Friday, 22 December 2017

Top 10 Favourite Festival Sets of 2017

A conundrum from attending a handful of festivals this year was assessing the status of SummerTyne, which was attended for the first time at the heart of a British summer. It came across as a hybrid in terms of a plethora of free stage presentations and a menu of stand alone paid for gigs within the Sage complex. A decision to ultimately throw it into the festival mix was partly driven by a reduced season in comparison to previous years. If the quantity was a slimmed down quota, the quality didn't budge from what you have come to expect from the select multi-artist gatherings that have become staples on the summer live music agenda. So in an abbreviated festival season, SummerTyne was joined only by old favourites: Maverick and Moseley Folk, plus a return visit to Tingestock (the world's greatest micro festival) in 2017. What was a given though was an opportune December moment grasped to reflect on the Top 10 Favourite sets that made these events a memorable weekend excursion.

#1 Laura Marling - Moseley Folk Festival

No encore required. An hour sufficient. Any doubts that the effect of a Laura Marling performance in an outdoor park would be diminished were put to rest on the Sunday evening of Moseley Folk. Being at the front probably helped, but this set possessed all the compulsive aura that radiated from the regular live shows over the last couple of years. A performance that capped the most personally pleasing staging of this festival in its decade existence.

#2 Courtney Marie Andrews - Moseley Folk Festival

The frustration of not seeing a full Courtney Marie Andrews show this year was partially alleviated by watching her stunning set at Birmingham's premier roots festival in September. A full band performance was a step up from her Coventry show earlier in the year and the songs, that have ensured her latest album has become a firm favourite, sounded forever sweet.A true talent that has emerged big time in 2017 and the prospect of seeing her perform regularly in the UK is met with great anticipation.
#3 Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express - SummerTyne Americana Festival

Album, gigs, festivals - 2017 was a momentous year for Chuck Prophet with the UK featuring significantly. A serious candidate for artist of the year on the basis of his all round endeavour and this performance on the Sunday night of SummerTyne was utterly memorable. It may really have been a two hour gig in a bespoke festival, but the scene and allotted time brought the best out of Chuck and his band. A show that both artist and audience didn't want to end.
#4 Shovels & Rope - Moseley Folk Festival

2016 was the year of perhaps this duo's finest album to date, while 2017 was the year I finally got the opportunity to catch them live. Carrie Ann and Michael brought their A-game to Moseley showcasing a versatility, an innovative approach and a pack of outstanding songs stretching back a few years now. Another prime reason why this year's line up was the best yet, in my book anyhow.
#5 Angaleena Presley - SummerTyne Americana Festival

It was third time lucky seeing Angaleena live as she finally clicked for me as an absorbing performer. We know the songs are there, but she really nailed the exceptional delivery during this Saturday afternoon show at SummerTyne. It was also the catapult that lifted the Wrangled album out of the pile of potentials to one with a rich narrative. No band required. Just one singer; one voice and a head full of the most compelling songs matched with cutting wit.
#6 John Moreland - Moseley Folk Festival

Sitting in a field for forty minutes listening to John Moreland will take you to far away places.Maybe a damp park in suburban Birmingham is not quite dusty Oklahoma, but who cares about being pedantic. Closing your eyes, alienating the surroundings and focusing truly on a compelling performer is the ideal way to enjoy this artist. His ever increasing presence on the UK live scene is much welcome and the added good news is that he is set to feature at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2018.

#7 Justin Townes Earle - Maverick Festival

Justine Townes Earle has a long standing title of being my least attended pay gig dating back to an early show in Worcester in 2008. How times have changed and this year saw a good album released ably projected by a headline slot at the Maverick Festival. A relaxed performance only added to the sincere effect of a thoughtful artist who continues to make music that matters and reflects the experience of someone with plenty to offer. This was a classy set and worthy of the festival's tenth anniversary.
#8 Don Gallardo - Tingestock Festival

It was a pleasure to return to the world'd finest micro festival in 2017 and witness a supreme performance from Don Gallardo and his assortment of musical friends. He is such an exemplary performer who matches an affable approach with a friendly desire to embrace the music of others. The level of his musicianship will surely break out onto a higher level one day, but until then, we can embrace his presence in Tingewick Village Hall on a Saturday night in July.
#9 Josienne Clark & Ben Walker - Moseley Folk Festival

This duo continue to emerge as my ideal type of folk act. The most beautiful of voices blended perfectly with the most divine guitar playing. Being on Josienne's satirical wavelength also helps as well as appreciating the way they reflect the old and the new of a somewhat twisted genre. Appearances at Moseley Folk are nothing new for Josienne and Ben, but graduating to the main stage from its Lunar sister a couple of years ago firmly represents the progress they have made as recording and performing artists.
#10 Lachlan Byron - Maverick Festival

The name caught my eye in the run up to this festival via promising reports and this was duly followed up with a tremendous set which topped the Saturday afternoon outdoor offering at Maverick. Representing Down Under's rich history in playing the Americana tune, Lachlan was soon noted by others at the festival and hopefully he picks up on this appreciation to return to our shore in the not too distant future.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Hannah Johnson & the Broken Hearts - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Wednesday 20th December 2017

Just over a month ago, The Stray Birds stood on this very same stage delivering their signature line ‘music is the best medicine I know’. In light of the bittersweet narrative that played out as the backdrop to this evening’s gig, it was uplifting to witness the notion of the ‘show goes on’ and even more appetising to savour a very special brand of ‘real’ country music to bring the curtain down on 2017. Upon reflection, it wasn’t the Johnson sisters' hometown reunion, or the virtual sound of the pedal steel conjuring up its spiritual existence that defined the show. It was country music in its purest form that dominated, courtesy of a revised Hannah Johnson & the Broken Hearts line up and a shared sentiment wishing Stewart Johnson a swift road to recovery.

On a night where awarding bodies ranging from Ameripolitan to BCMA were namechecked in differing shades, the highest accolade had to go to Hannah for playing a pivotal role in somewhat tough circumstances. Using every sinew of her musical passion, she led the band admirably through a wealth of complementary material, standing aside when necessary to afford a couple of impeccable pickers the platform to excel. Never afraid to stretch her vocal acumen, a series of diverse covers just exceeded the original offering, while contributing to a seamless hour and half of beam balancing music in terms of authenticity and true to the deep-rooted core of a maligned genre.

From a live audience perspective, Sophia Johnson’s relocation from Birmingham to Austin was a real loss to the local music scene. To counteract this, it was probably a personal blessing and one on the evidence of tonight’s performance, a shot in the arm to move a talent onto a higher plane. Toy Hearts gigs may have become a hazy memory, but the playing tonight was breathless. Maybe, this is the level you have to reach to thrive in Austin. To be fair, regular Broken Hearts guitarist Chris Shirley matched her lick by lick, and although it didn’t materialise, you felt a dual was just around the corner.

Drummer Howard Smith and upright bass player Steve Smith completed the line-up, adding a degree of solidity to the rhythm backline. Hannah continually switched between acoustic guitar and mandolin, the latter a remnant of her formative years on the British bluegrass scene. All facets traditional country now remain her focus, from western swing to rockabilly, though not averse to blending in a little outlaw, honky tonk, blues and the old school Nashville sound. ‘New’ country music was a chasm away.

Hannah Johnson & the Broken Hearts released their debut album earlier this year. It proved a delightful mix of smart covers and forceful originals. ‘Morning Cocktail’, ‘Nowhere Train’ and ‘Your Girlfriend Hates Me’ led the way with the up to date writing credentials in this evening’s set list, which meandered from modified to spontaneous status. Some of the covers, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Ray Price standards, need little documentation, other than a timeless appeal to the listening quality. Outside these, less familiar Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline tunes were given the Broken Hearts treatment alongside numbers from Ernest and Justin Tubbs, Ronnie Self and Roger Miller, which probably don’t see much life away the horizon of the country music aficionado. The transplant of the latter’s ‘Not in Nottingham’ to a West Midlands version of ‘Not in Birmingham’ represents a love/hate relationship the sisters have had with their home city.

To spice up the country content of this end of year hometown show, Hannah invited exiled American singer-songwriter Lars Pluto to play the opening slot. A heart on the sleeve –  takes no prisoners approach to preserving the ethos of ‘real’ country music absolutely defines this performer, who shares his professional time between creating original music and treading the theatre boards in the guise of his heroes. Finding an outlet for his passion can be an increasing challenge, but this will not deter a vigorously focussed defendant. Whether, penning controversial articles for national music magazines or forthright messages in his songs such as the hot off the press ‘Dear Country Music’, lines are etched and swords are drawn. In revolutionary times, catalysts are needed and one may be in our midst.

Hannah Johnson is another fully paid up member of the genre preservation society and her musical stance is a trait that has shone brightly for as long as she has stood on stage proclaiming the worth of her beloved music. From the early days of the Toy Hearts to the difficult circumstances relating to this hometown show, she has steadfastly stood up for what she believes in and created a niche within those who share her ideals. 

The past can either be learnt from, or upheld, while the future will always be the realm of the unknown. Living in the present on the evening of December 20th 2017 however, saw a celebration of what ultimately binds many likeminded people, with the winner being neither artists nor audience, just ‘real’ country music or effectively ‘three chords and the truth’. Music is really the best medicine. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Top 30 Favourite Gigs of 2017

Surely the most indulgent 'end of year list' and likely to be the most unique. Live music continues to be at the heart of ripping away the filters between artist and audience. It has also been the cornerstone of this blog since tentative steps were made to review a Ruth Moody show back in January 2012. In this age of capturing the live experience in a digital haze, the relevance of gig reviews does raise its head, especially when you throw in the notion of living and celebrating the moment. Only a handful of gigs attended this year were spared the obligatory review, and these were entirely at the mercy of creativity running aground. You know your filter system of gig choice is working when virtually all your shows throw up positive moments to allow the thought process to generate review material. However, objectivity does rule the day and the inevitable desire to rank has led to this blog's longest running list carrying over to its sixth renewal. For more insight into each special night, feel free to click on the review link. Happy gig going and see you at a venue in 2018...

#1 Chuck Prophet - The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

"an enthralled Nottingham crowd soaked up a whole two hours of vintage Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express"

"the enjoyment of the music was enhanced by finding the venue’s sound sweet spot"

"a perfect resting place in the personal gig memory vault had been created making this one of the standard markers for at least the rest of the year – probably longer"

#2 American Aquarium - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"it was hard pushed to think of a more profound and enjoyable gig in the first three months of 2017"

"American Aquarium is as complete an alt-country band that you are likely to come across"

"there was certainly something special in an unfiltered atmosphere to move an audience in a multitude of ways"

#3 Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Symphony Hall, Birmingham

"This was a gilt-edged artisan on top of his game and a supporting cast in the 400 Unit matching him each note, chord and interlude"

"there is probably no tighter band around today than Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit"

"perfectly at home in the sort of environment that greeted him this evening"
#4 Miranda Lambert - Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham

"she strolled around the stage belting out this nostalgia-fuelled classic"

"it was a privilege to be in her presence (with a few thousand others) for a thankful, fabulous hour and a half"

"artist at the pulse of contemporary country music"

#5 Danny & the Champions of the World - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"Danny Wilson will forever be the humble front person of a band that has cracked the code of giving an exhilarating live experience"

"this was another classic performance from a band in perfect tune with their surroundings, audience, intent and motives"

"a packed Bullingdon rocked passionately"

#6 Brent Cobb - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"blessed with the poetic tendencies to turn the most insignificant of observations into majestic songs"

"Luring you into a transfixed zone was the redeeming feature of this gig"

"for the time, moment and setting, the arrangement on show was spot on"

#7 Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Cookie, Leicester

"a performance that bristled with emotion, musical chemistry, and a lead protagonist emerging as a spokesperson for resistance through song"

"Alynda Segarra gave an absolute dominant performance"

"If any doubts lingered about the record being one of the hottest and most powerful releases of the year, then spending just over an hour in the company of Alynda Segarra and her four band members unequivocally removed them"

#8 The Kennedys - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a stroke of the Stratocaster turned it into a mystical musical wand"

"When they do return it will be a highly prized evening of outstanding folk ‘n’ roll music"

"Maura’s supreme folk vocals and Pete’s sublime guitar playing"

#9 Margo Price - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"deliver them {songs} as impassioned as you did in Oxford last night and the book of legacy will write itself"

"This may be the last time she jumps into the audience without a security person in sight. Oh the joys of a small venue"

"Live music is far more connective and meaningful in the right environment"

#10 Rhiannon Giddens - Town Hall, Birmingham

"the quality and absorbing nature of the music beamed in harmony with the venue’s ever manoeuvring lights"

"a world-class artist on a stage that she totally owned"

"This took her talents to a new height alongside the banjo, fiddle and creative nous to dig deep into the past to illuminate the world of folk music"

#11 Brandy Clark - Town Hall, Birmingham

 "Brandy Clark adopted the pose of the archetypal country music singer"

"Long may this remain the de facto format for Brandy Clark as it optimises the baring of her songs’ souls"

"the consummate role of the relaxed touring performer"

#12 Laura Marling - Institute, Birmingham

"Watching Laura Marling perform is an absorbing experience as she retains a knack of holding you to every note, breath and lyric"

"Capturing this performance in an isolated mind enabled the true beauty of her music to flourish and prosper"

"the joy of losing yourself in a literary melange of predominately acoustic and occasionally electric is a privilege"

#13 Whitney Rose - Maze, Nottingham

"The result was a heart bending array of real deal country tunes"

"If Whitney supplied the three chords and the heartache, Will was spot on with the twang"

"the stylistic way in which she upholds the tradition of her beloved genre"

#14 Cale Tyson - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"His music and stage show never fails to deliver"

"this inaugural Birmingham show ensured that momentum continues to build"

"the five-piece band in pulsating form from the moment the opening bars of ‘Staying Kind’ fired the started gun"

#15 Angel Snow - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"the stars were certainly aligned this evening, whether your ears were tuned into the vocals, electric or acoustic guitar"

 "a vocal skill that allowed each song to blossom"

"If music is the voice of the soul, the live version spoke loud this evening"

#16 Michael McDermott - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"packs a powerful punch when fully immersed into his songs"

"a songwriter personifying the well-worn statement of ‘heart on your sleeve’"

"an unbelievable strength of living and breathing every lyric of his work and exposing them for an audience to share the effect"

#17 The Stray Birds - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

 "a stark talent shines through"

"flexing their musical muscles to deliver a first rate show"

"Oliver Craven, Maya de Vitry and Charlie Muench sharing their delightful musical talents with a live audience"

#18 Wild Ponies - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"This is country, folk, rock ‘n’ roll or anything you want it to be, as long as you respect tradition, integrity and the power of song"

"the live performance melted any aversion to a heart rendering emotive song"

"fast becoming perennial favourites on the UK touring circuit"

#19 Emily Barker - Glee Club, Birmingham

"Emily Barker is more than the sum of any record she has released"

"Whatever course she undertakes, the quality stamp mark via her talent and astuteness will be proudly displayed"

"the songs possessed a strong feel in the live arena"

#20 Carrie Elkin + Danny Schmidt - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a joyous glow which radiated from each performer"

"the night soared to some seriously high levels of contemporary US folk song writing"

"the high spots were fantastically brought to life through the evening’s presentation"

#21 Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough - St.George's Hall, Bewdley

"music emanating from the Delta and the Gulf waters of the South that inspired an exceptional display of musical craft"

"Will Kimbrough’s presence left a distinguished profound indent on the evening" 

"the trademark swampy vocals of Brigitte DeMeyer took your mind to faraway places with their sultry feel"

#22 Turnpike Troubadours - Thekla, Bristol

"Turnpike Troubadours lived up to every ounce of their projected proclamation as a treasured live act"

"full on display of raucous outlaw country music"

"The fixated and absorbing presence of Evan Felker as lead vocalist and band focal point grew as the show progressed"

#23 Chastity Brown + Otis Gibbs- Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"headed by an instinctive trait to be able to spin an artistic web around the audience"

"both artists encompass the wide wonderful world of Americana music"

"underpinning of a very personal take on folk music"

#24 Hannah Aldridge - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"Exceptional songs, perceptive insight, a cutting aura and an open heart, all go a long way to defining the music of Hannah Aldridge"

"The real beauty of live music is that it cannot be replicated in other mediums"

"fairly intense, highly articulate and forever revealing"

#25 John Craigie - Thimblemill Library, Smethwick

"timeless appeal of the folk-inspired acoustic guitar"

"Allow him the space and time, and this guy will deliver"

"fully embedded into the contemporary power of song"

#26 Jarrod Dickenson - Glee Club, Birmingham

 "just witnessed another first rate Jarrod Dickenson show "

"Texan singer-songwriter, cutting a strong figure on stage with precise vocals to match"

"an effortless performance"

#27 Andrew Combs - Glee Club, Birmingham

"his songs are akin to a sculptor etching each mark on their masterpiece"

"limitless appeal of Andrew’s song writing strength"

"a relevant piece of the 2017 musical adventure jigsaw"
#28 Ben Glover - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a special setting for Ben’s highly acclaimed songs to burst into life"

 "the time has come to step out of the shadows as a performing artist in the UK"

"an artist and performer of moving capability"

#29 Kim Lowing and the Greenwood - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"Kim’s live performance continues to flourish with each show"

"played with an accomplished finesse and sang with a blossoming elegance"

"Black Country band crossing over the divide to play a Birmingham venue"

#30 Emily Mae Winters - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"here for the long term on a platform that may yet evolve"

"so reminiscent of Natalie Maines"

"Emily retains the natural charisma and flair to hold an audience on her own"

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Chris Cleverley + Kelly Oliver - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 17th December 2017

Mid December is usually the time of year when the overseas tours have wound up and the live music domain is left for the home-grown talent to wrap up the last twelve months. This was certainly the case in the gig quarter of Kings Heath, with both the Hare and Hounds and the Kitchen Garden hosting local acts in a festive celebratory gathering. While Birmingham favourites Boat to Row undoubtedly raised a glass to the upcoming holiday season in vibrant mode at the Hare, it left the mellower tones of Chris Cleverley to do likewise over the road at the Kitchen. Maybe there will always be a niche audience at these events, but it was pleasing to see the venue edging towards its capacity as Chris and his special guest Kelly Oliver set about sharing a slice of their musical serving.

There is a history of Chris and Kelly collaborating including a seasonal duet single release twelve months ago and being co-members of the folk ensemble: the Company of Players. Additionally, Kelly paid a recent visit to Birmingham as a guest of a Chris-curated folk night in nearby Moseley, and this evening’s show was a return to the Kitchen following a debut gig in 2016. To this end, both performers were primed for complementary solo sets before the inevitable duo reunion to crown a thoroughly entertaining night of folk music rich in its traditional and contemporary form.

Kelly, travelling up from her Hertfordshire base for this show, opened the evening with a fine mix of songs referencing different factions of her short, but blossoming career. ‘Miles to Tralee’ and the title track off her 2016 album BEDLAM represented that phase of her recorded output, alongside a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Boots of Spanish Leather ’, which was a significant part of her last gig at the venue. To signpost the future, Kelly did share a couple of new original tunes, but with her next album being revealed as made up of entirely traditional material, we may have to wait a while for these to surface on disc. As we have come to expect from Kelly, the songs were immaculately sung and presented with an ever increasing degree of assuredness.

This last trait is a tag that can also be attached to Chris Cleverley who has grown immensely as an artist since his earlier days as a perpetual opener at the Kitchen. A wry sense of humour interjecting some fine picking almost projects this artist to a similar degree as the subtle mix of traditional and original material. The super strength signature song from his 2015 APPARITIONS album ‘The Rafters’ once again proved the pick of Chris’s song selection, with its epic structure housing a serious message of inclusion. Alongside tales of festive adventures, we were also reminded of another Midlands songwriter in Dan Whitehouse, who co-incidentally was also hosting his own Christmas show on the same evening in nearby Wolverhampton. Chris paid tribute with a version of the song ‘Something in the Way’. One song sadly missing from the set was Chris’s excellent contribution to the Company of Players project: ‘But Thinking Makes It So’, but on the other hand, we later heard Kelly’s own effort for this upcoming Shakespeare commemoration album in the guise of ‘You Must Needs Be Strangers’.

The latter occurred in the much anticipated part of the show where the duo got together to share a batch of well-rehearsed numbers including their previous festive offering ‘Ring O’ Bells’ and a few Christmas tunes from a folk perspective. The encore heralded the final twist of the evening with a nostalgic adaption of that timeless seasonal classic ‘Wombling Merry Christmas’. Fair play to Chris and Kelly for digging up a relic to them, but more than a fair few members of the audience were taken back to those heady Glam Rock days of 1974. A perfect end to a night built on a sound substance, and providing a springboard to where these aspiring artists can progress in the New Year. 

One for the kids:

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Iona Fyfe + Lucy Kitchen + Iona Lane - The Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry. Friday 15th December 2017

The countdown clock may just have little over three years to go before the City of Culture tag formally kicks in, but in a buried corner of Coventry, the ‘c’ word is alive and buzzing. The Big Comfy Bookshop has been creating waves on the UK’s folk ‘n’ roots acoustic circuit for quite a while, and this is only likely to gather pace as we move into a new year. While a venue can make its own mark on a music scene, it is literally just another building without the artists that illuminate the everyday surroundings. The presentation that closed the 2017 Comfy and Acoustic twice-monthly programme worked a treat in terms of representing the breadth and depth of folk music the length of our land. So let’s focus on the triumvirate of Iona Fyfe, Lucy Kitchen and Iona Lane, who loosely combined to celebrate the joy of unfiltered live music.

Iona Lane
Inevitably, the evening rolled out as billed, with a pair of co-opening acts effectively supporting the headliner in terms of afforded stage time. In a brace of thirty-minute slots, both Iona Lane and Lucy Kitchen set about sharing the span of their talent, which contained a mirror of contrasts and similarities. Lo-fi acoustic guitar and a golden voice were joint symbolic attributes alongside an inclination to veer towards contemporary original song writing. Identical ambience radiated from each performance as their style resonated with the ethos of the venue and the expectations of the audience.

Without edging into judgemental circles, frequent fragments of individuality seeped out. An age differential led to Lucy coming across as a more steadfast performer, and perhaps making greater effective use of her guitar. It was deduced that her set comprised solely of original material, although there appeared to be a natural tendency to allow the songs do their own communicating. Without dispute, the set peaked with the final number. Via the introduction, Lucy revealed that ‘Searching for Land’ was her favourite track from the latest album and this explicitly transferred to the way the song was noticeably delivered.

Lucy Kitchen
Prior to Lucy executing her impressive set, Iona Lane opened the evening with similar effect, although from a younger perspective of finding her feet in the professional world. This led to an assertion of being more experimental combined with an eagerness to embrace inter-song communication. Iona did wander into cover territory with a version of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ , but her set was defined with a batch of revealing songs headed by the life changing ‘Amsterdam’. Essentially, she came across as an unblemished talent that will surely blossom with the passage of time.

Maybe at this point in the evening a slice of variety was craved, so cue: the heaven sent Iona Fyfe. First up, it is wise to address the geographical differences, as we now had to embrace ourselves for an hour of staunchly traditional Scottish folk music in contrast to two sets with a particularly English flavour. Whatever the motivation for Iona to leave all remnants of instrumentation back north of the border for this gig excursion, it was an absolute blessing to spend a coveted hour in the precious company of her sculptured voice; effervescent charm and an endearing commitment to share her passion.

The highest compliment to pay Iona is her ability to reach out and engage those who are not too au fait with the art of the traditional song, especially from the north east of Scotland. While folk clubs will soak this up, though reportedly occasionally in judgemental mode, this setting was far from that. At the end of the set, folks could start to sort their Child ballads from their Bothy ballads, alongside generating a further understanding of where this music is sourced. Not forgetting, all this was accomplished in the presence of a most captivating voice, plus the odd encouragement to ‘get yer singing’. The success of the latter was left to ponder, but the enthusiasm of the advocate was unequivocal. The jaw-dropping backdrop to this segment of the show, probably highlighted by a version of ‘The Banks of Inverurie’, was the aura generated by a performer yet to reach the ripe old age of twenty.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be obligatory to expect a couple of Scots Gaelic songs, but as they are part of Iona’s current education drive, their presence was pleasantly welcome. The parting shot of this performance was learning that the countdown is underway to the release of a new album, complete with Celtic Connections launch night and a full band. As mouth-watering as this sounds, the value of turning up in the ‘soon to be’ culturally renewed Coventry with just the most basic of artistic tools and leaving an incredible indelible mark is one to never be under estimated.