Friday, 21 October 2016

Austin Lucas with The Dreaming Spires - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham. Wednesday 19th October 2016

Last November the supertruth was found in the small rural town of Bewdley, this evening it appeared somewhere between the moon and the Midwest. At the end of 2015 SEARCHING FOR THE SUPERTRUTH was hailed as one of the favourite albums to hit the stores over the year and now momentum is building as to whether BETWEEN THE MOON AND THE MIDWEST reaches similar lofty accolade territory when the book for this year closes in two months. Sneaking up on the blind side though is SONGS OF THE RIVER REA, but more on that later.

For the initiated, The Dreaming Spires and Austin Lucas will need little introduction as recording artists of distinction. For others they lie in wait as the discovery to edge you a little closer to finding the golden key of live connective music. Opportunity had presented itself when their combined tour was announced, no doubt on the back of the At The Helm Records connection. The result was a classic display of cultured musicianship, devoid of external control and ripe with the ideals of artists exploiting the mood of a distinctive style.

Travelling to Birmingham this evening all the way from Bloomington Indiana (well semi-literally) was Austin Lucas. Although a seasoned visitor to these shores, this year the focus has been from a different angle with a brand new record successfully turning heads and a new team providing the industry structure. While Austin toured the album release earlier this year, it was the delightfully anointed ‘leftist Mecca in a sea of red’ aka Asheville North Carolina which hosted my first experience of catching him live. The upgrade from that evening in The Mothlight was the involvement of a four piece backing band in The Dreaming Spires, while the downgrade was the sad passing of Austin’s trusty sidekick Sally. Surely her spirit is there at every show.

The set up at the Hare and Hounds this evening aided the ease of getting up close and personal with the emotive spontaneity of Austin Lucas’s artistic expression. Fired up by a mid-set rant-fuelled outburst on a shared sentiment, this crowned the tone of a performance which began and almost ended in solo mode, the latter unplugged among the audience; the ultimate uncensored and unfiltered moment of music consumption. The focus throughout was primarily on the excellent current album BETWEEN THE MOON AND THE MIDWEST. Its stellar lead-off track ‘Unbroken Hearts’ is now almost sealed as one of the songs that will shape 2016, with tonight possibly just missing the pedal steel input from perfection. Regardless of this, it is deeply personal, highly emotive and a potential anthem for the unsigned. This along with others such as ‘Pray for Rain’, ‘Wrong Side of the Dream’, ‘Ain’t We Free’ and ‘Kristie Rae’ is country music you won’t hear packaged. Any tampering would be purely superfluous to a successful feat of making music that matters. The pick of Austin’s oldies was the wonderfully catchy ‘Alone in Memphis’, which conveniently allows us to rewind to The Dreaming Spires, and their own homage to west Tennessee.

Apart from playing an important part in this evening’s upgrade of Austin Lucas from that hot July night across the pond, The Dreaming Spires played a forty-five minute support set packed with an abundance of stylish cultured moments. Austin’s aforementioned classic ‘Unbroken Hearts’ ascension into the ‘songs that shape the year’ category will follow in the footsteps to what ‘Dusty in Memphis’ did for The Dreaming Spires in 2015. Once again this was a strong candidate for the pick of the set, with a pulsating opening version of ‘Easy Rider’ and the finely executed playing of a now Spires oldie ‘Not Every Song From the Sixties is a Classic’, making similar exalted cases.

Give The Dreaming Spires a five minutes sample of your valuable limited listening time and the rewards will be long lasting. They rarely stay still as active collaborators even in years where a full length band record is not on the agenda. Folks could enjoy their PAISLEY OVERGROUND interim release this year, but the highly anticipated moment is when the brilliant SEARCHING FOR THE SUPERTRUTH (and its unlimited pun potential) gets its fully fledged follow up. In the meantime, The Dreaming Spires continue to cultivate a niche as England’s premium purveyors of transatlantic alt-country rock laced with an inner layer of classic melody driven alt-pop.

On a gig held in Birmingham, it is only apt to hear a bunch of songs to open the evening from an album inspired by the city’s hidden river, SONGS OF THE RIVER REA. The architect of this fine album is Katy Rose Bennett, a Birmingham resident and conveniently this evening the sister of Robin and Joe Bennett from The Dreaming Spires. Hence Joe accompanied Katy on a couple of songs with backing vocals and lap steel, while the full band (only Austin missing) joining her for the final number ‘My Friend’. Katy’s album surfaced earlier this year and has evolved into one of the surprise hits of the year, if only in the fact that it has probably been down on her priority list over the last few years. However ‘Rusted Ring’, ‘Jack and Ivy’ and ‘Cold November Day’ all sounded great live for the first time and now the spotlight turns to Katy’s headline full band show in early November. Ironically in Bewdley, at the scene of the supertruth discovery, though alas no Dreaming Spires!

Nights like this make venturing out to live music a magical experience. Three artists compounding the innovation of original music; fully committed to sharing the wares of their creative endeavours and fusing the art of reactionary song. If ‘music of the soul’ needs three ambassadors, look no further than Austin Lucas, The Dreaming Spires and Katy Rose Bennett.

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