Monday, 20 April 2015

Danni Nicholls - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 19th April 2015

The journey down MOCKINGBIRD LANE took a swift turn last night for Danni Nicholls as she began the live roll out of an album destined to reach its destination of widespread acclaim. Birmingham’s respected folk and roots venue, the Kitchen Garden Café, hosted the first date of Danni’s ‘Pre-Release Tour’ and it was a golden opportunity to see if the album tracks from the new record responded well to a stripped back delivery. The result exceeded expectations, but that was hardly a surprise from a highly crafted song writer capable of spinning a winning formula when pairing the tale with the melody.

The privilege of accessing a preview copy of the new material had whetted the appetite enormously and the consensus amongst the majority enjoying their inaugural listen was unanimous in the affirmative. Any trepidations of playing a venue for the first time were soon removed as Danni eased into a sweet groove of enlightening inter-song interludes to add considerable value to a continual stream of beautifully sung originals and the odd engaging cover. The latter started with a fine version of Randy Newman’s ‘Guilty’ as Danni paid tribute to one of her heroes, Bonnie Raitt, who also covered it. Three of the other covers were delivered in a part of the show where Danni reunited with an old playing partner from her Brighton days and the pair rattled through KD Lang’s ‘Ridin’ the Rails’, the popular Gillian Welch tune ‘Wayside/Back in Time’ and the usual nod to the Man in Black with the much covered ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ closing the well-deserved requested encore. All were impressively delivered off mic to add to the venue’s ambience.

Before we move onto the main purpose of the evening and the launch of the new record, Danni reminded those present why her first full length album was applauded so well when released in 2013. From the album of the same name, Danni gave an insightful background to the origin and legal issues surrounding ‘A Little Redemption’ with its quaint source dating back to a casual read about a local Suffolk Women’s Institute. Perhaps the most poignant story attached to the songs from this album was the pride flowing from Danni with regards to the dream scenario-turned to reality in covering Will Kimbrough’s ‘Goodnight, Moon’.

A decent proportion of Danni’s songs have surfaced from her trips to Nashville where she has had the good fortune to record both albums. One of the early favourites from the new record rose to an even higher plane of appreciation when played live as Danni filled every corner of the Café with pure Americana with the delectable ‘Leaving Tennessee’. Written on a journey from Nashville to Atlanta, the song was contrasted in its geographical sentiment when matched up with another from the new record, ‘Long Road Home’, with its final destination being her hometown of Bedford. Another immensely ear pleasing tune, ‘Travellin’ Man’, was unveiled as an old song finally finding a home on the album, where it acts as the perfect closer. The wonderful lyrics of ‘Beautifully Broken’ were given a timely reminder and Danni used the striking chorus of ‘Where the Blue Train Goes’ for an effective call and response piece of audience participation.

The pre-release nature of this tour meant the physical copies were not yet ready for sale but those signing up on the evening in advance were also given the pristine preview of three other tracks in ‘Back to Memphis’, ‘Between Forever and Goodbye’ and, in Danni’s opinion, the song ‘Sad Swan’ living up to the description in the title with its projection of emotion. Throw in ‘Dragons in the Distance’, ‘Hey There, Sunshine’ and ‘Bird of Paradise’ from the first album and we had an excellent comprehensive gig, rich in fine songs and packed with the indebted ideals of how American inspired roots music can be portrayed with English charm.

This was the first opportunity to catch a full Danni Nicholls show, to follow up witnessing a couple of festival sets and many listens to her back catalogue of two albums and two Eps. It is also important that Danni makes strides to take her music out of the South East to promote her talents to an audience that will surely grow. Midlands music fans will get another chance to see Danni when she supports Daniel Romano in Coventry next month and hopefully the second phase of the album promotion tour will see a further return to the area.

Let’s conclude however by returning to the present and reflecting favourably that we are certainly blessed to have a talented and affable singer-songwriter in Danni Nicholls showcasing our genre with the best of British. By matching the recorded and live material with equal high competence, an artist of absolute integrity continues to emerge. 

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