Thursday, 2 March 2017

Kim Lowings and the Greenwood - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 28 February 2017

For those of a local persuasion this gig was a case of a Black Country band crossing over the divide to play a Birmingham venue. For the rest of you this was the first headline gig at the Kitchen Garden Café for Kim Lowings and the Greenwood with the impact being another glowing display by one of the region’s finest folk artists. The Greenwood might have been slightly depleted for the evening, but the structure and delivery of a familiar bunch of songs was as good as ever. Kim’s live performance continues to flourish with each show and 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year in terms of projects and new releases.

While the new record, what will be their third full length release, is still some months and funding away, the focus this evening was very much on the songs that have strengthened Kim’s live presence over the last few years. To this extent there was only a couple of new songs previewed, both of traditional origin, with most of the upcoming material still being tantalisingly kept under wraps. The two sets which formed this headline set at the Kitchen was a rich mix of the traditional and original, all played with an accomplished finesse and sang with a blossoming elegance.

In perfect symmetry, Kim opened both sets free of her trademark mountain dulcimer for a couple of songs thus freeing her vocalist element to rise to the summit. These segments included a beautiful ode to Sandy Denny with a version of ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ and a gorgeous rendition of the Be Good Tanyas classic ‘Littlest Birds’. The latter of these induced spontaneous audience accompaniment, a feature that was often repeated peaking with closing numbers ‘Away Ye Merry Lasses’ and ‘The Begging Song’.

The musical accompaniment was in full string mode for this show as Tim Rogers’ Cajon was absent with apologies. Bassist Dave Sutherland and dual guitarist/bouzouki player Andrew Lowings stepped up to compensate, but paying punters will never be short changed when Kim hits the sublime spot with her beautiful vocals. Among the highlights from this infectious show were the songs ‘Off to Sea’, ‘Regrets’ and ‘Lullaby’, the last two being prime examples of Kim’s added precious gift of penning a special song. Her output is destined to be a mix of interpreting the past and ploughing the route of converting inspiration to original song. Whichever the choice, the result is universally appealing.

Opening for Kim this evening was her good friend and Kitchen Garden Café regular Chris Cleverley. Apart from past and present collaboration, both performers have been part of the Company of Players project which offered a fresh take on the Bard’s legacy through the lens of contemporary song. Both will be appearing in Birmingham in April when the project’s roadshow hits these parts and Chris once again treated folks to his fine contribution with the excellent song ‘But Thinking Makes It So’. It had only been a couple of weeks since Chris graced a sold out show at this venue when supporting Lewis and Leigh and like that appearance he impressed once again especially when tackling ‘The Dawn Before the Day’ and ‘Rafters’ from his debut album APPARITIONS. The latter particularly explodes with a riveting acoustic energy and almost pans out in rock opera territory.

Kim’s own recent album HISTORIA also featured frequently in her sets. ‘Maggie’s Song’ always brings a joyous smile without quite reaching the heights of a rare bit of Greenwood electric added to the album version. ‘Monsoon’ was also lifted from this 2015 album and an appropriate choice for a wet Birmingham night, although not quite as dramatic as the song’s inspiration.

For the second time in the month of February, ‘The Parting Glass’ was sung in the Kitchen Garden Café. Kim’s sparkling encore version was in a totally contrasting style to Ben Glover’s rugged rendition a week ago, but both have a place and this proved a fitting climax to another impressive show.

Discovering the music of Kim Lowings in her home town of Stourbridge four years ago has proven to be a wise move. Incidentally, the evening of the discovery was in support of Jess Morgan, another singer-songwriter with a rising star. There is so much bright talent on the UK’s folk and acoustic scene that popping into your local venues can often reap rewards. This Kitchen Garden Café gig could well have been the start of another long lasting appreciation for any music fans seeing Kim Lowings and the Greenwood for first time. They won’t be disappointed with the discovery. 

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