Friday, 19 December 2014

Top 20 Gigs of 2014

Upon attending over 80 gigs this year, it is only courteous to commend those I come across on the circuit who far exceed this number and refrain from the vanity of a blog. Yet with little shame, the Top Gigs of 2014 has been extended to that other round number of 20 to give further praise to the ever increasing quality of live music that frequents venues of vastly contrasting sizes. So here goes and it’s a pleasure to share a fare portion of my favourite concert experiences of the last twelve months:

All individual reviews are linked to the artist.


A crossover audience needed to appreciate that they had just been in the presence of as pure and true country music as you could ever likely see. The whole show fizzed from start to finish and evolved into a perfect jamboree of roots instrumentation. When the Old Crow Medicine Show land upon our shores they rarely fail to disappoint and left an imprint of high quality music on a packed audience. The added bonus of Parker Millsap supporting iced an already sumptuous cake.


If you wanted live proof of the gender chasm that exists in mainstream country music then witnessing Kacey Musgraves strut her way around the stage and pay utmost respect to every ounce of tradition was a blessing. The whole show oozed of professional class and showcased a young lady with the genre at her feet. Kacey owned every cubic metre of the airspace and delivered an album cemented in country music legacy with a tantalising tease of what is to come.



On several visits to the UK this year, Mary Gauthier further sealed an inseparable bond with audiences over here and intensely transfixed a Birmingham crowd with stellar song writing, story-telling and general aura. ‘Christmas in Paradise’ was just as poignant in October as it will be this holiday season and like so many of Mary’s songs sung live, leave her guitar and vocals before heading straight to your soul.




Dolly owned the wider UK music scene this summer and seeing her arena show in Birmingham proved that the hype for once was genuine. A born entertainer who balances the ultimate crossover appeal, you know that Dolly (the surname is redundant) will find and connect with your sense of appreciation. Regardless whether you were more’ Rocky Top' than ‘9 to 5’ or vice-versa, love was universal in a venue that’s not the usual domain of country music artists.


With their latest album being a pristine live effort, it was a joy to see Ali and JT re-create a little part of SPACE in the cosy confines of the Kitchen Garden Café. While in the throes of a life changing experience with the addition of baby Ida, the seasoned musicians appear settled in their Birds of Chicago format. This show proved to be the perfect platform for them to share their multiple talents.



When in rampant flow and full throttle, it is hard pushed to find a better UK combo playing a brand of meaningful country music than this Alex and Hannah Eton-Wall led band. Maybe gigs aren’t as frequent as fans would like but this makes each Redlands event special. Melodies, harmonies, pedal steel and guitars, the highlights are endless and when you focus on this band, the surroundings are irrelevant.


SONGS was the name of his new album and that simply summed up this stunning show by a singer-songwriter carrying on the great tradition of Oklahoma troubadours. There is no pretence about John Fullbright and certainly no façade. His live shows are a deep emporium of observation and emotion with musicianship and vocal acumen to transcend the sphere of his appreciation.

In a year which saw a resurgence in country soul (re; Frazey Ford, Shinyribs, Danny Wilson), Willy Vlautin's latest project swarmed the small room at the Hare and Hounds with the blissful vocals of Amy Boone and a sound rich in keys, twang and brass. Being up close and personal to such artistry was a mesmerising experience and many were overjoyed when Willy repeated the shows in different towns towards the end of the year.

Sooner or later, Danny will get a Birmingham turnout worthy of his immense and entertaining talent. In the meantime the privileged few will remain the chosen ones as the Champs carry on regardless, in a style successful in extracting the best bits of country, rock, folk and soul. A Danny free of ailments, a better sound system and a slightly improved turnout saw this year’s show edge into the Top 10.





The blessed country dulcet tones of Zoe Muth finally made their way to the English Midlands c/o Austin and Seattle with the added bonus of a live show that rocked in more imaginable ways than the records. So top marks to Zoe’s touring band, a very healthy Shrewsbury turnout and Zoe herself for playing the delightful and cutting masterpiece ‘If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart.)’ Worth every nickel and dime of the expense to get there.




The gig year opened with Blair sharing the stage with his father at a village hall. By May he was taking city venues by storm with his excellently assembled band and a sound prepared to venture outside the confines of folk. This exciting development from Blair showed an artist prepared to experiment and anybody with his talent dipping their toe into Americana rock is worth a listen.



If Dolly wooed the country mainstream in the UK this year then Sturgill had a similar effect on those with alternative and Americana leanings. By all account his full band shows took his live presence up a couple of notches but he still impressed solo, especially when backed by the Scottish duo of Daniel Meade and Lloyd Reid. On a stifling hot summer’s night you knew you were in the company of an artist changing the country music game for those with class.


This show was all about listening to the glorious songs from one of the year’s best albums live. Both Shelly and Charity did not disappoint with Ally holding it all together with the guitar skills you expect from a performer with serious career credentials. The intimacy brought the magical songs to life and sealed the deal for a liaison which began with an introduction as a supporting artist in March.



World class purveyors of western swing are a must see when they hit your area and Hot Club of Cowtown showed this label was no fake when delighting a Midlands crowd. With Jake Erwin giving a masterclass in slapping a bass alongside Elana and Whit pitting their skills, the trio eased, weaved and hurtled through a set of timeless songs to demonstrate an art form safe in the hands of contemporary artisans.



The Lindi Ortega faithful had another winter helping of Canada’s finest exponent of dark country music with a city centre gig this time bringing a more populous turnout. Lindi, another artist to be free of ailments this year, raised the game of her live show on this visit and we rocked with her rock n’ roll twang and still metaphorically joined her on that ‘Greyhound to LA’.







Many music residents of East Nashville make the trip to the alt-country and Americana listening venues of the UK but few have had the instant effect of Doug and Telisha Williams. This time a headline tour rolled into the fringe of the Midlands and we were exposed to a thrilling evening of fine song, sincere entertainment and a duo steeped in integrity.


A mainstream country music artist playing a Midlands venue is a rare event but one that should be expanded on the evidence of this show. Darius is a king entertainer, successful in whatever style he has put his hand to. Any pre-gig negativity that was borne out of missing the Frazey Ford country soul show on the same evening across the West Midlands evaporated in what proved to be one of the surprise gigs of the year, in terms of anticipation versus appreciation.



The Lovell Sisters unveiled in full their new 2014 southern rock sound and folks at one of Birmingham’s premier alternative venues held their breath in amazement. Amidst all the amplified instrumentation, the chemistry of Megan and Rebecca was still intact leaving you to wonder what else there is in the Larkin Poe locker.







A revitalised and refreshed Cara called into the Kitchen Garden Café on her latest tour springing life into songs both old and new. Assisted by a new sidekick in fellow Canadian J.D. Edwards, there was a renewed belief and sparkle in Cara and this is set to be transpired in new music soon.








The current trend of the clergy throwing opening the doors of their grand buildings for roots music shows continued in 2014. Sarah Jarosz was an ideal artist to test out the acoustics in the vast surroundings of this house of worship and her vocals proved the perfect fit. Although the temptation to try off mic was resisted, this show had a packed audience drooling at such prodigious talent.


So that concludes the gig year of 2014. Stay tuned for loads more in 2015 and don’t forget to the check out a similar post highlighting the top festival sets of the year. 

Top 10 Festival Sets of 2014

Many thanks for supplying the following images:
Kacey Musgraves - PG Photography
Sturgill Simpson - Ericksson Imagery
Sarah Jarosz - Mike Trotman (Empty Rooms Promotions) 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Top 10 Festival Sets of 2014

The 2014 festival season was vastly curtailed from the previous year when a Canadian road trip saw seven days spent at various outdoor musical gatherings. However where the quantity was lacking, the quality more than made up. So at the eleventh hour, here is a reflection of the best ten sets seen at events during the year, which to supplement the lower number included the C2C Festival:

1.Rosanne Cash – Cambridge Folk Festival

Opinion was divided on Rosanne’s Saturday evening headline slot at Cambridge. One respected observer likened it too much to listening to the album but for me it brought one of the year’s best records to life. The stories surrounding Rosanne’s mystical journey around the South were captivating alongside the near perfect band presence led by her husband John Leventhal.


2.Jason Isbell – Cambridge Folk Festival

This first opportunity to see Jason live met all the expectations of an artist fast heading towards legendary status in the world of Americana music. The lack of his full band was easily compensated by Amanda Shires on fiddle and the music they are now making together has a moving and extraordinary elegance about it. Close observers to me would have switched position 1 and 2 and Jason’s fine performance came within a whisker of agreeing with that.

3.Dixie Chicks – Country 2 Country Festival

The scheduling of country music’s all-time favourite female trio at the second C2C Festival in London was totally out of the blue and proved to be one of only a handful of appearances during their brief reunion period. Yet for one hour on that Saturday evening in March, the years were well and truly rolled back with a glimpse into Dixie Chick heaven. A one off? Maybe, but eleven years on from the ‘nearby’ scene of the crime, a packed arena was humbly grateful.


4.Sarah Jarosz – Cambridge Folk Festival

After waiting a while to see Sarah, it was a case of three appearances in six months including twice in three days. This afternoon set at Cambridge probably saw Sarah at her most relaxed and just eclipsed the church and Symphony Hall slots. The enclosed venue on this festival site brought a greater focus on her beautiful voice and the superb band assembled for the UK tour.



5.Hannah Aldridge – Maverick Festival

With her striking stage poise and ability to capture live the emotion of the record, Hannah confirmed her status as one of the finds of the year. Taking a rightful place at the heart of the Maverick Festival’s scheduling decision to make Saturday evening in The Barn, the domain of the female artist, Hannah raised her imposing stature another notch to reel in a new set of fans.

6.Mary Gauthier – Maverick Festival

Mary rounded off her weekend at the festival, after a key note speech at the AMAUK Conference, with a super Saturday evening slot capturing the spirit of Americana and mesmerising an anticipated gathering. Wit, stories, sing-alongs and a stream of career defining songs filled the Suffolk air as Mary easily became one of the year’s highest profile regular visitors from the States.


7.Zac Brown Band – Country 2 Country Festival

Another set which divided opinion. This one a touch more vociferous as the highly successful crossover band rocked the O2 Arena a little more than some folk wanted. However from a personal viewpoint, the Zac Brown Band amp it up in the right way and there was ample evidence of their country and folk rock credentials in this high energetic headline slot.


8.Holly Williams – Maverick Festival

Having seen Holly at either end of her UK tour, she was definitely more in the groove as the visit came to a close at Maverick in a Saturday evening all female Barn slot. The addition of guitarist Anderson East supplied an extra dimension to her live show as Holly showed that the Williams clan are still going strong into the third generation, with Holly herself adding to the fourth by the year’s end.


9.Lindi Ortega – Cambridge Folk Festival

Following on from her winter UK tour, Lindi made a surprise fleeting summer re-visit to play a couple of dates including this exciting set at Cambridge, bringing a dose of dark ‘North’ Americana to England’s premier folk festival. The rapturous reception Lindi received suggested the festival goers were up for a little bit of variety and she certainly didn’t disappoint.





10.Dierks Bentley – Country 2 Country Festival


Eight years on from seeing Dierks play an extremely steaming Borderline venue in London, he made a triumphant return to the capital playing a bold brash set but packed with plenty of subtle emotion For many, Dierks was the highlight of the weekend and this was aided by him bringing the very strong new album ‘Riser’ along to share with his legions of new found fans.




Mary Gauthier, Holly Williams and Hannah Aldridge images courtesy of 4000 Miles to Nashville

Dierks Bentley, Dixie Chicks and Zac Brown images courtesy of Hels Bels Photography

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ronnie Fauss - Built to Break Normaltown Records

If you like your country music raw, raucous, robust and prefixed alt, then Ronnie Fauss is a must listen artist. Embedded in Texas dirt and the state’s passion for merging marvellous music into the folk tales of life, Ronnie raids the listening emporium of cultured connoisseurs with a release void of restraint and energised by the power of song. BUILT TO BREAK formally hit the airwaves and the homes of smart record collectors on November 4 to bring Ronnie’s back catalogue to three full length albums and a couple of Eps. Support continues to come in the form of Normaltown Records, a division of the highly influential New West Records, but the record possesses many stand alone qualities to sell itself – if only the world was that fair.

For me the true magic of alt-country is where it harnesses the momentum of post punk new wave and fans the flames with a touch of roots instrumentation and no little amount of twang. Ronnie achieves this with an eleven song collection of near 100% originals running the optimum length of the playing of both sides of an old 33”. Without delay the album hits top gear from the first track, the crashing guitar laden ‘Another Train’, and only periodically pauses to extract some country gold, embodied in the duet ‘Never Gonna Last’ sang in unison with Jenna Paulette.

Ronnie shared the production duties with Sigardur Birkis and its recording location fluctuated from Tennessee to Texas via Illinois. The finished article is a full length record attracting the gushing compliment of revealing intrinsic high spots upon each listen. However one constant is the sheer magnitude of the heavy weight country rocker ‘Eighteen Wheels’. Piano fuelled in places and recorded with respected Texas musician Rhett Miller, this road song namechecks listening to Hank, Waylon, Willie, Dylan, Cash and Emmylou but adding this track to your in-car playlist will not see it out of place. A growing candidate for album highlight is the highly charged closer ‘Come on Down’. Anthemic in sound, wrapped in segments of sublime pedal steel and resolute in message, the power of song to reflect life is packaged neatly into this spirited finale.

With the digitalisation of music breaking down borders, there is no reason why Ronnie’s appreciation in UK and Europe cannot grow tenfold. Whether or not practicalities are in place for overseas travel, the vision of Ronnie playing live endlessly threads through listening to this CD and many of the tracks especially some of the upbeat ones such as ‘The Natural End’, ‘A Place Out in the Country’ and ‘Old Life’, are built for the stage. Of the remaining tracks, the snappy beat and an injection of twang flavours the melodic ‘The Big Catch’, while acoustic vibes feature heavily on the only non-original number ‘Song for Zulu’. A similar low fi feel attaches itself to ‘I Can’t Make You Happy’ and the apologetically titled ‘I’m Sorry Baby (That’s Just It Way Goes)’ probably goes as close as any song to ultimately defining the true sound of Ronnie Fauss.

At a time of the year when the whole online music community goes into overdrive with reflective lists, spare a little time to listen to some late calendar releases which can get a little lost. However BUILT TO BREAK by Ronnie Fauss is built to last and has the legs to continue to gain momentum well into 2015 and beyond. Hopefully increased availability and greater awareness of this fine record will help raise Ronnie’s profile in the UK.

Exclusive link to purchase the album

www.ronniefauss.com

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Martin Simpson - Red Lion Folk Club, Kings Heath, Birmingham Wednesday 10th December 2014

Spend a couple of hours at a Martin Simpson show and coming out inspired, awed, educated, informed and entertained is a non-negotiable exit feeling. Expecting more than just the song is generally a given at a folk club show, but the extent to which Martin presents his slide guitar skills, brings his stories, observations and experiences to life to maximum effect makes him a firm favourite on the circuit and beyond. If you have an added interest in American roots music then the place to be on this Wednesday evening was a packed upstairs function room in Kings Heath’s popular Red Lion pub, the long term home for the folk club of the same name.

This is the third time I’ve seen Martin live in the last eighteen months and each show has got progressively longer. First up was a support slot for Bonnie Raitt at the Birmingham Symphony Hall followed by a headline gig in Bromsgrove. This show went even further by the club granting him two sets which easily exceeded a couple of hours. Even as the curfew approached, Martin decided to show his prowess on the banjo and this could have been so extended further but time was the ultimate enemy.

It would be impossible to even begin to recount the depth of Martin’s interim tales and it has to be said that many of them are staples of his shows but he never tires of telling them and positive reception from the audience rarely wanes. My favourites are from his time spent in the USA and there are enlightening stories encapsulating Martin’s discovery, love and passion for the blues. Martin is still peddling his excellent 2013 album VAGRANT STANZAS and on perfect cue his extended Delta tale ends with the delightful track ‘Delta Dreams’.

Martin’s extensive travels and stereoscopic interest in traditional song across the English speaking world takes us to Australia, Canada, the US and of course much musing from all corners of the British Isles, extended from Cornwall to Scotland. Although 2014 is shaping up to be a monumental year in the folk world for war centenary songs, Martin’s emotional piece ‘Jackie and Murphy’ is surely amongst the most poignant and memorable. The remainder of the show was full of many snippets including nods to Dylan and Waits as well as the amazing number of UK folk luminaries who have rubbed shoulders with Martin over the many years he has graced the music scene. All of this is laced with highly intrinsic guitar playing hailed by many as a leading light in the industry and given a glowing introduction by the evening’s host.

Prior to Martin taking the stage, local singer-songwriter Chris Cleverley was granted an extensive forty minute opening slot to share some of his songs, influences and more stories. Chris is gearing up for a big year in 2015 as he will finally back up his many live shows in the area with a debut record. Writing very much from the heart and soul, Chris merges warm and homely vocals with accomplished guitar playing, all aided by an increasing confidence to plug his talents. Amongst his wealth of original material, Chris spiced up his set with a Nic Jones inspired arrangement of ‘Barrack Street’ and a brand new attempt to inject a classic soul style into his repertoire.

If you only dip your toe occasionally into the world of folk and their extensive, well supported club network, then mark Martin Simpson as the artist to see. As well as witnessing an evening oozing with captivating class, you will leave with a richer mind and be more in tune with donkey war heroes, Wyoming bluesmen and of course one of the UKs best guitarists. 


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Cadillac Three - The Oobleck, Birningham Monday 8th December 2014

Towards the end of this gig, further light was shed on the sold out signs The Oobleck had posted the day before as frontman Jaren Johnston thanked the Classic Rock Mag for electing The Cadillac Three as the Best New Band thus fuelling his desire to further foster a relationship with fans over here. While there may be a growing band of followers attracted to the Nashville based trio via their country music connection, this audience was almost in unison in riding the rock crest of a wave. In truth, The Cadillac Three were just being themselves, partying hard, rejoicing their southern  roots and sailing very much on the mainstream country ticket of stealing a march into the territory of white young rock fans. This is a style they excel at and fiercely engage with their target audience.

Having seen the trio of Jaren joined by Neil Mason (drums) and Kelby Ray (lap steel) support Eric Church on his UK tour in March, there was little mystery to the style of merry music making inspired by a heavy beat and an undiluted dose of southern rock, but this evening the extended set, and ensuing spotlight, led to far more posturing and a touch of Big and Rich antics, albeit no guitars were set alight. With just their sole album, TENNESSEE MOJO, to call from, the guys strung out a near hour and a quarter set to the delight of those present. The packed crowd were close to reciting the lyrics near word by word and submissive in adulation to Jaren’s every beck and call. 

Due to not approaching country music from a classic rock background, the style of The Cadillac Three is always going to be on the peripheral of the genre for me. Outlaw status is one the band would surely crave, as outlined on Neil’s tee-shirt baring four synonymous first names in Waylon, Kris, Johnny and Willie, but can that tag be applied to an artist core to Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label? Needless to say, the band do have that innate ability to entertain whether pleading ‘I’m Southern’ in the opening track to hailing ‘The South’ in an extended encore. The interim was highlighted by excellent live versions of ‘Down to the River’ and ‘White Lightning’. Of course ‘Whiskey Soaked Redemption’ was serenaded by a bottle of JD and once again thoughts crossed my mind of introducing these Americans to some serious single malt Highland distilleries to enlighten their take on the drink.

Regardless of whether The Cadillac Three are your cup of tea (or tipple of choice), they are relevant to the sound and direction of some of Nashville’s mainstream output .They are steeply enamoured in southern folklore and certainly worth catching if they are passing through your town. On this evening the band couldn’t resist the clichéd comparison of Birmingham UK with Birmingham Alabama but they were welcome visitors and subject to some Brummie hospitality. Now if only there was a little more twang from Kelby’s lap steel….. 


Roddy Frame + Miriam Jones - Birmingham Town Hall Sunday 7th December 2014

It would be cool to say that in 1988 I was listening to Steve Earle and the other New Traditionalists breathing life into country music, but in reality this urban Brit was buying 7” inch singles such as ‘Somewhere in My Heart’ by Aztec Camera. Fast forward over a quarter of a century later and a quirky series of events lead to seeing Roddy Frame blast it out to a merry band of believers in the grandeur surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall. Yet the source of this gig was to check out an up and coming singer-songwriter chosen to support Roddy and in possession of a voice wrapped in instant appeal.

However the combination of thirty minutes of Miriam Jones and two hours of Roddy Frame rolling back the years was a surprise hit and a pleasant halt to the closure of 2014’s gig curtain.With Roddy bobbing, swaying, weaving and occasionally stumbling through a mix of styles courting rock, pop, soul and a hint of new wave, Miriam supplied a steady stream of blessed high class Americana, not too discourteous to an exiled Canadian, now living in Britain but once a resident of Nashville. My radar has missed Miriam’s other releases since making Oxford her home seven years ago but an upcoming record due out in the New Year has all the potential to spread her talent far and wide.

Despite not everybody choosing to take their seats to see Miriam, and her sidekick bassist Simon Edwards, open the evening, there was sufficient appreciative applause in the hall and a sell-out of pre-release CDS during the break. Miriam chose to devote the entire output of her seven song set to tracks from the new album, titled BETWEEN GREEN AND GONE and subject to a full review in January. Each song serenely melted into the mighty atmosphere of the Town Hall with perhaps the edge Miriam applies to the vocals defining the true sound, whether accompanied by acoustic or electric guitar. There was a feeling that Miriam could have used the between song pauses to provide further insight into her as an artist, although we did learn that she originally hails from British Columbia.

With the first stage of seeking out the talent of Miriam Jones complete, it was time to sit back and let the time warp sound of Roddy Frame take control. Right from the opening bars of the opening track we were transported back to 1983 and the song which launched Aztec Camera’s assault on the upper echelons of the UK charts, ‘Oblivious’. The Roddy Frame love-in breezed through a sixteen song main set which comprehensively reflected both his Aztec Camera and solo career with sterling support from the six piece backing band. Yet it was when Roddy commanded the solo spotlight that we were treated to his prime talent especially on the lively ‘Down the Dip’ and the mid encore evocative ballad ‘Killermont Street’ relaying tales of post punk Glasgow. While some of his late 80s soul ventures were questionable, there was no denying the stature of the closing stomper ‘Back on Board’, adorned by glorious keys. 

So with the unabated retro out the way (and that 1988 song did get most folks on their feet for its pre-encore airing), it left the purpose of the evening to contemplate the new release by Miriam Jones and the heralding as one to watch in 2015. As it was the final date of the tour, Miriam sullenly commented that ‘it’s only one direction now’ but while the regal charms of the Town Hall may be out of reach in the short term, a bright future is still in place for her music. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Sharon Van Etten - The Institute, Birmingham Wednesday 26th November 2014

Sharon Van Etten is a respectful and unassuming performer who pours her heart and soul into a music rich in monodic noir yet wrapped in an alt-folk sweet sentiment. Gliding between swirling indie-anthems and pale shades of Americana, Sharon thrilled a millpond Birmingham audience on the Midlands leg of a tour to promote her latest album ARE WE THERE. In a set approaching an hour and a half, including the dual song encore, the five piece band spearheaded by Sharon (vocals/omnichord/guitars) and Heather Woods Broderick (vocals/keys) spun through a group of songs representing the past, present and future.

Sharon’s career has blossomed since she sought a move to New York City around a decade ago, settling in the creative hot spot borough of Brooklyn and soaking up the influence of metropolitan folklore. Critics have likened her to other female icons of the 70s Big Apple cool arts scene but approaching her music from an Americana angle sees comparisons in her sound and style to Lucinda Williams, although with a far greater vocal range. This presents a vocal vault of versatility fluctuating along a scale of slender Americana before nestling alongside brash indie-rock.

Sharon Van Etten first crossed my horizon as a live performer in the summer of 2013 with a daytime slot at the Calgary Folk Festival which struggled to make a significant impression in the surroundings. Fast forward a near eighteen months and a packed Library venue in Birmingham’s Institute (no intended pun on the respectful atmosphere) suited her far more. She superbly responded with an exhilarating performance, deep in emotion and supported by immense band competence. Opening with a trio of tracks from the new album, the soulful keys and mesmeric sound of ‘Tarifa’ just shaded ‘Afraid of Nothing’ and ‘Taking Chances’ with ‘Break Out’ played later highlighting further quality from this widely praised release.

The chat may have been minimal but a devoted audience held on to each word as Sharon mused about her sad song repertoire before playing a rare upbeat number, which not surprisingly missed the album cut. Described as a bit Tom Petty-esque, she did say that ‘I Don’t Want to Let You Down’ would be getting a 7 inch release in 2015 to emphasise how an artist like Sharon Van Etten is embracing the vinyl revival. Another special moment from the show for those tilting towards the folk background was when the band briefly departed leaving Sharon alone, perfectly at ease mulling over invited requests. She also used this solo segment to share a tender song written as a tribute to Karen Dalton and ‘Remembering Mountains’ showed the sheer beauty of her vocals when the sound is stripped away.

Ultimately Sharon Van Etten is adored by the indie community especially when the band gets into full gear and rebukes holding back. The encore numbers, especially ‘Serpents’ proved popular and sent a buzz around a near sold out audience who were having their polite respects rewarded. This respect was by and largely offered to support artist Marisa Anderson who played a curious instrumental opening set blending folk and blues rock. Detailed description preceded each song which partly compensated for the lyrical omission and allowed a degree of listener imagination as the tunes unfolded. If Sharon Van Etten flirts with Americana then Marisa Anderson lives and breathes it with delightful stories of caves in Kentucky, roaming around car parks at bluegrass festivals and worshipping at the feet of Doc Watson.

For a gig that came to late fruition for me as a result of a clash cancellation, the ghost of Calgary was erased and Sharon Van Etten escalated her level of appreciation. Acres of surreal substance constitute her chosen art form which echoes with a delightful darkness but presents an artist bestowed with talent spread across all facets of music making. 

www.sharonvanetten.com