Thursday, 28 February 2013

Lindi Ortega - Hare and Hounds Kings Heath Birmingham Wednesday 27th February 2013

©Ian Dunn ©Principlephotography
Every now and again the intelligentsia of the UK music press pluck a talented artist from the fringes of the Nashville mainstream country scene and expose them to an unsuspecting audience who are not necessarily avid consumers of this style of music. Following hot on the heels on the impact of Caitlin Rose a couple of years back, attention is currently focussing on Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindi Ortega, a performer who seems at one with what she’s striving to achieve.

Despite the growing national radio airplay, this current tour remains low key thus ensuring Lindi has the opportunity to connect with her ever increasing list of admirers. The candlelit tables at the Hare and Hounds may have been more akin to the gentler performers who play the venue but the engulfing dry ice added to the mystique of the journey Lindi and her sidekick guitarist, introduced simply as Tom from Canada, was about to take the audience on.

The real life journey of Lindi originated as a stalwart of the Toronto indie scene before heading south and the calling of Music City. Nashville may be her current home but musically the ride can take you anywhere. This is best epitomised by the outstanding ‘Cigarettes and Truckstops’, one of the best road songs to emerge in recent years. Its mid- set inclusion on the evening had the desired effect of vividly imagining the heartfelt emotion of that trip all the way to LA. Its airing along with the accompanying electric twang was an anticipated highlight that didn’t disappoint.
Over the duration of the evening, the sultry vocals got better and gradually she drifted towards her musical soul with the iconic Memphis ‘Sun’ sound becoming more prevalent. Eventually she would immerse herself into two interpretations of the Man in Black’s work, with a slowed down ‘Ring of Fire’ and slightly clichéd ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ but not before a detour to New Orleans and an interesting version of the ‘House of the Rising Sun’. As an artist who holds a candle for the female country pioneer, it was no surprise to hear a tribute to one of them and on this occasion ‘Making Believe’ a song made famous by Kitty Wells, enthralled the audience.

©Ian Dunn ©Principlephotpgraphy
However, Lindi is much more than a traditional country revivalist, with her two most recent albums bulging with updated songs that aim to take this music forward. From her 2011 album LITTLE RED BOOTS we were treated to ‘All My Friends’, ‘Bluebird’ and the delightful ‘Angels’. The title track was not originally on the set list but Lindi and Tom improvised to an audience request.
Lindi chose ‘Demons Don’t get Me Down’ from the latest album CIGARETTES AND TRUCKSTOPS to open the show, a release that contained possibly the highlight of the evening in the wonderfully haunting ‘Heaven Has No Vacancy’. This exceptional and highly recommended album was also represented by ‘The Day You Die’, ‘High’ and ‘Every Mile of the Road’.

With a stage presence developed in the more raucous venues of North American cities, Lindi is not the first artist to be a little unnerved by the attentive silence of a UK audience but was keen to bond with her trademark meet and greet hugs and was appreciative of her mid-set refreshment kindly delivered via the bar’s top shelf. However it is the edge she brings to her music and a desire to challenge the boundaries of country music, yet still remaining true to the ethos of the genre, that is most appealing.
 The music intelligentsia may or may not keep Lindi Ortega on their radar but for the committed fans in the know, she is set to remain a firm favourite in their hearts and hopefully we can look forward to more releases and an increased commitment to visit the UK.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Emily Baker - All at Sea Little Love Records

You tend to associate the term crossover in country music when the sound merges into pop or rock. However surely a far more superior fusion is when an artist blends a little country with a touch of folk and encapsulates it in a coat of acoustic Americana. Before the genre clichés are exhausted, let’s just say that Emily Baker has perfected this art form and is all set to unleash her new album ALL AT SEA on the fortunate connoisseurs of quality music.

Recorded in a stripped back manner in the studio of acclaimed producer Gavin Monaghan, the resultant masterpiece oozes with pure roots as Emily’s heartfelt and soul searching songs are brought to life with natural ease. The multi skilled string musician Fiddes Smith has expertly supplemented Emily’s folk influenced vocals with a hint of subtle twang that you would expect from slide guitar, banjo and mandolin. The album is saturated with the influences of Emily’s American experiences, yet combines such expanses with the intimacy of a living room house concert.

ALL AT SEA, weighing in at a concise nine tracks, is a follow up to Brighton-based Emily’s 2011 release HOUSE OF CARDS and is an album that she felt needed to be made. In an interview with Some of it is True website, she describes it as “Therapeutic? Definitely, they’re a series of songs I had to write to make sense of what was going on in my life”.(link for full interview is available at foot of review) You get the get the feeling of the depth of these songs with repeated listens and each one being a rewarding experience.

As far as the tracks are concerned there is only really one to start with. While the song title ‘Tennessee’ might be a little crowded in search engines, the originality of Emily’s beautiful reflective number will ensure this country-flavoured exceptional track can stand proudly against many other established artists basing their song writing material on Music City.  Hot on the heels of this track is the snappy number ‘Cold Turkey’ with its references to Kentucky whiskey as well drawing its inspiration while travelling through the bluegrass state.

Emily has also mastered the art of taking the sound down a peg or two yet still delivering a knockout chorus. This is in evidence in two early back-to-back songs ‘Best Laid Plans’ and ‘Warm Hands Cold Heart’. One of the admirable qualities of the album is that Emily has gone for quality over quantity with all songs being able to stand on their own merits.

A hint of mandolin faintly strums along to the slightly up tempo number ‘Fire’ while you can definitely interpret the waltz-like lullaby qualities in the delightful ‘Northern Lights’. Intelligent lyrical content is threaded throughout the album and this is magnificently enhanced by a download having the words emblazed across the screen of your device. A note there to other singer songwriters

The remaining three songs all have endearing features from the gorgeous opener ‘Run’, through the nautical overtures of ‘Coast is Clear’ and ending in the impressive guitar interludes that appear in mellow album closer ‘Out of Time’. All in all this is an exceptional collection of songs that give you a brief glimpse of acoustic heaven.

So enough of the superlatives, the message is out. Get to know the music of Emily Baker and treat yourself to a fine exposure of country-folk-Americana crossover.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Jenn Bostic - Bulls Head, Moseley, Birmingham Thursday 21 February 2013

Occasionally you come across an artist whose talent far outstrips the surroundings they are performing and you’re left scratching your head as to why this scenario exists. It didn’t take too long into this show by Nashville based singer-songwriter Jenn Bostic to realise that she falls into this category. The humble settings of an upstairs room in a suburban Birmingham pub seemed a surreal location for such a confident and accomplished performer. However it was a pleasure to be in the company of less than a hundred people to witness an hour long genuine performance of a divine collection of songs that have surfaced from the deep creative well of Jenn’s heart and mind.

Jenn Bostic 

©Ian Dunn © Principle Photography

After only a couple of songs into her set, Jenn was frank and honest about the perception of her musical standing. She shared to the audience a perceived view of being ‘too country for pop and too pop for country’ and how it had proved challenging to being accepted in a demanding industry. Finding a niche may have been tricky but surely an undisputable talent will ultimately reap the rewards from whoever is ready to embrace it. This certainly could be from the wider Americana movement that centres itself in Music City and is renowned for the unconditional support of exceptional talent as well as housing a wealth of female singer-songwriter expertise.

Jenn’s latest album JEALOUS is beginning to gather critical momentum in the UK, even a month before its seemingly absurd March 25 official release. Not surprisingly the record featured highly in the set list for this gig with all but one of the tracks being aired during the evening. The centrepiece of this show and every other piece of Jenn Bostic publicity at the moment is the unabated passion of ‘Jealous of the Angels’, a choral dedication to her late father. The poignancy of tonight’s emotional rendition was the near anniversary of the family tragedy and the fact that it had been performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry literally only a handful of days before.
However, long after the inquisitive media dust has settled there is a lot more substance to the work of Jenn Bostic. The sincerity of similar heartfelt self-penned songs are found in ‘Just One Day’ and ‘Missing a Man’ while for me there was no better song enjoyed on the evening than the final number and next single ‘Not Yet’, a determination to gain acceptance without compromise. While this album definitely has a pop tilt to its sound, the outstanding and soulful ‘Lips on Mine’, does suggest a desire to further explore the wider fields of American music. There was a couple of directional changes during the set with the playing of ‘Keep Looking for Love’ from a previous more country flavoured album and two new songs in ‘Want’ and ‘Superstar’, the latter a quirky number accompanied only by Jenn on her keyboards.

While the majestic and soaring vocals, delivering exceptionally well written songs are the primary redeeming features, Jenn, who plays keyboards throughout, was joined by her brother Jeff on guitar and, for this tour only, UK percussionist, Belinda Webb. Together they formed a tight knit unit that expertly support the musical qualities which Jenn refined during her stint at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston. This is all absorbed into an effervescent personality that infiltrated the hearts of the gathered audience. 

Emma Stevens

©Ian Dunn ©Principle Photography

For this and other UK dates, Jenn was fortunate to enlist the services of her close friend and UK singer-songwriter Emma Stevens to open. This widely acclaimed and adept musician, who delivered songs from both acoustic guitar and ukulele, is in the early stages of branching out alone after gaining major sessional experience. Her impressive set was well received and she is certainly a name to look out for.
For somebody who is so gifted and refreshing, success for Jenn Bostic in some format is surely just around the corner. There are the obvious fickle pitfalls of totally going down the pop route but, especially in the UK, there is a ready-made market of dedicated followers of quality music who will actively nurture her career development this side of the pond.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Otis Gibbs - The Musician, Leicester Wednesday 20 February 2013

One of the most gratifying aspects of this evening was witnessing a continued rise in the stock of Otis Gibbs. Having first come across the most culturally esteemed artist to emerge from Wanamaker, Indiana (any rival nominations welcome) at the Big Sessions Festival in Leicester a few years ago, his return to the city on this latest UK visit saw an extremely healthy turnout for a Wednesday evening. As per usual, the humble but equally entertaining Otis gave a consummate performance of storytelling and song delivery in the true folk tradition of a travelling troubadour.

Otis and the infamous peacock from a previous visit
The Musician Pub has to be one of the country’s most supportive venues of American roots music as the citizens of this East Midlands city and nearby visitors are continually spoilt by the high quality transatlantic artists it attracts. They also continue to support emerging UK acts in this style of music and, as a support to Otis, Worcester-based Americana duo Wooden Horse were invited to return and play a short opening slot.

It wasn’t surprising to see Otis significantly feature his latest album release HARDER THAN HAMMERED HELL in his planned set, and although several of these songs will no doubt over time become firm favourites, it does mean an increased number of older classic songs will have to be omitted. However you always have to respect a progressive singer-songwriter to not linger in the past and to continually have an eye of perfecting their craft. Highlights from this newish collection during the evening were the opening song ‘Second Best’, ‘Detroit Steel’ and one of the encore numbers ‘Big Whiskers’. The latter saw Otis amusingly use the assistance of a volunteer to turn over the lyric sheets in order to perfect the live rendition of this word-laden song. The luggage constraints of a wanderlust performer meant the allotted CDs had sold out at a previous show but these and other songs from the album should be a must-have addition to any Otis Gibbs admirer.
Having seen Otis on several occasions over the years, a portion of the stories are often repeated but you never tire of hearing his account of singing classic country songs as a youngster in the company of a drunken relative in the honky tonks and juke joints of Wanamaker. Further recollections of his original hometown (he now resides in Nashville, not surprisingly the Eastern side) often lead into his classic ‘Small Town Saturday Night’ and this evening was no different. Amongst the humour, there was the usual touching tribute to a late best friend who is always remembered in the song ‘Something More’ with the iconic line “only the good die young”.

Two of the many highlights from this immensely enjoyable gig were back to back tracks from 2010’s JOE HILL’S ASHES. On a personal note, ‘Kansas City’ has fast become a set favourite with the line “7 hours in a car, 45 minutes singing in a bar” perfectly summing up the toil of a travelling troubadour. On the evening this was paired with the rootsy and earthy ‘The Town That Killed Kennedy’ where Otis takes you as low as you can possibly go.
Having previously been present when Otis has a sung a duet with both Billy Bragg (Sin City) and Gretchen Peters (Wild Horses), the only other artist interaction in this show was a Hank Williams cover ‘I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow’. Although Otis did name check several similar artists including Mary Gauthier and Sam Baker who have been the subject of his podcasts as well as giving a timely plug for the upcoming visit of his fellow Nashville resident, Tommy Womack.

While each Otis Gibbs visit inevitably sees a song turnover, and on this occasion ‘The People’s Day’ was left out, reassuringly the regular show closer and stunningly beautiful ‘Karluv Most’ stills retains its rightful place of sending old and new fans home entirely satisfied. This was a perfect end to an evening which once again cemented Otis as one of the genre’s most welcome visitors.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble - Rise Borealis Records

For this, Annabelle Chvostek’s second post-Wailin Jennys studio release, the highly acclaimed Canadian roots artist has rolled back the years to explore the world of protest and activism. In this current age of change, first world rebellion may be only on a small scale but this recording has the potential to put Annabelle at the cultural forefront of any escalation. Over the duration of the near hour-long length of this album, given the evocative title RISE, she has written and interpreted a diverse collection of anthemic, analytical and deep rooted tracks that intersperse well with a couple of jaunty numbers which result in a raising of the levels of optimism and spirit.

Right from the mandolin-led strong scene setting opener ‘End of the Road’ to the languid folk style reggae cover of Peter Tosh’s ‘Equal Rights’ that escorts you through the exit door, the album is populated by endless significant catchy chorus hooks in the fine tradition of protest folk. This is further exemplified by the repeated emotion laced questioning in the title lyrics of ‘Do You Think You’re Right’ a song written about the documentary Jesus Camp. Mandolin and memorable chorus line are also key components of the title track ‘Rise’ a song written about a local Montreal issue, a city where the Toronto born and raised artist has been periodically based.

The artist title credited to this release is the Annabelle Chvostek Ensemble and on this project the gathering was enhanced by two Canadian artists with a presence in Britain, namely Oh Susanna and David Celia. For the tour planned to coincide with the album’s UK release, Annabelle’s exquisite fiddle playing and emotional vocal skills will be joined by Jeremie Jones on double bass and Tony Spina on drums/percussion. This Don Kerr-produced album also benefitted from the contribution of veteran Canadian folk/rock guitarist Bruce Cockburn.

Photo by Heather Pollock
While this lengthy album does have a trio of testing tracks in the middle namely the fiddle influenced ‘Baby Sleep ‘till Sturovo’, ‘All Have Some’ and the accordion jazz infused ‘The Will of How’, there is often a surprise around the corner to maintain your attention. ‘Fox Tail’ lightens the mood enormously in a more traditional style. The same applies to ‘Ona (in Toronto I Get More Hugs in Montreal I Get More Kisses)’, a song where the bracketed title contrasts the effects of Canadian hospitality with their southern neighbours by making  a reference to getting crazy in New York.

Each listen of this album rotates a stand out track but ultimately you can’t do any better than the poet styled narration qualities of ‘G20 Song’ which in great detail gives an account of the protest surrounding the world’s leaders Toronto summit in 2010. The passion and anger from Annabelle is evident in admirable portions and this is a track surely earmarked for extended airplay.

This has been a challenging project for Annabelle but the ultimate success of creating a piece of ingrained and addictive music has meant that this album is an essential addition to the collection of any fervent follower of Canadian roots music. Culture has always been at the heart of protest and in 2013 RISE is recorded proof of this theory still being relevant. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Transatlantic Sessions - Birmingham Symphony Hall Thursday 7th February 2013

Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain
When Mary Chapin Carpenter steps forward and praises the venue as one of the world’s great concert halls, you know you’re in the right setting. Likewise when the ensemble of artists on stage is referred to as the deepest collection of roots musicians you are likely to see, then you’ve got the quality of performers the venue warrants. With this combination, expectations are high and just like 12 months ago, the 2013 Transatlantic Sessions left the sold out Birmingham Symphony Hall audience enthralled with a stunning performance of bi-partisan roots music.

This highly structured and seamless format see a core band of twelve musicians led by the near-symmetrical arrangement of Aly Bain co-ordinating three top class UK musicians and Jerry Douglas doing the same for his fellow stateside compatriots, all very fine exponents of a variety of string-based instruments. Four further backing musicians complete the sound set on keyboards, bass, drums and support guitar, leaving five guest vocalists to accept the invitation and honour to deliver their own songs in such prestigious surroundings.
This year’s version of the sessions saw a slight tilt towards our stateside visitors with long term almost Anglo-performer Mary Chapin Carpenter being joined by Crooked Still vocalist Aoife O’Donovan and Eric Bibb offering his take on the blues. Each artist stepped forward for a trio of synchronised songs either side of the interval. Carpenter like a true seasoned singer-songwriter offered three recent self penned compositions ‘Chasing What’s Already Gone’ and ‘Transcendental Reunion’ from her latest album and ‘ I Have a Need For Solitude’ from the recording before. Amongst Eric Bibb’s selections were an old John Cephas blues number ‘Going Down the Road Feeling Bad’ and his popular own song ‘Champagne Habit’. Aoife O’Donovan sang a Dock Boggs Civil War song titled ‘Calvary’ as well as one of the highlights of the evening, a superb tune titled ‘Oh Mama’

The three contrasting American singers were matched in their diversity by the two home grown artists. Scottish folk singer and soon-to-be mother Emily Smith included an interpretation of the work of Rabbie Burns as well as ‘A Day Like Today’ and the folk sing-a-long number ‘Final Trawl’ on the occasions she was invited to step into the limelight. Teddy Thompson has a number of different guises and on this evening there was a definite country leaning towards his style. Following on from performing ‘Delilah’ (not that one) and ‘Dear Mary’ in his first set, he delivered a version of the George Jones song ‘ She Thinks I Still Care’ when presented with the opportunity to perform in the second half.
All five vocalists colloborate on the finale
The deluge of fine songs is not confined to the prime guest vocalists. Banjo and Cajun accordion player Dirk Powell sang ‘Water Bound’ and ‘Le Two Step de Bon Café’ to illustrate his multi talents. Long term U.S. session members Bruce Molsky and Russ Barrenberg both provided a solo vocal contribution with ‘Pretty Saro’ and ‘Through the Gates’ respectively. As well as being one half of the Sessions heartbeat and show orchestrator, the legendary Jerry Douglas showed his talents aren’t confined to a world class dobro and lap steel player by opening the second half of the near three hour show with a vocal rendition of Leadbelly’s ‘On a Monday’.

Another popular feature of the evening is the impressive instrumentals that liberally complement the songs. Aly Bain and John McCusker as per usual leave the audience in no doubt as to why they are acclaimed as two of Scotland’s finest fiddle players as do the pipes and whistles from Mike McGoldrick and the accordion playing from Phil Cunningham. The acoustics of the Symphony Hall really do justice to the sounds emanating from these world class musicians.
Mary Chapin Carpenter
As the evening evolved, the Cajun sounds from Dirk Powell gave a hint to what was in store for the evening’s finale. When Mary Chapin Carpenter last brought her full band to Birmingham a couple of years ago, there was a significant song from her back catalogue omitted from the set list. In my opinion, the wrong of that evening was corrected tonight as she, with the assistance of the four other singers, took the whole hall on a journey to Louisiana. At the end of a rousing version of ‘Down at the Twist and Shout’ , the ensemble left the stage, although their return was inevitable with one more inspirational instrumental before Douglas assured the audience that a 2014 return was highly likely.

Another TV recording of the Transatlantic Sessions is already planned and on the evidence of this magnificent evening, it is only a matter of time before the sold out signs are once again raised in the nation’s concert halls. Aly Blain and Jerry Douglas have created something very special and quality vocalists should be knocking their door down to perform in the future.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Be Good Tanyas - Warwick Arts Centre Saturday 2 February 2013

Photo not taken at gig
Apart from being aware of their eminent international standing within the world of Canadian roots music, my appreciation and knowledge of The Be Good Tanyas is admittedly a little sketchy. The all girl Vancouver based trio have been on a hiatus since 2008 so the decision to resume their performing career and include a Saturday evening Midlands show in their short UK tour was an opportunity not to be missed.

The group have had a recent set back with Sam Parton being unable to join them on this trip due to recovering from a car accident and although Caroline Ballhorn stepped in to offer support vocals, this left main vocalist Frazey Ford and Trish Klein to carry out a bulk of the musical duties between them. The girls had a couple of guys on bass and percussion to add a little rhythm but the focus is very much centered around Frazey’s rootsy distinct vocals and the exceptional versatile guitar and banjo picking from Trish.

Throughout the 90 minute set, both Frazey and Trish ably demonstrated why they had received a vast amount of critical acclaim in the first half dozen years of the 21st century, yet there was still something missing in their show that would signpost a prosperous future for the band. The decision to play the 1500 seat capacity Butterworth Hall within the University of Warwick’s luscious arts centre was a touch ambitious with even the lure of a Saturday evening slot being insufficient to getting anywhere near to fill it. Also the onstage vibes didn’t come across positively and as somebody who went along to find out something about them, there was an empty feeling as being none the wiser of their journey or what the future holds. Maybe just a personal view but I believe a period of re-connection with the UK audience would have been required.
The set was liberally sprinkled with a host of covers. Some have been recorded by the band such as Neil Young’s ‘For the Turnstile’ and Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ while others featured included a slowed down version of ‘Here Comes The Sun’, bluesman Willie Brown’s ‘Future Blues’ and a Pete Rowan number believed to be ‘Midnight Moonlight’. Of the rest ‘Human Thing’, ‘Ootischenia’ and ‘In My Time Dying’ came over well although surprisingly omitted from the set list were two of their apparently more popular songs in ‘The Littlest Birds’ and ‘Light Enough to Travel’. Although no mention was made of future recordings, the unreleased ‘September Field’ gave a hint of what might be possible.

Probably the two finest performed songs on the evening were the final two numbers that concluded the encore. Just Frazey and Trish on acoustic guitar re-appeared for the excellent ‘Lakes of Pontchartrain’ while the show closing ‘Gospel Song’ ensured the musical part of the evening ended on a high. By this time the atmosphere had lightened and we were probably witnessing the true Be Good Tanyas.
Fellow similar Canadian artists such as The Wailin Jennys, Ruth Moody solo, Cara Luft, Po Girl and the Good Lovelies have all been witnessed live in the UK recently and left a more favourable impression. The talent is indisputable but more is definitely warranted to elevate The Be Good Tanyas into the upper echelons of my live music experience.

A special mention needs to be reserved for Emily Portman who opened the show fresh from her recent nationally recognised song writing award. There will no doubt be many more column inches elsewhere in UK folk circles but her honesty, genuine warmth and song interpretation was well received by those present.

Dale Watson and the Lone Stars - The Bullingdon, Oxford Friday 1 February 2013

We were barely two songs into this gig before Dale Watson voiced his opinion on the Blake Shelton controversy. Not only was the dogged modern day flag bearer of traditional country music staunchly defending his beliefs on the ‘jackasses and old farts’ assertion but he had hastily written a song which didn’t take too kind a view on his fellow performer. Conciliation was certainly not on the agenda and at least you know where you stand with Dale Watson. The seasoned adopted Texan knows his preferred style, is good at reproducing it and you know what you’re going to get at one of his gigs – curfew curtailing value for money traditional country music.

Having built up a loyal UK following over the years, most of the audience packing the backroom of The Bullingdon in Oxford were of the converted variety and they were not disappointed with a stream of old favourites interwoven with selected tracks from the brand new EL RANCHO AZUL album. The strength of song delivery mixed with enlightening tales aided by a recurring dry comic routine saw Dale on top form with the latest line up of the Lone Stars now settled and comprising of Chris Crepps on bass, Don Pawlak on pedal steel and Mike Bernal keeping time with his percussion skills. The high quality four-piece combo rattled through a set that evolved during the evening assisted by audience requests and a couple of covers from Watson’s heroes, one being Ray Price, ironically a hero of Blake Shelton as well.

Having recently reviewed the new album, the tracks were familiar and Dale chose a good cross section to preview it during the planned part of the set. ‘Thanks to Tequila’, ‘I Lie When I Drink’ and ‘I Drink to Remember’ adequately represented the alcohol segment of the record. The more refined songs from the album included the Texas Two Sep dance number ‘Quick Quick Slow Slow’, complete with full instructions, and the waltz-like sentimental tune ‘Daughter’s Wedding Song’. Listening to these songs live definitely re-enforced the positive conclusions drawn from reviewing the album.
As you can imagine, a two hour set of three minute songs develops into a lengthy list and without recounting it in its entirety, there were a number of notable highlights. ‘Country My Ass’, not surprisingly getting audience participation was one of the concluding numbers. The requested western swing tune ‘Cowboy Lloyd Cross’ showcased the band’s potential for versatility, while other personal favourites on the evening were ‘South of Round Rock Texas’, ‘Whiskey and God’, ‘Honky Tonk Wizard of Oz’ and one of your trademark Dale Watson trucking songs ‘Truck Stop in La Grange’.

Dale gave the crowd a choice of Merle Haggard songs and picked up on a suggestion to play ‘Working Man Blues’ over ‘Mamma’s Hungry Eyes’. For the Ray Price number ‘Crazy Arms’, Dale invited the lead singer of the Doggone Honkabilly Band to deliver lead vocals as an appreciation for putting together the following night’s London show .
A fairly unusual feature for a UK show was the level of background noise from a section of the venue’s Friday night customers but this is just par for the course for Dale and his band on their journey around the honky tonks of Texas. In fact so engrossed and intense was bassist Chris Crepps in his performance that on the final number his instrument virtually collapsed with double bass strings pinging everywhere. Thus a cryptic signal to close the show and leave those present fully satisfied from being immersed in the Dale Watson experience.