Saturday, 24 September 2016

Ags Connolly - Tower of Song, Birmingham. Friday 23rd September 2016

While Ags Connolly continues to seek his niche in the UK music scene, those listeners who tap into his distinctive style will reap the rewards of their wise artistic choice. If you want to wear the badge of country music in the UK then the unfiltered version purveyed by Ags is an essential schooling. Not only does this Oxfordshire based singer-songwriter rustle up some pinpointed songs, they are all sung in a gut driven spiral of absolute authenticity. Alongside his mission to preserve the ideals, a student, advocate and impressionist of country music shapes a performer dedicated and hell bent to a cause.

2016, especially the latter part, sees Ags in interim mode. Live dates are more sporadic rather than a structured tour. New songs are teased, supported only by the anticipation of a follow up album to his 2014 release HOW ABOUT NOW. Hopefully this will materialise in early 2017 and cement the embryonic relationship with South Coast music operation At The Helm Records, along with their partners. Of course such a state of mind does allow a little experimentation, exploration and fine tuning especially in an intimate live setting. This release will be an important moment for Ags and his pursuit of an independent yet thriving career.

On the evidence of this inaugural show in Birmingham, the new material will not disappoint, with even the first hint of an upgrade. The bias of the set’s content was tilted in the direction of the future with no sign of compromising the past. The full band versions will without doubt enhance the recorded format, but one man, guitar and a voice immersed in the song’s emotion are a conduit to solo delivery success.

While a desire for originality inspires Ags to major on self-penned efforts, he is not averse to celebrating the work of others who have played a significant role in his musical education. So during this performance at the Tower of Song, appropriately the work of Leonard Cohen was covered alongside his own song writing hero Louden Wainwright III. Throw in an excellent version of Shel Siverstein’s much covered ‘Jennifer Johnson & Me’ plus Nick Lowe’s acclaimed rock ‘n’ roller ‘I Knew the Bride’ and the breadth of the show was stretched. Although closer to the core was the work of David Allan Coe.

There has been a limited CD only release during 2016 and TRADIITONAL, his take on 12 cowboy songs is an indulgent passion which crosses the line into listener appreciation territory. Ags borrowed ‘Rambling Gambler’ from this selection of old time songs for the set list and it is well worth grabbing a copy of the album, available either through his website or at a show. The record has gained some respected specialist airplay and a good review from Country Music People, with a further endorsement from yours truly.

While the new album will partially close the book on HOW ABOUT NOW, there’s still plenty of life in the tracks with ‘The Dim and Distant Past’ and ‘Trusty Companion’ sounding good this evening. In fact on the evidence of the whole show, Ags has the potential the grab a foothold in many new towns across the country. There is a market for folks who base their country on Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. So why not hook up with an English country singer, writing and delivering superb material in a similar style. Let’s put the terms Ameripolitan, Americana and sub genres to one side for a moment and just use the simple word ‘country’ to describe Ags Connolly. 


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