Saturday, 26 October 2013

Otis Gibbs + Amelia Curran - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham Wednesday 23rd October 2013

Occasionally we are presented with a treasured moment when the various movers in the music industry put on an evening which includes two artists held in high esteem. So it was a great pleasure when the Kitchen Garden Café decided to host not one but two artists from the impressive BPA Live roster for one of its Wednesday evening gigs. There was sufficient diversity in the style, delivery and content of Amelia Curran and Otis Gibbs but one thing was for sure, those frequenting this lively, cosy cafe were being exposed to two of the finest singer-songwriters to cross the Atlantic and bring their own brand of North American folk music to the cream of UK listening venues.

Technically Amelia adopted the opening role but was granted an extended slot that certainly had no feel of a support set. Hailing from the Canadian Maritime province of New Foundland, Amelia possesses an acclaimed back catalogue with her 20009 HUNTER HUNTER  album the proud owner of a Juno award (Canada’s answer to the Grammys). She has visited this country on numerous occasions but this was apparently her first visit to the West Midlands and a positive reaction and feedback suggests this won’t be her last. Having to overcome that common travelling musician ailment of the irritating head cold, Amelia was committed to shake off the effects and deliver a bunch of strong compositions that expertly demonstrated her immense talent to write and play extremely effective and inspiring songs.

Amelia has twice been featured in this blog before, with a review of her latest album SPECTATORS and a couple of excellent sets at the Calgary Folk Festival in July. The recent record which hit these shores at the turn of the year was represented on the evening by half a dozen tracks including its standout number ‘San Andreas Fault’, a candidate for the strongest metaphorically titled song of the year. From the award winning album, ‘The Mistress’ is always a well-received song with ‘Bye Bye Montreal’ matching its status of lead off track in being one of the set’s better moments. Perhaps the song which had its enjoyment elevated via a live performance the most was the country feeling ‘Strangers’. Amelia’s confidence to interact and provide some background to her songs grew throughout the set but ultimately she should be judged on the mere quality of her songs and in my book they are definitely top notch.

Otis Gibbs needs very little introduction to those who regularly frequent venues hosting Americana artists in this country and on this comprehensive evening of high quality music he delivered a pair of informative, entertaining and ultimately memorable sets of perceptive travelling musician material. Always conscious that there may be Otis Gibbs novices in the room, the staple tale of singing old country Jimmy Rodgers songs for a drunken ‘uncle’ never tires after many listens, while the moving memorial to a lost friend immortalised in the song ‘Something More’ always leaves a poignant mark.

His recent fund raising activity to finance the next record was an unqualified success though just falling short of reaching the mark to see a removal of the trademark beard. While never one to give much away, the first set appeared to possess some new material but the wait for a new release is likely to extend into the first half of next year. For me, the second set saw Otis move up the gears and deliver what I consider to be some of his finest material. It was great to see ‘Get Me Out of Detroit’ restored to the set list especially at the conclusion of an amusing recollection of getting his first tattoo and an encounter with a notorious motor cycle gang. No Otis Gibbs concert is complete without the iconic ‘Small Town Saturday Night’ featuring as well as the beautiful ‘Karlov Most’ being the crowning song of the evening.

However one Otis Gibbs song which has been a constant grower was probably the standout song on the evening. ‘Kansas City’ with the fantastic line ‘7 hours in a car, 45 minutes singing in a bar’ is an anthem to the travelling musician and this track is now definitely nestled amongst the top echelons of Otis Gibbs excellence.

Catching the prolific touring Otis Gibbs is not too difficult and he should always be witnessed on his many tours. Hopefully the next one will see a rolling out of the new material and further proof that good things do come out of Wannamaker, Indiana. However I want to leave the final word with Amelia Curran and do recommend you get acquainted, if not already, with this superb Canadian talent. These double headers certainly have their merit and hopefully there is more to come in the future.

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