical fairy tales, the consuming delights of open space and some more pertinent events closer to home. A dark undercurrent flows through in a common theme calling at such subjects as infanticide and the sinister side of robins! Your imagination is frequently taken to obscure corners, yet always underpinned by the delightful soundtrack that the Coracle Band delivers.

The material spanning Emily’s two sets was almost equally lifted from the three studio albums. The middle of these is perhaps the one kindest to Emily so far in her career with the title track from HATCHLING being accredited with a best original song of the year at the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk awards in 2013. Sitting in a prime second row position in the MAC’s theatre allowed other tracks from this record to be succulently savoured such as encore number ‘Sunken Bells’, standout candidate ‘Hinge of the Year’ and the highly creative ‘Hollin’’. Emily’s ability to write a melody to traditional words in the latter highlights her studious approach to folk music and the strident goal of relaying the baton of the inter-generational song.

Bringing her music up to date with material from 2015’s CORACLE, she also extracted the title track among others like ‘Nightjar’, ‘Borrowed and Blue’ and ‘Seed Stitch’. Like so many songs on the evening, the stories accompanying them were rich and enlightening, thus marking a key difference between enjoying music in a live setting in the artist’s company and listening to the recorded copy. With this in mind we learned of Emily’s association with Lal Waterson and the origin of ‘The Cherry Tree Carol’ which also proved one of the evening’s highlights.

Apart from the marvel of the entity, the musical peaks probably surfaced from segments of Rachel’s harp playing. This by no means disrespects Sam’s fiddle contribution, Lucy’s viola playing and multi-instrumental output via Emily’s concertina and banjo. Matthew Boulter’s part is an interesting addition especially when you consider his other work in a solo capacity and with bands operating on a different sound level. Whether on pedal steel or a variety of other stringed variations, his subtle sound blended perfectly with the mood of the show.

This opening show of the tour included the role of singer-songwriter Neil McSweeney in the support slot. He chose to share a number of new songs from an upcoming album release with some interesting subject inspirations being the source of compositions such as ‘Land of Cockaigne’, Strangers of Maresfield Gardens’ and ‘Atlantis’. Another preview song from this record in ‘Old Glory Blues’ was probably the pick of Neil’s half hour in the spotlight.

A final pinpointed moment when assessing the success of this show was the playing of ‘Stick Stock’ off Emily’s debut album THE GLAMOURING. This involved the sole combined voices of Emily, Lucy and Rachel, and a truly treasured moment. Throughout the gig we continued to be fascinated by the song contents and invitation given to free your mind of literal constraints. The whole presentation by Emily Portman and her Coracle Band was first class and a clear reminder to why folk music can be an enticing genre to enjoy the nuances of song generated music.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

High & Lonesome Festival - Brudenell Social Club/Left Bank, Leeds. Saturday 19th November 2016

Robert Ellis
Americana is one of the most contentious and open to individual interpretation labels attached to music in the second decade of the twenty-first century. However if you can squeeze another stab at personifying the term look no further than Robert Ellis. Too country for rock and too rock for country fits the bill neatly, as does a left field approach to making music. Throw in a stellar band and a rack of songs bulging with imaginative lyrics and you start to build a picture of an artist at the cutting edge of progressive roots music. Amongst an array of dates forming his latest tour to the UK, the eclectic and fiercely independent High and Lonesome Festival in Leeds awarded Robert the headline slot in the Left Bank Saturday evening presentation of this burgeoning event. Together with a three piece band hailed as the Perfect Strangers, Robert set about showing why he is such a respected artist and proved a fitting finale to a successful festival first day.

Like any multi-site event, choices have to be made from a personal angle which bands to see, but the organisers made it a fairly easy decision here when they billed Robert Ellis, Applewood Road and The Leisure Society as the line up in the associate festival venue of the Left Bank. So after an afternoon soaking up a variety of artists in the event’s main site – the legendary Brudenell Social Club – it was the short walk to the salubrious confines of a decommissioned church in the heart of a gritty Leeds inner city suburb.

Applewood Road
Applewood Road is a side project for three talented performers spanning oceans in their residency and homeland. Together the trio of Amy Speace, Amber Rubarth and Emily Baker announced their arrival as a recording entity with a delightful self-titled album earlier this year. A handful of UK visits have promoted the record and it was a privilege to finally catch one of their shows in a venue built for the angelic voice. The trio responded with a stunning reproduction of a fair proportion of the record alongside a mesmeric cover of ‘Losing My Religion’ and a tribute to that other fabled ‘trio’ – Dolly, Linda and Emmylou – by following in their footsteps with another version of the much loved Jean Ritchie song ‘My Dear Companion’.

While collaboration is a strong theme for Applewood Road, Emily Barker came across as the most diverse contributor adding percussion, banjo and harmonica to a sound sparse enough to let the songs flourish and prosper. Vocally the trio share a common bond with the three voices frequently melting into an eternal harmonious pool. From a song perspective, all the chosen pieces for this thirty-five minute set ached with sheer beauty, and an arm twist would probably elevate ‘Lovin’ Eyes’ to the first among equals.

Charlotte Carpenter
Sandwiched between the predominately stateside origin of Robert Ellis and Applewood Road was an established English folk pop trio in The Leisure Society, appearing this evening in a slimmed down trio format. Essentially the band landed in a halfway slot between the acoustic charm of Applewood Road and the full on electrification of Robert’s band. Although on this occasion, the fiddle, acoustic guitar and keyboards lent more in the direction of the act they followed rather than one we had yet to witness. A link between all three artists scheduled for the Left Bank was a debut appearance in my presence. Whilst The Leisure Society were always going to be hard pushed to make a greater impact here than their fellow artists, the songs shared and the accompanying style possessed much merit with the forty minute set upholding the spirit of thriving independent song writing with an alternative spin – the true ethos of the High and Lonesome Festival.

Nathan Boules
Clad in a bizarre suit and a matching persona frequently dipping into surreal territory, Robert Ellis wasted little time in creating an appealing first impression and followed this up with a raft of serious songs from his two highly innovative album releases. The surroundings were to prove no inhibition for the band led by ace lead guitarist Kelly Doyle. Robert himself fluctuated between guitar and keyboards, forever proving a compelling front man whether majoring on the irreverent or the informed. Learning a lot about an artist is always a good sign of a successful gig and Robert left plenty to ponder with the theme of songs such as ‘Elephant’, ‘Houston’, ‘Singalong’ and ‘Couples Skate’. The hour on stage vanished too quickly, but fully grasping the aura around Robert Ellis was accomplished by the time the curfew won the day.

Albert AF Ekenstam
While no report can be made on the Saturday evening Brudenell bands, the afternoon session in the venue’s two music rooms threw up an interesting mix of artists covering a multitude of styles. Solo, band, electric, acoustic, guitar and banjo were just some of the assorted offerings from an event kicking off at 1:00 PM and lasting into a second day with a trimmed down Sunday selection. Each artist had just thirty minutes to grab the attention of a floating audience with four probably doing enough to warrant reflection four days later.

Leading this pack is an artist known from many listings and appearing in the main room in a full band format. Charlotte Carpenter shared an appetising style of appealing indie-rock reflecting a variety of moods at contrasting paces. She meant business with the rack of electric guitars and a fellow picker who delved into slide lap playing for one of the set’s slower songs. While her style was quintessentially English, two further artists to impress had the roots firmly in the US. California folk songstress Jenny O came across as a curious performer, yet there was an endearing charm to the way she presented her songs and being engulfed in her captivating performance was not a bad way to spend half an hour.

Jenny O
As previously indicated, this was the time allotted to all the afternoon performances and banjoist Nathan Boules used his moment in the spotlight to extract some smart tunes from his timeless art form. Maybe there is a time shelf limit to a deluge of banjo instrumentals but half an hour kept the positivity in credit. Earlier in the afternoon, Swedish guitarist Albert AF Ekenstam had impressed with a selection of atmospheric moody tunes, hinting at a slice of Scandinavian noir. Fair play to the organisers with getting the acts on swiftly, with a constant flow of music being on offer to the early birds prepared for a short amble from one room in the venue to another.

Previous set ups for the High and Lonesome Festival included a similar style of line up, but in a couple of city centre venues. This year’s did have a more settled base with the bulk of the action taking place in the Brudenell across the weekend. However as soon as the two key festival protagonists from a personal angle formed the bulk of the schedule in the aptly named Left Bank, the potential event highlight was narrowed down to a binary choice.

Applewood Road and Robert Ellis were peerless exponents of Americana/roots music at varying ends of a vast spectrum, but both brought something special to this event. While Robert Ellis had the privilege of the introduction and a highly charged entry into the 2016 festival set pantheon, it is perhaps Applewood Road and their divine rendition of the succinct three part harmony which warrants the final word.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Press Release: New Single from Aaron Watson

Following a premiere on Rolling Stone Country last week, Aaron Watson has released a brand new single 'Outta Style', available to download and stream now. "'Outta Style' is the story of me and my girl," says Watson, whose wife also inspired the lead single on his latest album 'The Underdog' - 'That Look'. An upbeat tribute to love and loyalty, 'Outta Style' finds Watson tipping his hat to some of the country artists who influenced his music.

With the release of 'The Underdog' in February 2015, Aaron Watson made country music history by becoming the first ever independent artist to debut an album at #1 on the Billboard Country Chart.  This achievement was highlighted by the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016 with an installation commemorating this milestone and showcasing some of the artefacts gathered throughout his career that brought him to this place. Since the release, he has taken his tour around the world performing sold out headline shows from Boise to Boston; San Diego to Chicago; and across the pond in Italy, France, Sweden, and the UK. Press continues to praise his music, with rave reviews describing Watson as “a proud country traditionalist” - Rolling Stone, “winning in country music” - NPR, “one of the few real cowboys left in country music” -iTunes, “puts the bite back into traditional country music” - Rolling Stone. In a world where country music at times seems to have lost its identity and roots, Aaron remains firmly committed to staying true to his music and the brand; the epitome of representing Texas, cowboy hats, buckles, and fiddles that have served country music and country music lovers for generations, while always staying focused on the core values that have brought his unprecedented success to this point: faith, family, and fans.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Sara Watkins - The Bullingdon, Oxford. Friday 11th November 2016

A couple of years ago Jason Ringenberg paid tribute to those in the teaching profession during one of his UK gigs. This evening Sara Watkins trumped that by dedicating ‘Tenderhearted’ to teachers, social workers and volunteers before delivering a song epitomising the way she uses her talent to make meaningful music. This extraordinary ability to mix vocal skill, song writing expertise and multi-instrumental virtuosity is reaping rewards in this phase of her career as a flourishing solo artist. Solo was the word tonight as any misguided assumption that she would tour the new album in some kind of band format was laid to rest as she pulled off the one woman show with a stunning performance.

You only had to hear the lead track from the new album to grasp that this was a breakout release. Breakthrough wouldn’t be the right word for a highly respected artist at the top of her game for a long time whether as a fledgling member of iconic roots revival pioneers Nickel Creek, part of the Watkins Family Hour or just plain Sara Watkins – the solo performer. Yet there was something radically effective about the spirit of ‘Move Me’, even in tonight’s playing which lacked the full force of the band version while never falling short on sentiment. Sara herself described the album as the result of personal transition and she has to be congratulated on making YOUNG IN ALL THE WRONG WAYS one of my favourite albums of 2016.

The key to the success of this Oxford show, once again brought to us by the popular Empty Rooms Promo, was the way Sara utilised the diversity of her four chosen instruments. The trademark fabulous fiddle playing was on full show with a variety of bow and picking styles utilising every inch of the majestic wand. Early in the set she treated the audience to the Swedish inspired fiddle tune ‘Jefferson’ which appeared on her debut solo album and instantly wowed a well-attended seated gathering. While an even use of acoustic guitar and ukulele spread the effect of the accompanying sound, it was the pure nostalgia she extracted from her Gibson 140 which rivalled the fiddle for the show’s stand out musical moments.

Sara’s eighty minutes in the spotlight saw her feature material from a range of sources and time period. Harking back to her Nickel Creek days, the crowd were invited to join in on the whistling part of ‘Anthony’. In recognising some of the duo work she has done with brother Sean, and a love for Jackson Browne, a version of ‘Your Bright Baby Blues’ was supremely delivered and thoroughly enjoyed. This was one of three covers chosen which hasn’t appeared on a Sara album alongside ‘Young Man in America’, a tribute to her friend and peer Anais Mitchell, and a version of Buddy Holly’s ‘Early in the Morning’ in the encore slot. At this point she did refer to ailments making her voice a little ragged, but any effect was barely noticed in a show which continually sparkled right from the opening track ‘Too Much’.

The new album was heartily featured throughout with Sara executing the vocal range in the title track impressively. Instant popular songs from the record were at the core of the set list including ‘One Last Time’, ‘Say So’ and ‘Like New Year’s Day’. Unfortunately ‘The Truth Won’t Set Us Free’ didn’t make the cut, but maybe next time. From her eponymous debut solo album we were treated to a sublime version of the John Hartford song ‘Long Hot Summer Days’, complete with fine fiddle and a rousing chorus, while from its subsequent follow up record ‘You and Me’ cemented itself as one of the strongest songs in Sara’s back catalogue.

Sara herself was in appreciative, spritely and humble spirit throughout the show. Eager to connect with the audience, she shared some insight and inspiration including her early fiddling days in Southern California and the recent touring association with Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz as part of the’ I’m With Her’ project. During those shows which toured the UK, we had a glimpse of Sara’s talent in collaboration, but it was a welcome experience to enjoy the full repertoire in the solo spotlight.

The support for the evening came from Isle of Wight based singer-songwriter Claydon Connor. With a style heavily influenced by the individual country and folk performer, he possessed all the attributes of an artist capable of carving out a significant career on the UK circuit. His performance was in synch with the sentiment of the evening and leaving a favourable impression is one of the core objectives of opening for a more established artist. Without doubt more will be heard of Claydon in the future and opportunities like this evening will likely to continue as time progresses.

Sara summed up this UK tour as an opportunity to re-connect with the stripped down basics of the new album, a record that she shared with many others during its evolution. While it would be useful to experience the songs in the band sphere, this method of showcase worked extremely well and the innate talent was fully exposed in all its finesse. YOUNG IN ALL THE WRONG WAYS has been the year’s most refreshing record and the crux of Sara Watkins is that not only does she possess all the credentials, she uses them in the right way. A true talent of our time and the architect of a memorable show this evening. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Black Feathers - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Wednesday 9th November 2016

Midway through this gig, the penny dropped on what makes The Black Feathers one of the most precious duet harmony acts on the UK folk and acoustic circuit. Apart from the impeccable timing, a sweet sound surrounded by a dark wrapping and dovetailed voices, it is the way they interject the golden moment of anticipated silence so effectively into many of their songs. The dramatic effect leaves the listener hooked on where the piece is heading and is borne out of an inherent talent to harness the beauty of the duet.

It took a while for this Gloucestershire based duo to hook up with the Kitchen Garden Café and now sealed, it is a union made for the idealistic music listener. To comment that their debut performance at Birmingham’s premier listening venue was a resounding success is a dramatic understatement and surely a trend set for subsequent visits. Right from the irony of opening track ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ through to an inclusive rousing unplugged cover of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ to bring down the curtain, Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes consistently showed the finesse of their craft.

There is no element of doubt that their multiple American excursions are playing a significant role in forming The Black Feathers. There are definite southern sensibilities creeping into their sound as well as a certain bias towards the sad song genre. Long may this influence remain as the whole aura around The Black Feathers soaks up the mystique of a sound attracted to the male-female harmony duet orchestrated by a single acoustic guitar.

SOAKED TO THE BONE, their debut full length release, hit the market earlier this year and has refused to be budged from playlists by likeminded peer acts. This evening the album was fondly delved into by Sian and Ray with ‘Arclight’ soaring above the rest with its atmospheric majesty, pushed to the limit by ‘Down to the River’, ‘Homesick’ and ‘All For You’. On this record the duo braved the wrath of bandwagon jumping by covering a version of the Dylan-Adele populist piece ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and pulled it off with spine tingling excellence. The only food for thought is that maybe future covers should be in the re-interpretative mould that they dealt with the classic ‘Spirit in the Sky’. Lofty praise for the work of The Black Feathers though is stating that the only difference between the covers and the originals is a sense of familiarity.

On the topic of originals, we were served a couple of newbies in their brace of gig sets, one hot off the notepad with the title recalled from a significant memorable chorus ‘The Ghost Has Eaten Well’. The other fresh song had its origins in a Pennsylvania log cabin, with ‘Holy Water’ leaking out as one of the most personal songs to date from the duo’s brief repertoire. The good news is that both sounded great and re-assurance that one day SOAKED TO THE BONE will have a worthy follow up. Before we leave the track analysis, a quick word on two songs picked from their initial EP including the sole love composition ‘You Will Be Mine’ and the lyrically smart ‘Open Book’.

Prior to The Black Feathers entertaining a respectable Kitchen Garden Café debut turnout, Birmingham based band (in a slimmed down trio format for the show) The Lost Notes opened proceedings with a similar acoustic sound and thriving mixture of duets, three part harmonies, memorable guitar pieces and a batch of songs that held your attention. Mutual respect was interchanged between both acts and recognition that grass roots music requires supportive camaraderie.

The grass roots may not be the long term home of The Black Feathers when judgement day arrives and the re-alignment of music justice sieves out the crap. Until then the enlightened few will revel in an act that makes music the right way and does it rather well. The grass roots may not be such a bad place when unfiltered music is there to be enjoyed.