Thursday, 5 July 2012

Eve Selis - Robin 2 Bilston Wednesday 4 July 2012

Eve Selis Not taken at gig
‘She lit up the sky that 4thof July’ may have had a different meaning when Gretchen Peters wrote this line for country standard, ‘Independence Day’, but with a little literary licence it would also be a perfect way of summing up this rousing performance by Eve Selis and her six piece band on yet another rainy night in Bilston. After witnessing Eve breeze into the UK the previous weekend with an impressive set at the Maverick Festival, expectations were high that an extended timeslot on stage could surpass this performance and the fairly well attended Robin 2 audience weren’t disappointed. For almost an hour and three quarters, those present were treated to a near-complete airing of her most recent, and in my opinion finest to date, album ‘Family Tree’ with the added extras of some old favourites and a couple of popular covers .
The lively and enthusiastic Eve made an early appearance on stage when introducing their very special guests who kindly accepted the invitation to make the long journey from southern California to accompany her on this segment of their UK tour. Berkley Hart is the straightforward stage name for country-folk duo Jeff Berkley and Calman Hart and the presence of such an accomplished act has the potential to raise their profile in the UK and maybe themselves becoming regular visitors to these shores in the future. The standard of their banter, musicianship and song writing far exceeded the norm you would expect for a support slot and they seized the opportunity to showcase around half a dozen tracks from their sixth and most recent album ‘Crow’. They played safe with a version of the Pete Seeger hit ‘Little Boxes’ to open the slot but showed the depth of their talent with the self composed ‘I Still Dream in California’ and the poignant ‘My Name Is Sam’.

It’s been a while since Eve has brought over her full band but in 2012 finances have allowed this and in addition to regular musical partner Mark ‘Twang’ on guitar, her stage presence was enhanced by ‘Cactus’ Jim Soldi also on guitar, Rick Nash on bass, Sharon Whyte on keyboard and accordion and the multi tasking drummer Larry Grano. This rockier and fuller sound inspires Eve to elevate her strong vocals to a different plateau where the combination of blues and soul influence helps transform the songs from recording studio to an exhilarating live performance.

In a change from her festival set, Eve opened this performance with the song ‘Any Day’ from her latest album and by the time the evening was concluded with a rousing version of ‘Stop The Train’, a further nine tracks to be found on this record were superbly delivered and it’s difficult to perceive anybody present who didn’t possess the album, leaving without a copy. Most of the tracks on ‘Family Tree’ are original recordings where Eve has had some influence on their composition with the main exceptions being Lori McKenna’s excellent song ‘Witness To Your Life’ and the Leonard Cohen standard ‘Hallelujah’. Their fine version of the latter was almost the equal of the Good Lovelies stunning acapella performance in Ross on Wye recently but while delivered in a conventional manner was certainly no second rate X-Factor- like cover. Eve was joined on stage by Calman Hart to sing the country waltz influenced title track of the new album, mainly because ‘Family Life’ started out as an incomplete tune stumbling around his head until given a new lease of life with the band’s input.  One improvement that would have enhanced the evening is the inclusion of some pedal steel especially as this is by far her most country sounding album and the live version of ‘Don’t You Feel Lonesome’ was crying out for this accompaniment.
Berkley Hart Not taken at gig

Away from ‘Family Tree’, the old favourites ‘Heart Shaped Tattoo’ and ‘Ballad of Kate Morgan’ made their usual appearances with drummer Larry Grano contributing his vocal piece to the middle verse of the latter. This was not to be the last of his vocal stints as he amusingly sprang from behind his drum kit to once again make a solo contribution, this time to one of the evening’s concluding numbers, the sing along traditional classic ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. ‘Cactus’ Jim Soldi comes into his own on the band’s version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and his guitar skills also excel on pre-encore number ‘One Day At A Time’. The oldest song from her recorded back catalogue performed on the night also warrants a mention, with the Cajun sounding ‘Ain’t Got Nothin’’, a song from her 2002 album ‘Do You Know Me’ , coming over really well.
Eve has been a frequent visitor to the Robin 2 over the last few years and this, as well as being the most attended , was probably her best performance at the venue yet. So the band and their guests may have been 6000 miles from their home celebrations  on this 4th of July but the rainy skies of Bilston were certainly lit up as the culture of American roots music continues to flourish in the UK.

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