Although the stage in the smaller of the two Hare and Hounds music rooms was graced by five excellent artists, there was the spirit of a sixth one looming in the background. It was almost a year ago since Chuck Prophet thrilled the very same venue with a return to the city after a lengthy absence and tonight his influence filtered through the veins of each performance.
The evening’s continual stream of highly accomplished guitar driven Americana music had its source in a short but growing in stature set from Kathleen Haskard before emerging into its outlet some three hours later with Jace Everett blasting out a finale of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’. Yet this flow of inspirational music peaked mid-evening with a reminder by Dan Stuart as to why Green on Red were one of the most influential bands to emerge from the 1980’s LA Paisley Underground scene.
Even Jace Everett had to concede that following a storming set by Dan and his mightily impressive sidekick guitarist Antonio Gramentieri was a tough ask but he stuck to the task of letting this style of music continue to flavour his sound which has long since gravitated from the influences of country that introduced me to him back in 2007. Although this departure occurred a while ago, there is still a view that despite indifferent industry reaction, Jace had the makings of an upstanding performer in that genre. With this in mind, it is a touch sad that these days have virtually been extinguished from his act, with a string of negative comments leaving a bitter taste. Having seen Jace twice before, it is a pity that ‘Your Man’ was removed from the set list, with just a casual reminder of once writing a country number one.
Jace referred to his support slot for Guy Clark which hit the nearby town of Wolverhampton back in 2007, but that was before a certain song, which incidentally surfaced on his country album, helped steer him in a more personally fulfilling and no doubt more lucrative direction. ‘Bad Things’ does still feature in the set list but this evening Jace concentrated more prominently on his latest record TERRA ROSA, including the Dan Cohen co-write 'Pensylvania' and a few offerings from the Chuck Prophet produced RED REVELATIONS.
The two guitarists not featured on the bill were the cornerstones of this evening’s success, with Jace’s sidekick, Dan Cohen showcasing his own singer-song writing talent with a pair of solo tracks midway through the final set. Both songs, ‘I Want You’ and ‘Love Is Gone’, feature on his new record BLUEBIRD and he is certainly an artist worth exploring further. Antonio Gramentieri is a musician who just lets his guitar do the communicating and his presence alongside Dan displayed an intrinsic chemistry to bring both the solo and Green on Red songs to life.
Kathleen Haskard is another artist to benefit from the producing duties of Chuck Prophet who took over the reins on her latest release WHERE THE LAND MEETS THE SKY. Hailing originally from California but now possessing Anglo status, Kathleen displays a folk noir style to reflect her influences and was just getting into her stride at the end of her, unfortunately too short, twenty minute set. However getting further exposure on this Dan Stuart/Jace Everett bill will bring her attention to more UK fans.
The audience, who virtually filled the room to capacity for this Cosmic American promoted gig, were probably evenly split between who they had come to see with some re-living the experience of Dan playing the city twenty years ago with Green on Red. Obviously Chuck and Dan have moved on since those days, but you only need to spend a few moments in the presence of Dan Stuart to warm to his charismatic front-man qualities. Whether recalling the days of an iconic past with songs like ‘That’s What Dreams Were Made For’ and ‘Gravity Talks’ or more up to date material such as ‘Grincho Go Home’, a popular tune in his new Mexican homeland, Dan’s slightly eccentric aura, untamed wit and top notch song delivery didn’t fail to impress.
There was a tongue in cheek social media call out by Jace for Chuck to fly out and join them earlier in the day but you could almost say his presence was there anyway. Once again it was a credit to Cosmic American Music for their continued pursuit of injecting some life into Birmingham’s alt-country/Americana scene and combining Jace Everett, Dan Stuart and Kathleen Haskard into a single evening definitely achieved that.