Monday, 7 July 2014

New American Troubadours (featuring Peter Bradley-Adams, Robby Hecht and David Berkeley) - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham Sunday 6th July 2014

Peter Bradley-Adams
It was a privilege to be present at the final break up concert of iconic rock band the New American Troubadours. It was a tearful event of heartbreak, emotion and just a touch of irony. Try searching for the back catalogue of this band and you will draw on a blank. On the other hand if you check out the works of Robby Hecht, David Berkeley and Peter Bradley-Adams, the talents of three real ‘new American troubadours’ will be all be revealed. Jest aside, these three guys served up a highly entertaining night at the Kitchen Garden Café as they concluded a short UK tour which will probably see the end of the banner designed to herald their introduction to the UK folk/Americana market.

Essentially, all three are respected individual singer-songwriters back in the US with Robby Hecht probably having the highest profile in the UK as recalled from his tour with Carrie Elkin a few years back. For these UK dates, which included a combination of slots at the Maverick Festival, the guys have mixed and matched the order but all featuring a rotation of a lead role with invited harmony interludes. This evening the toss of coin meant Peter opened, David followed and Robby had the honour of leading the New American Troubadours into the distance. Well at least until the reunion tour.

David Berkeley
Peter is the softer sounding of the three vocalists with a capacity for injecting sensibility into his songs. An inhabitant of Birmingham Alabama, he was honoured to play in the city that was the origin of his home town’s name and spoke about some of the shared industrial heritage. In fact his most striking song from the opening segment was one about the steel mills of Birmingham which was preluded by some informed comment on its nickname of the Magic City and eventual frustration of being eclipsed by Pittsburgh as the premier US steel town.

While this was my first introduction to the work of Peter, David Berkeley’s latest record THE FIRE IN MY HEAD gave an insight to what a fine literate and vivid songwriter he is. David was often the source of the trio’s humour and with his more extroverted style raised the level of the show in terms of tempo and audience reaction. From the excellent latest record, subject to a fine review on this site, we were treated to amongst others, ‘Back to Blue’, ‘Fire in My Head’, ‘Shelter’ and perhaps the stand out song from his set ‘Song for the Road’. The latter was met with some engaging invited audience participation and a stunning fluctuation of vocal tone. Having learned about his literary exploits we were further informed that the next record will be accompanied by an anthology of short stories and were previewed to a song believed to be titled ‘Wishing Well’.

New American Troubadours
Robby graced the acoustic friendly surroundings of the café when playing here with Carrie Elkin a couple of years ago. While Peter has the sensitivity and David the word craft, Robby probably excels more in the tune and similarly to David had an album to grace this review site earlier in the year. The highlights of the self-titled album to feature in this “headline set” were the superb ‘Stars’, ‘New York City’, ‘Cars and Bars’ and the personally requested ‘The Sea and the Shore’. Although there was no Amy Speace or John Fullbright on this solo performance by Robby (they produced a beautifully crafted duet version last year), the shear pull of the song makes it one of Robby’s best.

David had been itching all night to sing off mic and for the final song he cleared all the stands out of the way to lead a beautiful version of the classic Townes Van Zandt standard ‘If I Needed You’ in unison with Peter, Robby and a couple of guitars. This may have brought the curtain down on the illustrious career of the New American Troubadours but hopefully it won’t be the last we see of Robby Hecht, David Berkely and Peter Bradley-Adams in the UK. With iconic reunion tours always in vogue, the New American Troubadours may yet re-surface one day. Just remember not to search for their back catalogue.

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