Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Black Feathers + The Rosellys - Tower of Song, Birmingham. Friday 15th April 2016

The Black Feathers 
It was a case of similarities and differences with the dual line up presented at the Tower of Song in Birmingham this evening. Both artists appeared in the duo format and set about demonstrating why they are accumulating acclaim in the UK indie Americana sector. The promotion gave The Rosellys and The Black Feathers roughly equal stage time with the latter awarded the prestigious headline slot, although the evening had a double bill feel to it. The contrasts began with The Rosellys informing folks that this was in effect the launch date for a set of forthcoming gigs, while The Black Feathers announced that this return to Birmingham was effectively the final date of their album launch tour, with an upcoming American trip soon on the horizon for this Gloucestershire based couple.

Musically each artist arrives on the Americana spectrum from a different perspective. The Black Feathers is heavily influenced by a folk style delivery, sprinkling a stripped back simple acoustic sound with the sparkling precipitation of gold dust harmonies. Aside from a number of studio contributions, The Black Feathers is entirely the vehicle for Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler to project the enormous depth of their talent. While being active on the circuit for a little longer in terms of shows and releases, The Rosellys hop from being the core duo of Simon and Rebecca to a bona fide band complete with drums and pedal steel, and an emerging role in backing a number of touring American artists on the shared Clubhouse roster. Musically they adopt the oxymoron moniker of British Americana and rarely shy away from a deep rooted US influence. Even going back to their duo roots for this evening’s show, Simon flitted between fiddle and guitar, while a family member played cello on a couple of songs. Needless to say, The Black Feathers was quite simply Ray’s acoustic guitar and Sian’s wonderful voice.

The Rosellys released their latest album THE GRANARY SESSIONS in the late summer days of 2015 and have spent a considerable amount of time promoting it via numerous live dates. A couple of songs from this record impressed during the fifty minutes they spent on stage this evening in ‘Asheville 1784’ and ‘A Thousand Miles’. Although The Rosellys have fleetingly crossed my path on the circuit over the last half a dozen years, this was probably the most focussed observation. Among their attributes are the evolving vocal range of Rebecca and the added diversity of Simon’s enhanced fiddle playing. The songs are generally ripe with ear pleasing melodies and this was extended to at least one new composition previewed during the evening. The profile of The Rosellys has notably increased in the wake of their tie up with Clubhouse Records and one of their upcoming high profile projects is to once again support the excellent Don Gallardo on a fair few of his UK dates this spring.

The Rosellys 
The Black Feathers was first seen at this very venue a couple of years ago when they played a short set after a lengthy open mic session. Happily this follow up consisted of a longer time in the spotlight and a step up in the overall quality of the evening. The duo’s debut album has courted some serious praise since its release earlier this year and SOAKED TO THE BONE is set flourish in the foreseeable future. A decent selection of tracks from the album made the set list headed by the unconventional opener ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’. A popular upbeat song from the record in ‘Down By The River’ was not surprisingly well received, but I felt it was jointly eclipsed by the delightful ‘Arc Light’ and the mesmeric ‘All For You’. This last number contains a remarkably catchy guitar riff which goes a long way to exemplify Ray’s acute skills in being the sole architect of The Black Feathers live instrumental sound.

The real crux of what makes The Black Feathers tick is the intuitive harmonious chemistry between Ray and Sian. This straddles the standard and innovative, while being constantly engaging. Sian was slightly under the weather during this show, but this failed to mask the inner beauty of her vocals. The highest compliment is to eulogise how her vocals melt into each song and to categorically state that she extracts direct influence from the depth of her soul. Sian continues to develop the role of the stage voice-piece, cultivating a persona in the mould of Josienne Clarke. This slightly dark and ironic image fits perfectly with the theme of many of the songs and led to the duo covering the iconic classic ‘Spirit in the Sky’ in a creative harmony-packed gothic style. Twice Ray and Sian ditched the amplification to step off mic and complete the removal of any artificial barrier between artist and audience. The first occasion was to deliver ‘You Will Be Mine’ off their debut EP, and buoyed by this experience, duly repeated it for an encore version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’.

This crowned a highly enjoyable evening where both bands played a valuable role. The Rosellys are set to continue to pursue their almost evangelical trail of playing a brand of music very dear to their hearts and exploiting every opportunity that comes their way. The Black Feathers will continue to astound new admirers with their innate ability to merge the proverbial two into one and portray a talent in an enlightening way. In either case, Americana tinged music in the UK continues to roll along in healthy proportions.

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