Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Carrie Elkin + Danny Schmidt - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 6th June 2017

There was a definite warmth in the air at the Kitchen Garden for this show, and on this occasion not being generated by a balmy early June evening. It was more a case of the harmonious vibes emanating from the music and personas of two Texas singer-songwriters in prime form. Indeed it was far more than the family affair of husband and wife team Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt inevitably sharing the bill. The joy of eventually being able to travel extensively with their young daughter created a joyous glow which radiated from each performer, heralding a stability to allow a enticing bunch of songs to prosper.

Of course, Danny and Carrie are no strangers to touring the UK, and the observation of so many familiar faces on this Birmingham return certainly played a part in stimulating a relaxed and comforting atmosphere. However while an apt environment is crucial to a successful gig, the performance is still key and on that score the night soared to some seriously high levels of contemporary US folk song writing.

Essentially the tour was planned to coincide with the launch of Carrie’s brand new album THE PENNY COLLECTOR with its curator assuming the headline role. This record has been an absolute joy to discover and cherish over the past couple of months. Anticipation was high that its live airing would frame a whole new dimension and while we weren’t treated to its entirety, the high spots were fantastically brought to life through the evening’s presentation.

For those in attendance who treated it as their premiere, they were quick to learn of its link between the two extremities of life’s cycle. Also that its inspirational creative location was revealed in the opening song ‘New Mexico’. On numerous other occasions, it was a case of breathing in the album’s magical air. ‘And Then the Birds Came’ was one of the tracks closely aligned with the passing of her father (the central theme alongside the subsequent birth of her first child). ‘Crying Out’ leapt to greater heights upon digesting Carrie’s interpretation of a letter to herself. ‘Tilt a Whirl’ confirmed its nostalgic features, while ‘My Brother Said’ re-iterated the strength of emotion that pours out of this record. It transpired that ‘Always on the Run’ was Danny’s favourite and with a little nudge from his supporting role during Carrie’s set it was duly sung as the evening glided to a close.

Carrie did feature the album’s only cover. The version of Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ allowed her own compositions to match up well against a giant of her craft. The Richard Thompson penned ‘Dimming of the Day’ helped balance the covers in a Transatlantic slant. Of the three other songs to feature in Carrie’s set, ‘Company of Friends’ (one of Danny Schmidt’s finest pieces of work) probably edged ‘ Echo in the Hills’ and ‘Jesse Likes Birds’. Although a faltering moment was barely to be seen with Carrie free of the unwanted ailments that affected her when she last visited this venue for a show.

It was almost a low key Danny Schmidt who shared a few of his older songs during the obligatory support role with Carrie joining him on vocals. Danny himself is now two years on from his last album release , the totally absorbing OWLS, and while admittedly he has put things on hold to support the new family and Carrie’s special project, it will surely be only a matter of time before the next collection of new songs surface from one of Austin’s finest contemporary songwriters. True to previous exposure of Danny live (last seen in Asheville North Carolina last summer), his stage delivery is compelling; song subject as deep as you would expect and an affable personality to bridge the gap between artist and audience. Quite frankly he remains one of the most astute, articulate and intelligent songwriters you are likely to come across.

As welcome as it was to enjoy the brief company of Danny Schmidt’s songs again, the evening’s success will be built upon the presentation of an album that will give the career of Carrie Elkin a major lift. Obviously, priorities will lie elsewhere now, but she should be proud that the creative art that provides her a living is in rude health. On a separate note. and one final thought from the evening : what would 600,000 pennies actually look like?

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