Thursday, 31 January 2013

Annie Dressner + Louise Petit - Ort Cafe Birmingham Saturday 26 January 2013

As the first, and hopefully last, of the winter snow melted away, the time finally arrived, after a month’s break, for the 2013 gig season to commence. The Ort Café is a relative newcomer to the Birmingham live music scene and this small community based arts venue is aiming to provide an outlet for up and coming acoustic artists, amongst its many other cultural activities. It possesses a similar ethos to other small venues located within the neighbouring suburbs of Moseley and Kings Heath, and thus providing a focal point in the often decried and misunderstood Balsall Heath area, barely a mile or so from the city centre.

Annie Dressner 
The purpose of this initial visit to the venue was to catch two fine singer-songwriter artists who impressed with their debut releases last year and had favourable features on this site. Annie Dressner originates from New York but now resides in Cambridge, UK and had included the gig in a short tour around the UK to co-promote her current full length album and a follow up EP due out in the spring. Louise Petit is a more locally based performer who regularly plays city centre locations when venturing from her Staffordshire home. She currently has a five track EP out but is keen to promote other songs that will hopefully form part of a future release.

Annie Dressner opened the evening with a ten song set to confirm live the undoubted potential from listening to her recorded material. Aided by the ubiquitous acoustic guitar and the collaborative assistance of Paul Goodwin on keyboards, Annie confidently delivered her songs in her own imitable way possessing a soft enchanting vocal style that straddles authentic folk and genuine Americana. The set was bookended by two of the many impressive songs from 2012’s STRANGERS WHO KNEW EACH OTHER’S NAMES. ‘September’ opened proceedings while the jaunty ‘Fly’ brought the performance to a suitable conclusion, just short of an hour later. In between Annie also featured the album’s title track, ‘How Am I Supposed To Be’ ,‘When I See Stars’ and the track ‘Brooklyn’, not about her home New York borough but a place she fondly refers to.

During the evening Annie was keen to promote her upcoming EP titled EAST TWENTIES. As a preview she elected to play three tracks. ‘Flame’, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘I Can’t Forget’ and on first listen seemed to indicate a more tender sound but these songs will no doubt be subject to greater scrutiny and analysis as the launch date approaches. The set also saw Annie pay tribute to the late US singer-songwriter/musician Elliott Smith with a cover of his ‘Between the Bars’. Hopefully Annie now has the material to develop her live presence into a comprehensive show and it would be superb if somehow she was in a position to bring a full band on the road. Her music warrants that.
Louise Petit and her band

Louise Petit is developing into more of an entity now with her own vocal and acoustic skills being constantly supported by the presence of a small band. Tim Heymerdinger adds the rhythmic percussion while Russ Sargeant contributes to the fuller sound by being responsible for the presence of the double bass. On this evening, a guest guitarist joined the trio for some of the more up tempo numbers including the opener ‘Love is Pure’ and the excellent ‘Demons’ which brought the main set to a satisfying conclusion.

These two numbers are part of the EP, FEAR AND MY OTHER FRIENDS and the three remaining tracks from this release were also incorporated within the set, These are ‘A Fading Light’, the harmonious ukulele led ‘You Loved Me First’ and the haunting ‘Ghosts’. The ‘Demons’ song from the EP is set to get further exposure by being included in Fatea magazine’s spring showcase sessions free download titled Sketches. This will align Louise with other aspiring UK acoustic acts.

By interchanging acoustic guitar and ukulele, Louise and the band are able to cement a fused Americana/folk sound with a hint of pop that could evolve into some commercial opportunities. The impressive vocal range of Louise gives further credence to this possibility as well as the well-timed backing harmonies. The set also included half a dozen songs that have the potential to be the bedrock of a future release with ‘Tree Song’, ‘Plastic and Glue’ and ‘To the Sharks’ being the ones that caught the ear. Hopefully these tracks will evolve into some recorded version that enables wider listening and enjoyment.

So a positive start to the New Year with further proof of a healthy acoustic music scene bubbling under the surface. However additional and continued support is required to enable these artists to flourish and prosper. So a plea is made to further check them out either live, recorded or online. 

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