Sunday, 8 April 2018

GIG REVIEW: Ramblin' Roots Revue (Friday Evening Only) - Bucks Student Union, High Wycombe. Friday 6th April 2018

The Magic Numbers
To offer some clarity Ramblin Roots Revue is a three-day festival hosted by the Bucks Student Union in High Wycombe and has amongst its architects, the nearby- based Clubhouse Records. When an opportunity arose to attend the Friday evening, temptation gave way to reality and it was off to see five bands barnstorm through over four hours of seamless music. Off course, this was just the starter for those camped in both spacious locations within the campus building for the whole weekend as the Whisky Saloon segued into the main arena for the continual stream of sets. The vast majority of the acts booked were British, although if you dig deeper into the roots element, then the lineage of influence primarily goes through the Springsteen/Dylan/Young/Petty axis. In essence, the evening rocked with a branded streak of alt-country flowering as brightly as you are likely to see this side of the pond.

Ironically, first up on the the adapted Whisky Saloon stage was the American artist Robert Chaney, although his long term residency in London crosses over as much as the general feel of this event. Robert first crossed my path a couple of years ago with a solo set at Maverick; a likewise support slot in Oxford and an album packed with deftly dark songs. A couple of years on, there was an indication of change, although underpinned by a similar demeanour. This time a full band was in tow including pedal steel to steer the sound away from folk and into the realm of country. His half-hour set was entirely made up of newer songs, which on first listen were definitely a lighter shade of noir in their content and make-up. ‘Hurricane’, ‘What’s His Name’ and ‘Swing Low’ were a selection of the songs shared with the festival’s early arrivals, and they promised to be a flavour of a new album likely to drop in the not too distant future.

Robert Vincent
There was a slight break in the seamless nature with Case Hardin following Robert Chaney onto the Whisky Saloon stage after a short ten-minute changeover period (the solitary one before the two-stage operation began). Although Case Hardin activity tends to be intermittent probably due to other commitments, they never fail to impress either though sparkling live performances or albums they periodically release. This time there was a full band on display with a rhythm section of bass, drums and keys proudly supporting front man Pete Gow and his exceptional lead guitarist Jim Maving. Absence never seems to diminish an appreciation for how good this band are when operating in full flow; it may even re-vitalise it. The thirty-minute set spanned the breadth of the Case Hardin repertoire. Two of my favourites from the most recent COLOURS SIMPLE album in ‘(Jesus Christ Tomorrow Morning) Do I Still Have To Feel This Way’ and ‘Roll Damnation Roll’ were probably the pick of the selection offered with ‘A Lullaby (..Of Sorts)’ taken from an older album following closely on their heels.

The Redlands Palomino Company
Any slight disappointment in Case Hardin not playing a longer set appeased quickly with a quick shuffle into the main arena to see Robert Vincent about to commence a performance. The year since the release of his most recent album I’ll MAKE THE MOST OF MY SINS continues to treat this Liverpudlian well. Hot off the tracks from a nationwide support slot for Beth Nielsen Chapman and that late night performance on the Old Grey Whistle Test tribute show, the full band once again assembled as the set times started to lengthen a little. The acquisition/hiring of in-demand pedal steel/multi-guitarist CJ Hillman gives the songs a different dimension, more alt-country than straight out rock that can often consume the full band live shows. This alteration compounded further by the utilisation of a fellow band member switching between fiddle, banjo and mandolin. One slight blemish on the venue’s sound was the fiddle not being particularly clear to pick up, but the sentiment was at least there.  The set list was standard for folks getting used to seeing Robert Vincent live with ‘Demons’ the usual closer, but on this occasion the recent album title track and its sibling song from the first album LIFE IN EASY STEPS making the greatest impressions.

Robert Chaney
No sooner had this set finished then it was back to the Whisky Saloon (drink in hand, although more ale based than liquor) for a now becoming annual renewal of The Redlands Palomino Company love affair. If acquaintance with Case Hardin is sporadic, it has been the same with their Clubhouse label stable mates for as long as being a fan (now well over a decade). However, on the back of a slot at Tingestock last summer, this Hannah and Alex Elton-Wall co-led five-piece have considerably narrowed the bridge between gigs seen and from a hazy memory, this was a tighter performance than last year. Between new songs, homages to Teenage Fan Cub and a cover of Nick Lowe’s ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout’) Peace, Love and Understanding’, it is still old style Redlands that fires up the crowd with devotees chanting ’24 hours to kill’ in the refrain to ‘Wasted on You’. Maybe time ran out before ‘Doin’ It For the Country’ had the chance to test the vocal chords of the audience for a second time, but it was just grateful to catch this band live once again.

Case Hardin
Main arena headliners for this opening evening of Ramblin’ Roots Revue saw a slight twist in style with The Magic Numbers enlisted into the fold to play a show in the run up to the release of a new album. Mainstream success, although in the deep distant past, plays a part in the stage persona of this double brother-sister combo, one with a tendency to rock out more than a majority of acts booked to play Ramblin’ Roots. This set obviously attracted plenty of their fans to the event and this led to old favourites like ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love Me Like You’ going down a storm. To preview their upcoming album OUTSIDERS, 'Sweet Divide, ‘Sing Me a Rebel Song’ and ‘Wayward’ were a selection of newbies. The latter was a toned down slower piece penned in honour of Romeo’s son and a song, which enabled the added pedal steel to play a more significant part than on the upbeat numbers. Romeo’s sister, Michele Stodart continues to be the enthusiastic pulse beat of the band and there is surely no greater animated bassist around. On an evening where covers were generally at a premium, The Magic Numbers ended with a Neil Young tribute and honoured the audience choice of ‘Harvest Moon’ over the simultaneously offered ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’.

This brought the opening evening to a fitting end and set the scene for a great weekend of which further details will have to be found elsewhere. For fans of western shirts, pedal steel and country music spliced with a hefty portion of roots rock on an alternative platform, Ramblin’ Roots Revue is a gift-wrapped treat. Hopefully, it will achieve its hat trick of staging in 2019 and circumstances that enabled a solitary Friday night appearance this year will expand across the weekend.

No comments: