There was an air of duality in the Hare and Hounds this evening as circumstances led to the pairing of Chastity Brown and Otis Gibbs for a co-headline gig. A raft of common ground splits the obvious sound and vision differences between each artist, headed by an instinctive trait to be able to spin an artistic web around the audience. This is also joined by the underpinning of a very personal take on folk music, albeit Americana style.
However to take the contrasts at their most literal, this was Chastity’s first visit to a Birmingham venue, while Otis has made the city a regular stopping off point over the last decade of touring this country. Carrying on with the literal theme, Otis is one of the great story telling artists famed for punctuating highly informative songs with regular personal tales, which never lose their shine. On the other hand, Chastity is driven more from the heart and instinct. This leads to incredibly deep songs such as ‘My Stone’. Despite a general observational approach to music, Otis proves to be a no mean architect of the moving piece either with ‘Something More’ never failing to stir an smidgeon of emotion with each rendition.
For the gig annals, Otis adopted the role of show opener and spent an hour on stage sharing an intoxicating batch of original songs for an audience that comprised of both hardened fans and new acquisitions taking a punt on an act that you don’t see every night in the bars of Kings Heath. A busy merch table during the intermission was a testimony to his draw with the new record MOUNT RENRAW being an obvious pull. This album was first made available to Birmingham folks when Otis played the neighbouring Kitchen Garden last October and since that last visit songs like ‘Sputnik Monroe’ and ‘Great American Roadside’ have bedded in alongside old favourites such as ‘Small Town Saturday Night’ and ‘Joe Hill’s Ashes’.
The last couple of months are proving to be a significant period in Chastity’s development as an international artist. The brand new album SILHOUETTE OF SIRENS has met with widespread critical acclaim and her current run of UK shows has garnered favourable reviews. This was in fact the second time that she has been caught live on the tour and it was interesting to compare this final show with one in nearby Bewdley which was one of the the opening dates just over a week ago. On the surface, Chastity’s time on stage was a little longer, this occasion running to an hour and twenty minutes with maybe more focus on the inter song chat which is no bad thing when you wish to get further insight into an artist’s make up. There was definitely an increased spring in her step, a burning desire to get across more to the audience and a tendency to generally rock to a greater extent. The sets were fairly similar, although to the Bob Dylan and Nina Simone covers that she did, you can add an upbeat version of Van Morrison’s ‘Sweet Thing’ parading as the perfect encore closer.
Similarly to the Bewdley show, Chastity’s guitar playing accomplice Luke Enyeart was in identical riveting form, showering the right amount of twang, slide and pumped up electric on fine songs such as ‘Wake Up’, ‘Drive Slow’ and ‘Carried Away’. To end the tour on a high note lends leverage to a return in the not too distant future and further reports of super shows up and down the country fuels this further. Her fascinating mix of predominately folk ‘n’ soul, with more than a hint of country blues creates a warm aura of heartfelt music, intentionally or not, deigned to be an outlet for a primal flow of feelings, emotion and a little pent up anger. An ideal cocktail of purposeful intent and style.
There is no need to choose between the gruff working roots style of Otis Gibbs and the soulful tendencies of Chastity Brown. Merit exists on a parallel scale and both artists encompass the wide wonderful world of Americana music. The fact that artists originally from Union City Tennessee and Wanamaker Indiana are prepared to share the gifts of their craft in the equally exotic surroundings of Kings Heath Birmingham is a treasure not to be taken lightly. Enthusiastic support for both these artists in multiple forms is critical in ensuring nights like this can continue on a recurring basis.