Friday, 29 June 2018

ALBUM REVEIW : Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes - Some Girls (Quite) Like Country Music. Self-released

If first impressions carry a large weighting then Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes set off on the right footing. Parading their wares on the outside stage at last year’s Maverick Festival proved an instant hit with many folks and the scene was set to make serious inroads into the UK country and Americana community. It can sometimes be perplexing assessing a non-US act taking inspiration from a land many thousands of miles from home, but this does not preclude a successful re-enactment especially with any pseudo content banished. Further proof of Lachlan Bryan’s impressive tilt into the genre lavishly displays right across his new album, strikingly titled SOME GIRLS (QUITE) LIKE COUNTRY MUSIC.

The relevance of this artist hailing from Australia is one that you can choose to apply or not, although characters and surroundings from his homeland play a significant part in the record. The secret to this release, his fourth since commencing recording under this name in 2009, is the honest and straightforward way he goes about tackling the song subjects. To provide some content to the style adopted, think more along the singer-songwriter route with a slice of fiddle and steel casually added to spice up the array of ballads. The song writing makes you sit up right from the off with the high impact line ‘women, do what you must, cos there ain’t a man in this world you can trust’ that leads you into ’I Hope That I’m Wrong’. From that moment, you are caught in the web of a writer with plenty of sense to contribute to a progressive agenda.

Throughout the twelve song-fifty one minute playing time, there is plenty of engaging content to absorb. Like many of the better records currently around, this album is not designed for the quickly discarded pile. Interesting snippets and facets will continue to emerge after endless plays, though listening will never sink into a chore as an affable façade is painted to the vocals and soundtrack.

To place the album on safe ground, tracks one to seven barely have the width of a song sheet between them when deciphering potential stand out candidates. In line with the thought-provoking title and cover photographs that throw up a million potential story angles, two of the opening half a dozen songs roll out as duets with female singers Shanley Dell and Lindi Ortega. The former leads off on ‘The Basics of Love’ a song with more than a casual reference to the Waylon Jennings classic ‘Luckenbach Texas’. The more familiar Lindi, to fans in the UK anyhow, helps on ‘Don’t You Take it Too Bad’ as we delve deeper into traditional country music territory. This style is replicated in 'It Tears Me Up (Every Time You  Turn Me Down)' with added fiddle making an appearance.

Piano ballads frequently pop up across the record as evidenced by ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ in the early stages and ‘Someone You Know So Well’ at the end. ‘Careless Hearts’ possesses the strongest chorus hook, while if you fancy a little waltz ‘Stolen Again’ will oblige. The key story telling song on the album appears in the #2 slot with the starkly titled ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man’; a song that you will probably go back to a few times to grasp. In the midst of this song, the album title appears as a lyric to shed some light on possible meanings.

Elsewhere ‘In New York’ is a descriptively inspired experience piece complete with the obligatory guitar solo. This heads a trio of tracks in the final throes of the album including the quietly mindful ‘Peace in the Valley’ and a dose of personally injected twang into ‘The Cemetery Near My Home Town’.

There are times when listening to Lachlan Bryan reminds me of Cale Tyson, with the stripped out southern twang of course. Such association scores high in my book and SOME GIRLS (QUITE) LIKE COUNTRY MUSIC is a most welcome entry to the music collection. 2018 sees Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes return to the UK for a run of shows including a re-appearance at the Maverick Festival. No newbie surprises are expected this time, just an accomplished set from a top rate artist bringing an impressive batch of new songs to the party. Good stuff is heard and felt in this album and fundamentally that is all that matters when connecting an artist to a listener. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Lucy Ward - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 26th June 2018

It has been a contrasting couple of days at the Kitchen Garden. On the rebound from a two-night sold out ‘residency’ by Beth Nielsen Chapman it was normal service resumed as Lucy Ward bounded back into Birmingham to stoke up some fire and fury in folk fans. It is a credit to the venue that such diverse nights can be successfully staged. Some may say – tongue in cheek – that this night reflected the soul of the venue, but the gig platform is a spacious zone. This zone is vibrantly consumed when Lucy Ward sparks a feisty passion and exudes an offbeat enthusiasm. This is folk music in its purest form, give or take the frequent strum of the guitar and ukulele or the odd squeeze of the concertina. As linear, controlled and structured the two previous evenings were, tonight was a return to the maverick ramblings of a left field performer purveying hypnotic powers to lure her audience into a wonderful world of traditional fantasy and gritty political resistance.

Starting with an ode to social injustice via a version of ‘The Trapper and the Furrier’ to ending with the most moving of war futility songs in ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, it is impossible not to join the fight, in a passive sense mind you.  As good as Eric Bogle’s song is, Lucy herself has matched the sentiment with her own stunning classic ‘Lion’. If she never writes another song again (for illustrative purposes only) this has the power and credence to live as long as the futility of war itself. Despite listening to this song on countless occasions, the opening line of ‘Tear the white linen from his sheet lad/ He won’t be sleeping in this bed tonight’ hit  hardest tonight.

Since last seeing Lucy play live at the Jinney Ring Folk Festival in 2016 a lot has happened in the world. Probably, more so for Lucy with the birth of her first child, and subsequently the inspiration for song writing on a more personal and sensitive level. The most recent development has been the release of her fourth album PRETTY WARNINGS. More temperate songs such as ‘Sunshine Child’ and ‘The Sweetest Flowers’ are now added to her catalogue and were shared with the audience tonight. Other newbies on the agenda included the philosophical ‘Cold Caller’ and a soon to be crowd favourite singalong ‘Lazy Day’. Another new addition to the set list from previous shows is a cover of Bowie’s ‘Drive In Saturday’, introduced from the angle that you cannot completely serenade a toddler with songs about death and murder.

As intimated previously, politics (of the correct persuasion) plays a large part in Lucy’s outlook and she is always open to a frank exchange of ideas. Her song ‘Bigger Than That’, with its dig at the ‘I’m alright Jack’ generation has put her on the map and its raucous delivery this evening re-enforced the message.

On an alternative songwriting front, an unreleased song titled ‘The Quickening Clock’ made an appearance and had its origin of being a commissioned piece for an Open University sustainability project explained. As ever with Lucy’s work, it looks at some of life's critical issues from the most acute of angles.

Just a brief mention of three other familiar tracks added to the main sets. ‘Alice in the Bacon Box’ opened the second half just as everybody returned from a breath of fresh air on a warm and humid evening in the middle of the current, and rare, British heatwave. ‘King Willie’ saw Lucy in vibrant form hammering out the traditional, while ‘Creatures and Demons’ is one of the best tracks from her 2015 album I DREAMT I WAS A BIRD.

Opening up the show on the evening was a splendid half hour slot of a Capella vocal harmony from the local casual quintet Women in Folk, featuring Kitchen Garden regular Katy Bennett. A diverse selection of songs ranging from familiar pieces such as ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ were mixed with an obscure Hawaiian song and one sung in Georgian. This obviously inspired the watching Lucy, who invited two of the group on stage for the encore to join her in a version of ‘John Ball’.

The work of Lucy Ward continues to make her one of the most engaging and rewarding performers on the UK folk circuit. Tuning in is required, but art is far more satisfying and long lasting when the listener has to invest a little. Long may the fire burn in her songs, outlook and quirky stage demeanor. A long road lies ahead and certain music has a strong part to play.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Beth Nielsen Chapman - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 25th June 2018

The creaking wooden staircase, stone floor and bricked interior of the Kitchen Garden have witnessed a seemingly lifetime of musicians share their craft over the years. Many nationalities have brought a variety of music styles, all tightly bound by a vision to connect with an audience on the most intimate levels of interaction. Throughout this period, a soul has formed and a special bond has adhered between those laying their money down and those accruing the crumbs. The venue has become a triumph of content over message, a refreshing state of play in these superficial times. However, when Beth Nielsen Chapman anoints it as the “Bluebird Café of the UK”, then maybe it is time the message had at least a day in the sun.

To say that this two-night sold out stint by one of Nashville’s most revered songwriters moved the goalpost of the Kitchen Garden is an understatement. A change in dynamics was the order of the evening as a dedicated audience filed in to experience a Beth Nielsen Chapman show in a totally new format. The perfect platform for candidness discarded the shackles of a theatre set up, and an artist with a vivid story to tell sparked to the occasion.

When the term ‘An Evening with..’ is added to the bill, the blueprint need look no further to what rolled out between 8:15 and 11:00 tonight. Take out the ubiquitous twenty-minute break, and being short-changed was nowhere to be seen. Whether you wanted a bucketful of songs stripped back to their unfiltered origin or warm chat that breezed across a sultry evening, the menu was extensive and lavish. Even the most informed Beth Nielsen Chapman fan would have been hard pushed not to discover at least some aspect of a new nugget from this absolute baring of the soul.

To what extent she dips into these extensive autobiographical moments is unclear. Yet she thrived, projected rays of satisfaction and positively feasted from the loving surroundings. The visual enhancement of a projected slideshow added a personal touch. The lengthy chat, which was always going to prevail, was interspersed by songs played from the piano and the guitar. This was not a time for a band or even duo accompaniment; it was about one songwriter expressly displaying why their creative flow has capitalised in the cutthroat world of commercial entertainment.

Only recently, the excellent radio show Leader’s American Pie broadcast an hour-long interview where Beth delved deeply into the song writing process. Facets of this appeared during the evening especially towards the end when a Q & A segment further fueled the adrenalin. The bulk of the night probably lent more towards the sentiment rather than the technical. The backstory of loss, illness, recovery and triumph over adversity holds more sway in the paid environment.

A fascinating insight to the evening was piecing together the traits to why Beth Nielsen Chapman has succeeded in a world where similarly talented artists fall by the wayside. Obviously, an enormous wealth of innate song writing skill is in place, but many know that this is not necessarily the sole guiding light. The high degree of professionalism and a strong ability to communicate shone through. You can assume that there were few open doors left unexplored as exemplified by the diverse amount of projects diligently presented during the show. When the hits dried up, these projects assumed momentum.

The format of this show was chronologically linear, which can sometimes be in contrast to the random nature that often spontaneously radiates from an artist. The presentation was in line with a measured and calculated approach that is suggestively deduced from up front observations. None of these assertions cast any shade on the aura that surrounded Beth Nielsen Chapman and that you were not in the presence of a performer taking the meaning of ‘acclaimed’ and ‘respected’ to its intended level.

This evening was not about any surprises in the musical content. All the usual suspects were there from the country music cuts to the Radio 2 favourites. For somebody of such a high profile, the narrative is largely known as well. What defined this show was the adaptation to the surroundings and the perceived switch in dynamics. All coupled with the stark exposition of what a fine songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman is, with all the components neatly packaged for display.

Inevitably, the Kitchen Garden will re-discover itself and Beth Nielsen Chapman will continue on a journey, now well past hall of fame status. For two nights only, the world order was reversed and it was fascinating to experience it. A little shake up is refreshing and shows like this create an indent in the mind. You can only surmise to how venue and artist will recall this show, but the UK’s answer to the Bluebird Café is not a bad start.

Monday, 25 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Beardy Folk Festival (Saturday Only) - Hopton Wafers, Shropshire. Saturday 23rd June 2018

From small acorns, the saying goes, but playing a small part at the outset of what could prove a fruitful journey is a decent place to be. Hopton Wafers is a sleepy location on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border and now can add the location of the Beardy Folk Festival to its claim to fame. A gently sloping walled garden rectangular amphitheatre provides the natural landscape to house a smart diversity of UK acts representing a broad range of folk music styles. Whether the organisers have opted for a touch of irony, or an attempt at stereotypical reclamation in naming their operation, tapping into a winning formula suggests that more has gone right than wrong in treading the tricky waters of festival promotion.

The caveat to such an analysis stems from only attending the Saturday of this three-day event, but adopting a ‘speak as you find’ approach reaches a favourable conclusion. A slick operation presented nearly twelve hours of continuous music from thirteen scheduled performers. This was utilised from a slightly elevated main stage at the base of the arena and a small acoustic stage sensibly located within the beer tent. A gorgeous June day did not present a test of the British summer frailties, allowing a concentrated full focus on the music – give or take the odd break for refreshments of the body and mind. The artists featuring on the Saturday ranged from the very familiar to the soon to become familiar, albeit from a highly personal perspective. Prospective styles included finely tuned interpretations of both Scottish and English folk rock, a bi-partisan approach to the traditional and contemporary outlook, and a transatlantic nod to the realms of alt-country and bluegrass. All artists were bound by integrity and a desire to perfect their chosen craft.

The very familiar came in the guise of Kim Lowings and the Greenwood making a twenty- mile trek from the edge of the West Midlands. Kim has been watched in a host of local venues over the last few years and now a festival main stage can be added to the list. There was an element of equality in the presentation of all main stage acts getting an hour-long set, so none of this thirty to forty minute lunchtime slots to make way for the headliner egos. Kim used her time to highlight a fair spread of recorded material and a selection of songs saved solely for the stage. Song accompaniment included the trademark Appalachian mountain dulcimer, more recent leaning to the acoustic guitar and the ever-impressive vocal solo. Set peak choices came from ‘The Littlest Birds’, ‘Bold Riley’, ‘Away Ye Merry Lasses’...- ok no need to name every song! They’re all good. Kim was the only artist to be afforded slots on both stages, and used her half hour set in the beer tent to strip back a different set of songs and test a couple of new ones out on the audience. Interestingly, these were both delivered from the acoustic guitar and saw her writing take a socially conscious path. No doubt, more will surface on the extent of this direction in good time.

From the highly familiar to the totally new (to me anyhow) and a few thoughts on the Joshua Burnell performance as the increasingly powerful sun beat down on the lunchtime drinkers. Assisted by a six-piece full backing band and taking more than a leaf out of the sixties/seventies folk rock pioneers  blueprint, Joshua served up an impressive selection of mainly traditional tunes. A striking look blended in well with the blissful tones of the Hammond organ in full flow, and a set to linger long in the memory unraveled. An enthusiastic and innovative fan base fanned the flames long after the set finished and ensured that this artist made the largest leap on the day from the unknown.

Joshua Burnell Band
Back to the familiar and a first opportunity to catch UK alt-country rockers Orphan Colours live since giving their debut album a glowing review earlier in the year. A six-strong combo led by Steve Llewelyn and Dave Burn, previously from acclaimed band ahab, powered through a riveting set as the sun finally began to sink and injected a major degree of energy into the event at an opportune moment. Sporadic sax akin to the E-Street band in full flow mixed with the widely used three part harmonies as a barrage of impressive songs such as ‘Goodnight California’, ‘High Hopes’ and ‘Start of Something’ successfully made the journey from the record to stage.

The biggest surprise on the day was north-west based folk and bluegrass band Jaywalkers springing from a known name not heard to the architects of a set that fought ferociously to be considered the best of the day. They contributed to the moment when the entire chill out vibes were in place. The trio of Mike (mandolin), Lucy (upright bass) and Jay (fiddle) played a sublime mix of old time inspired tunes interspersed with notable originals and a few diverse covers including giving ‘Big River’ and ‘Tainted Love’ a bluegrass makeover. No longer do this band remain just a name on a listings page; the perfect example of good music finding the right ear over time.

Kim Lowings and the Greenwood
You can now detect the rotating nature to this review as we switch focus to the Saturday headliners Skerryvore with an air of recent familiarity. This Scottish folk rock band with a fervent outlook have been operating for well over a decade outside my periphery, but this changed when challenged to review their latest album EVO. Having bought in to an exceedingly good array of heady folk rock anthems and feisty fiddle, pipe and whistle tunes, an early opportunity to catch their high-octane live show was relished. The only blip to the smooth running of the main stage saw a fifteen minute delay to the band strutting their stuff, but to be fair sound checking an eight-piece band in a limited time is a challenge. Nobody cared that it was 10:45 when they bound onto stage. Thus illuminating an arena that had been generally passive all day soaking up the good music alongside the rays. Afforded not a minute more than Urban Folk Quartet almost eleven hours ago, the guys wasted little time in delivering a pulsating interactive set, spearheaded by the pair of striking anthems leading the way off the new album in ‘Live Forever’ and ‘At The End of the Line’. Skerryvore delivered without dispute what it says on their tin and everything about the way they concluded the day was first class.

A quick jump back to a name new off the page on the Beardy Folk line up and the performance of Sinnober on the acoustic stage just as another pint of the local Hobsons brew beckoned. However, you did not need a drink to appreciate this duo that travelled up from Frome in Somerset to play a neatly packaged bunch of original songs decked out in a contemporary lilt. What marked out this pairing of Sebastian and Natalie Brice on acoustic and electric bass guitar respectively was the highly crafted nature to their songs, strongly rinsed in an air of instant familiarity. In contrast, they were an absolute new name to me and the epitome to how the off-piste locations at a festival can often lead to a fruitful discovery. A new album is in the works and it is certainly something to check out in the future.

The previously mentioned Urban Folk Quartet kicked off the Saturday programme on the mainstage as the clock struck noon. They were unfamiliar to the extent that I have never seen them live or heard their music before, but one quarter of this musical alliance is the very familiar Dan Walsh, seen, heard and reviewed on numerous occasions. This was no meek introduction to the day, as these four noted musicians know how to work a festival crowd and spill out a spritely set of instrumentally fueled folk and roots music. Banjo, fiddle, mandolin and other assorted stringed instruments dominated here and set the agenda for a continual streak right through the day.

A conundrum exists whether to place Richard Digance in the familiar or unfamiliar category. The latter prevailed based on not previously seeing this veteran entertainer play a festival set. The mid-afternoon slot proved ideal, as a placid audience were content to just sit back and enjoy various shades of humour alongside a selection of instantly appealing songs. Anecdotes, quips and poignant reflection liberally interspersed the music as this specifically generation-focussed set held its own among the more progressive and youthful elements. Yet Richard Digance has a story to tell, takes pride in a lifelong love for folk music and smoothly created yet another distinctive mark on a festival.

Orphan Colours
Inevitably, moments arise during a twelve-hour festival day when normality takes hold and the mind needs re-energising. While a breather was had, the crime of casually watching Jim Moray perform from a distance led to not getting the best out of the performance. Having seen him play on numerous occasions, the music is best enjoyed in an absorbing state, but it was a case of next time, which you know with Jim Moray, would not be too long. Eric Sedge has been touring with Richard Digance, and his acoustic stage set got a hefty recommendation from his colleague. Casually dipping into it revealed a highly capable singer-songwriter. Likewise, duo Fly Yeti Fly held your attention for a brief stint in the shade without any plugging and particularly caught the ear with an engaging story of a mermaid and merman. It would not be a folk festival without at least one! Johnny Walters and the Savoy and Tom Malachowski completed the acoustic stage offering, but a little socialising and some fine food won the moment during their appearances.

Obviously, a perception of success can only be expressed from an outsider’s viewpoint without any insight to the books. Hopefully, Beardy Folk can achieve a renewal in future years and continue to grow an audience to ensure a healthy balance exists between customer experience and event viability. The summer festival scene is a crowded place, but get it right and success will come. Long may this corner of the Midlands countryside be a staging post for that fascinating joy of exploring the familiar and unfamiliar in a serenely located multi-artist gathering. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Kim Richey - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 19th June 2018

Early into her first set, Kim Richey commented that the configuration of the Kitchen Garden partially reflected the world famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. This was apt to the extent that seeing her play that iconic venue back in 2016 re-ignited an immense appreciation for such a measured and accomplished talent. In contrast to an evening where the limelight was shared with fellow songwriters Matraca Berg, Don Henry and Bill Lloyd, Kim reverted to her de facto solo touring mode and injected a stark reminder of the many fine songs to have surfaced from her deep creative well over the years.

2018 is shaping up to be a significant year for this artist originally hailing from Ohio, but more than making a mark a couple of states further south where the good and great in music gather. EDGELAND, her first studio album in five years, has accrued heaps of attentive praise since emerging in the spring on the Yep Roc label and a raft of dates supporting Gretchen Peters in the UK has seen a re-raising of her profile across the pond. A few extra well-attended solo dates have been tagged onto this trip and we learned on the evening that a return in the autumn is planned as well.

For this Birmingham show, a city that has hosted Kim on numerous occasions in the past including the recent Town Hall Gretchen gig, the standard twin forty-five minute set rolled out. While this was probably the minimum requirement in length, the substantial standard of the songs and performance on display far outweighed the modest outlay.

Similarly to many artists witnessed, Kim grew gradually into her role, while perfecting the vocal tones to match the casually strummed guitar. The background chat and informative stories were restrained into optimum territory leaving sufficient breathing space for the song structures to be savoured. It was easy to compare the new material against its more established siblings, and you can comfortably imagine ‘Pin a Rose’ and ‘Chase Wild Horses’ being as loved as ‘Those Words We Said’ and ‘I’m Alright’ in years to come.

While these songs currently represent the cream at the bookends of the Kim Richey career timeline, the set list this evening also picked out a handful of gems from the interim years. ‘Chinese Boxes’, ‘Wreck Your Wheels’ and ‘Thorn in My Heart’ are far much more than album title tracks and sounded as good as ever on the night. The latter assumed the role of show opener ensuring the audience quickly found that captivating zone.

It may sound slightly ingenuous to proclaim a cover as the highlight to a singer-songwriter’s show, but this exception is tough to dispute. Before closing the show, Kim spoke about her Opry debut many years ago, and how she tentatively selected a cover as her third song choice. While hearing Kris Kristofferson sing ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ live a few years ago was a moving moment, there has admittedly been far superior vocally delivered versions of this timeless classic. Add Kim Richey to this lengthy list now after experiencing the intensity and focus she gave it for three minutes of bliss to close the evening on a high.

Scanning back over the thirty years of Kim Richey’s career reveals an artist held in the upmost esteem by both industry insiders and fans with an acute ear to the quality song. Whether serving up songs for the big hitters in her formative Nashville years or carving out a performing niche spanning far from the confines of Music City, a rewarding career has ensued; one with plenty more fuel in the tank on the evidence of the current record. Periodically, UK fans have been blessed with these songs in their unfiltered transparent state and this evening’s show at the Kitchen Garden staged the latest renewal in a fitting way.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Danni Nicholls - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 10th June 2018

There is precedence to a Danni Nicholls album having multiple lives and the scene is set for a repeat process now that the songs are in the can for the next album. The cycle may still be in the embryonic untitled stage regards the upcoming album, but tracks are beginning to emerge in a live setting. Fresh out of a latest stateside stint to bring the songs to near fruition, she has undertaken a few dates around the country to break them in gently. Birmingham’s Kitchen Garden has hosted Danni on a couple of previous occasions and it was a posse of familiar faces greeting her for this latest visit. Grander stages will feature ahead as the record nears release, but it is good for the new songs to be road tested and it can be unequivocally stated that treats are on the way to fans new and old.

A distinct theme characterised the two sets Danni played this evening. The bulk of the new material featured after the break, following a widely spanned selection in the first set from a recording and performing career fast approaching a decade in the spotlight. Old tunes like ‘Time’ rubbed shoulders with some of her finest to date such as ‘Beautifully Broken’, while joined by the recurring Randy Newman cover ‘Guilty’ and a live favourite in ‘Where the Blue Train Goes’. Not forgetting the gorgeous 'Between Forever and Goodbye' and the scene setting opener 'Long Road Home'.

As popular and much loved as these songs are, the long awaited new material created a sense of anticipation. Permeating the offering in the opening set was the first positive sign that the future is bright with a Birmingham premiere for ‘Hopeless Romantic’. It does not take many listens to a Danni Nicholls track to admire its appeal and there was no evidence in this trait being lost.

After the break, and an opportunity for folks to fill in their gaps of any missed album purchases, Danni was more forthright and informative about the next album, even if it means we still have a little time to wait before it reaches the market in the recorded format. Five further tracks were given an early airing, although one was vaguely familiar as ‘Ancient Embers’ did feature in the show here twelve months ago. Fingers were crossed at the time that it may make the cut for a future record and the faith appears to be repaid. A little was learned about the writing process and it was no surprise to hear that Danni has teamed up with Ben Glover for a couple of co-writes. ‘Texas’ and ‘Wild is the Water’ had the Ben Glover mark all over them especially the second one; although Danni’s effortless presentation style will soon assume ownership. They certainly came across as songs from a wider canvas on first listen and maybe a drift away from the fairly tight periphery that has reflected her writing in the past.

The other two new songs heard in the second set were ‘Power to Leave’ and ‘Losing It’. The first was revealed as another co-write, this time with Austin-based artist Jaimee Harris, while the other had not developed any introductory patter yet. True to form, the introduction of the new songs served tonight went a long way to suggest that another acclaimed album is going to emerge.

There was still time for plenty of old favourites as Danni never fails to play a comprehensive show when afforded the opportunity. ‘Beautiful Game’, ‘Back to Memphis’ and ‘Hey There, Sunshine’ will never outstay their welcome, and while the lengthy introduction to ‘A Little Redemption’ was shelved, the sentiment of this upbeat jaunty number is never lost.

Cover-wise, this was an evening free of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, but what better way to end the gig than Danni playing her version of Will Kimbrough’s ‘Goodnight Moon’. A heady mix of sharing humility while crafting a beautiful rendition.

In contrast to Danni’s previous shows at the Kitchen, an opening act was added to the bill and it was good to catch the music of Kathryn Marsh and Dave Sutherland again in the guise of their duo format: Ashland. During the half hour slot a varied source of appealing songs were shared with the audience, ranging from ones Kathryn has given a new lease of life to the odd cover and original from Dave. It proved a gentle start to an evening wholesomely defined by its intimacy and respect for the serenely delivered song.

Danni herself has been busy on the support front in recent times including playing fruitful opening slots for Shakin’ Stevens, Angaleena Presley, and most recently, The Secret Sisters. At the end of this current run of shows, the focus will switch to the next batch of dates later in the year, which she will surely headline with a big fanfare, and give fans an opportunity to take the new material home in some kind of recorded format. Since first coming across the music of Danni Nicholls back in 2010, it has been repeatedly stated that few if any match the strength of her style, at least this side of the pond. It is in the realm of ‘Americana’ that offers the best fit for her music and conditions are now set for a continuation of the growth and affection previously enjoyed. This show at the Kitchen Garden was merely the aperitif for a lavish banquet about to be served. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno - Thimblemill Library, Smethwick. Friday 8th June 2018

The duo format has been a winning formula for as long as country and roots music has sought popular appeal. This has even proved the case when only a single name is used to front the act. What worked well for Gillian Welch alongside Dave Rawlings is perfectly set for Vivian Leva and her musical partner Riley Calcagno. The inaugural tour of the UK is billed as a duo event, although the route of their famed associates is repeated in a solo titled album acting as the focal point to direct folks to some recorded output. Vivian Leva’s TIME IS EVERYTHING was released to critical acclaim earlier this year and it did not too long to deduce the positive critique when finally tracking it down. Riley is intrinsically involved on the record and the way the pair sparred and blended on stage did more than suggest that the chemistry is working.

A progressive move in recent times to establish Thimblemill Library in Smethwick as a hotbed for American roots music has proved a hit. A periodic yet successful, formula recently reaped dividends for a Rachel Baiman and Molly Tuttle show, and it was in the vicinity of those heights that greeted their compatriots this evening. The relationship extends further than a shared love of old time roots music with Rachel and Vivian both signed to Free Dirt Records; a label deeply woven into the fabric of ensuring country tradition retains its relevance. The youth of Vivian and Riley is a prime factor in viewing them as a significant hope, but enormous adeptness and skill removes any age relevance as good music knows no restraints.

The contrast in styles on stage was stark to even the casual observer. Riley is the clear instrumental maestro excelling all evening on a constant switch between guitar, banjo and fiddle. The latter often saw the brightest spark from this Seattle raised musician, while extoling the fiddle heritage of Washington State alongside the more widely known Appalachian influence. Indeed, it is Virginia in the south east of the United States that serves as the home for Vivian, born into a family rich in musical influence to provide a guiding light. It is her steely statuesque poise twinned with a voice etched in the fabric of the old time country song that left an emerging impression. A simple yet subtle guitar playing style joins her song-writing prowess in harnessing the talent.

Solo composed songs from the album like ‘Bottom of the Glass’, ‘Wishes and Dreams’ and ‘Why Don’t You Introduce Me As Your Darlin’’ helped shape this show. Although it was the title track off the album, which was co-written with Riley that probably shone brightest. Another memorable choice from the record was the arrangement of the traditional song ‘Cold Mountains’, heavily re-interpreted by Vivian’s chorus addition and Riley’s musical input. Additionally, a song written by Paul Burch titled ‘Last of My Kind’ had a decent feel to it and thus land a place in the memory bank in the aftermath.

Outside the new record, which proved a popular purchase on the night, a cover of Guy Clark’s ‘Anyhow I Love You’ and an encore version of ‘Bloodshot Eyes’ by Lafayette based outfit The Red Stick Ramblers showed an acute ear for further influence than just studying the traditional past. A new song without the title being mentioned sounded excellent, a common theme from a tour beginning to pick up pace, and a fair few new fans on the way. Riley took the limelight a couple of times with a spritely fiddle tune, one memorably titled ‘Obama’s March to the White House’. His vocal contribution was mainly confined to harmonies, but he did take lead on a rather good song from his own catalogue ‘Whiskey and Wine’.

Delving deeper into the background reveals that Riley has been playing music since the age of seven and a band named The Onlies, of which now Vivian is a part, has been active on the local scene for a number of years. Recently the collaboration has branched out into a new project under the name The Ruglifters, a remarkably extensive bout of experience for a pair so formative in their years.

Across the two sets played, the impact of the musical presence visibly grew in line with the confidence of the two performers. You felt you were in the company of a couple of artists steeped in talent and destined to take their music a long way on a scene that nurtures and champions its best. This was country music in its purest form.

Enlisted to open the show was local based singer-songwriter-guitarist Amit Dattani. A regular on the Birmingham scene, he aptly opened with ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ before settling to share some tunes and songs from his new album SANTIAGO. His booking proved a good fit for the evening, especially with the finger picking guitar style that set the scene perfectly for Vivian and Riley to perform.

Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno join an impressive alumni set at Thimblemill Library alongside fellow American artists such as Erin Rae, Caroline Spence, The Wild Ponies and John Craigie, as well as the previously mentioned Rachel Baiman and Molly Tuttle. They certainly held their own and contributed to a fabulous evening visibly enjoyed by all. With a great deal determination and effort, the team behind these presentations are fully utilising a poignantly positioned art deco building, filled with acres of knowledgeable font and one increasingly fondly remembered by those passing through. Long may whispers and recommendations prevail and nights like this get repeated in the future.

Thanks to Andy D for the images

Friday, 8 June 2018

FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Maverick - Easton Farm Park, Suffolk. Friday 6th to Sunday 8th July 2018

You watch them come and go on the festival scene, but Maverick remains steadfast as the destination of choice for the first full weekend of July each summer. Now in its second decade of existence, this compact festival in the quaint surrounding of rural Suffolk motors on, powered by a formula that rarely changes from staging to staging. Expect a serious dissection of a scene influenced by American roots music through a host of worldwide sourced acts making themselves available for this celebratory gathering. 2018 may see the term ‘Americana’ proceed along a more focussed path in the UK, but its roots and lineage certainly go back through the inaugural Maverick Festival unveiled in 2008.

Easton Farm Park has been the host of Maverick since its birth and it is difficult to imagine it being staged elsewhere such are the unique and quirky facets of the environment that are entwined within the festival experience. Adapted performing locations like The Barn, Peacock Café and Moonshine Bar come to life over the weekend as artists varying in style and format unite in a common ethos. These artists range from the familiar to ‘the soon to become’ familiar, all scheduled within a framework that obviously has been successful in ensuring the festival returns on an annual basis.  

If your horizons are motivated by household big budget names then Maverick is not really aimed to you. Alternatively, a desire to discover new acts, with an assured quality stamp mark, will be comprehensively met across the weekend. The organisation, vibes and atmosphere attached to the festival are welcoming both to fans ingrained into the music or others content to casually soak up what there is to offer.

To get a full flavour for the 2018 line up, which once again includes artists invited from Australia and Canada to join the lengthy ranks of home grown and American talent, take time out to peruse the listings. Regulars to Maverick will see plenty of returnees alongside names that may well become new favourites by the time the dust settles on the Sunday afternoon. Checking out unknown artists hardly has the inconvenience of past years in this modern digitally connected world, so a few clicks and searches will start to reveal some of the fine artists that are likely to enrich your music world.

Precedence of attending this event for the last eight years goes as close to guaranteeing decent weather as you are likely to get on these shores at the height of an English summer. Although not relatively tested at festival time, the layout of Easton Farm Park and abundance of covered location would play a part in alleviating an inclement weather onslaught.

An early glance at the line up presents interesting US acts in Bonnie Bishop, Cordovas and Jonathan Byrd as initial ones to watch, although the latter has been a touring regular over here for a number of years. From a home perspective, Curse of Lono have strived to become a seriously impressive live act over the last year, while who can argue with another festival appearance for Danny and the Champions of the World. Nottinghamshire based band Most Ugly Child were the architects of a very good album last year and should go down well. Fresh from being the find of last year’s event, Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes once again make the long journey from Australia, this time joined by their compatriots Imogen Clark and The Weeping Willows. Concluding this brief introduction of ones to follow are Anna Tivel, Jeffrey Martin and Southern Avenue, but this is really just the start.

Some music fans will advance to Suffolk with a heavily researched intent, while others will just go with an open mind. One guarantee is that all will return home fulfilled and in affirmation that Maverick has lived up to its reputation. From experience, it has regularly delivered in the past and all indicators point to a continuation. 

Maverick Festival 2018

Following a milestone 10th anniversary last year, the UK’s first and finest Americana festival is thrilled to announce the 2018 line-up.
This year Maverick Festival will take place from Friday 6th – Sunday 8th July, showcasing the most authentic and talented musicians from both sides of the         Atlantic.  Over the past decade Maverick Festival organisers have stuck to what they believe in, presenting exciting and inspiring line-ups year after year. 

Billy Bragg audience 3.jpg
The Maverick Festival is set amongst the restored Victorian barns and out-buildings of Easton Farm Park, nestled deep in the Suffolk countryside yet only two hours from London, with films, workshops and performances from over fifty different artists across six stages, indoors and out.
“One of the friendliest, most sincere festivals in England … fine music, great fun, delightful people and an idyllic rural setting” - The Telegraph
There’s a carefully selected range of food on offer at the festival (with many veggie options) including pizza, paella and pasta, Thai, tacos, Texan bar b q and chili, duck pancakes and crepes, followed by award winning local ice cream, brownies and waffles, all washed down with freshly squeezed lemonade, tea and freshly ground coffee, Suffolk cyder and a selection of local ales, wine and lager. 
2018 Line Up Includes ...
See for full line up info.

**Plus latest additions**

AMA-UK Songwriters In The Round
+ Johnny Cash Tribute

Maverick Festival is delighted to announce a special feature in this years programme, songwriters in the round sessions presented by the AMA UK. Each session will be led by a US artist; including BONNIE BISHOP with AGS CONNOLLY and ROBBIE CAVANAGH, ANNA TIVEL with KATE ELLIS and JAMES RILEY and JEFFREY MARTIN with ROSANNE REID and STEVE GROZIER.
Another exciting addition to the festival programme is a tribute to legendary American singer JOHNNY CASH, celebrating 50 years since Folsom Prison Blues album and led by fellow Arkansas musician ARKANSAS DAVE; with contributions from AMY MCCARLEY, PEPE BELMONTE, DAN WEBSTER, AMELIA WHITE and many more.

Past Maverick Festival Reviews:

2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Skerryvore - Evo : Tyree Records

Sometimes out of the murky mist comes a beating drum refusing to yield as it tramples over all comers on the most personal of journeys. Banging that drum alongside etching a plethora of tunes out of the fiddle and pipes arrives Skerrymore. This fully stocked Scottish folk rock band have racked up the musical miles over an active decade and probably will long into the future, but for one summer they have captured a timeless escape into where music can lead the wandering mind. Five tunes and six songs only begin the infatuation that sprang from left field. Instantly, the past, present and future intensely stirred. EVO is a heady mix of tub thumping instrumentals clearing the path for a choice selection of invigorating anthems. Choose your label with wild abandon. You can find pop, rock, folk and tradition, and even if you close your eyes and stretch the mind, a saunter down Americana way. The flag will come down on June 11th and then the procession will intensify.

While the original songs eventually hold sway on where this album ends up, the structural support provided by the high-octane instrumentals will certainly liven up any arena, field or hall. The album kicks off with a combo piece titled ‘The Exorcists’ splitting midway yet always awash with fiddle and pipes. A brace of tunes also see the album out with the traditionally named ‘Soraidh Slan’ leading into the rousing finale ‘The Rise’. The other two vocal-less pieces strategically intersperse their vocal-led cousins at the heart of the album with the vivacious ‘Trip to Modera’ joining the frenetic ‘Mile High’.

As valuable as these tunes are to EVO, and intrinsic to Skerryvore’s traditional heritage, it is the songs that push the album into a higher stratosphere, while exposing a sensitive touch of reflective nostalgia. All six tracks will have their day as a ‘long hot hazy summer’ unfolds across the British Isles, but three in particular may have just put their noses out front first. ‘Live Forever’ has had a previous existence and is justifiably given an extended lease of life as an influx of crashing guitars permeate the infectious chorus immaculately sung with luminous clarity. ‘Take My Hand’ is a track to get some early exposure via its nostalgia fuelled video and played an important part in the early stages of adoring this record. Coming up on the rails to just pip it on release day is the distinctly powerful identity piece ‘At the End of the Line’, gloriously summarised in the lyric ‘paradise is wherever your people are’. Ultimately, paradise is a state of mind and if hairs do not stand to attention when hearing this, therapy is suggested.

The trademark Skerrymore sound of blending traditional instrumentation with contemporary rock tools is prevalent across each track. ‘Hold on’, at the very core of the record, benefits from this at the start before another memorable chorus takes root and chisels an extra notch in what should be a infatuating live experience. ‘Borderline’ is a straight up rocker, borderless in its origin and equally at home in a collection of US heartland rock tunes as one representing the outpost of western Scotland. ‘Waiting for the Sun’ completes the song offering and could just emerge to be the dark horse of the record. Like its lyrically infused companions, the hook is immense and another sure fire success whether belted out live or reverberating around your living room.

Music plays an important part in marking out the past. While Skerryvore scratches out the numbers 2-0-1-8 in the sand, it evokes memories of earlier years when sound became the catalyst for recalling an era. EVO will be heard loud and rousing across Britain, the US and Europe this summer. If it pierces as deep elsewhere as here then it will be job done. An indisputable conclusion.

ALBUM REVIEW: Romantica - Outlaws : Self-released

There are two approaches to listening to this album. First is adopting the role of casual listener and taking ten well-crafted songs on board at face value, although at least two will be somewhat familiar. The alternative is to be versed in the back-story, as no doubt many fans of Ben Kyle and Romantica will be. The fact that OUTLAWS is even getting a release is a testimony to the recovery Ben is making after being struck down with Lyme disease shortly after completing the previous album. By the time SHADOWLANDS was greeted with overwhelming praise, the illness was taking hold and a significant threat to more than just making future music. Therefore, the new record may well just be Ben Kyle’s most important release, even if it has meant resurrecting a number of Romantica recordings from the cutting room floor.

The fact that many of these songs have not previously surfaced is a credit to the quality of material that did make the cut. This is particularly pertinent to three tracks pulled from the Shadowlands sessions and ones that would have been a good fit for this particular album. ‘Lost in the Cosmos’, ‘Do Go Gently’ and ‘Listen to Your Soul’ are the aforementioned with the harmonica-led latter proving the most endearing after the early plays. All three are cool temperate efforts oozing with a sophisticated class.

Apparently, four of the tracks were all recorded for a lost album titled FOR GOD AND LOVE AND WAR. These probably unravel as the most significant tunes on OUTLAWS as exemplified by the two lead off numbers ‘Love in the Winter’ and ‘Dear Caroline’. Joining them are ‘Hold it Together’ and ‘Baby Killed Bobby’, anchoring the final stages of the record and rich in the cultured Americana sound that has been prevalent in the music of Romantica since forming in 2002.

Completing the ten-track collection are covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, enhanced by added steel and the George Harrison-penned Beatles favourite ‘Something’. A further familiar voice appears in the final track, which is a live recording of ‘The Dark’ where Ben is joined by Ryan Adams.

Once aware of the back-story it is well worth checking out Ben’s heartfelt postings surrounding the release of OUTLAWS. As the Romantica line-up has changed over the years, he has been the constant and there is serious hope that they can eventually resume a prosperous return to making fresh original music. This collection fills an interim gap impressively and keeps the fire stoked while we await the next move.

ALBUM REVIEW: Carter Sampson - Lucky : Continental Recording Services

Carter Sampson already has the prestigious accolade of ‘Albumof the Year 2016’ in her bank for the immaculately connective WILDER SIDE and now sights are set as where her new record LUCKY ascends to on its meandering and exploratory journey. For this is how her music gets around, no big bang just a slow burning saunter around the musical collections of the discerning listener. Luckily, for Carter, the twin bait of the sumptuous song wrapped in an enticing voice is attracting more and more folks. The new album finally gets its formal UK release via Continental Recording Services on June 8th, although many are already captivated by its availability at her live shows and a brief exposure on the streaming wires. Release day may be an extra focal point, but just a mere spot on the eventual journey of an album destined to favourably project the music of this Oklahoma based artist.

There is a therapeutic appeal to listening to Carter Sampson. The voice encapsulates the spirit of her delicately spun songs, although on this album she diligently dips into the works of others on three separate occasions. Yet there is still a purposeful side to her song writing bringing out the best in the archetypal Oklahoma songwriter stretching back from the archives of Guthrie to the contemporary musings of Fullbright and Moreland. Catching the ear on the writing front in a recorded format for the first time is the engaging tale of ‘Rattlesnake Kate’. A long term favourite of her live set and one that chronicles the endearing story of a feisty character in full quirky mode. Americana storytelling at its best.

An emerging thought whilst listening to Carter Sampson intently is a vocal resemblance to Miranda Lambert, or vice-versa if you choose sides. Maybe it is an Oklahoma/Texas axis or just a thought that Miranda wants to be more like Carter. No doubt, an exchange is on the table for a price.

Just like her previous album, and a little further back to MOCKINGBIRD SONG, it is the overall vibes of a record rather than a monster track that lifts it above the pack. Yet many golden nuggets wait to be mined as each track is explored. At the outset, ‘Lucky’ sets the theme of being grateful to possess the opportunity to make a living from writing and performing songs. However, the real good fortune lies in those feasting on the gorgeous music made.

Strict detail to the accompanying soundtrack for this selection of songs as led Carter in the direction of several acclaimed Oklahoma musicians including Jared Tyler, who was last seen in the UK playing impressive sidekick to Malcolm Holcomb. Americana will be the overriding label attached to the music especially from an overseas perspective, but Carter can mix it with the perceived country hierarchy in the heartfelt way she immerses herself into each song. At the concluding point of the album, she ditches the song writer tag and takes on the role of the quintessential country singer ripping the sentiment out of the much covered Shel Silverstein song ‘Queen of the Silver Dollar’.

While on the subject of exploring the work of other writers, the decision to be the first to record the blissful song ‘Hello Darlin’’ is a shrewd decision. This outstanding track was penned by Zac Copeland, who was also responsible for the Kalyn Fay state inspired song ‘Tulsa’. This track takes the theme of the rivalry between the twin urban centres of Oklahoma City and Tulsa before slinking into murkier waters of identity and deceit.

Of the remaining Carter Sampson-penned originals, ‘All I Got’ spins out its mesmeric tones, adorned with the memorable line ‘walked a mile in another man’s shoes, while ‘Ten Penny Nail’ takes its inspiration from a turbulent episode in the Guy and Susanna Clark story. So why not use a song-writing great to write a great new song.

The term ‘wild’ reappears in this record courtesy of ‘Wild Ride’ revealing the album in a satiable comforting mood as the vibes take root. These really begin to sink deep in the early stages where ‘Anything Else To Do’ and ‘Peaches’ herald a delectable sound, fully confirming that the echoes of WILDER SIDE are fully transmitted to LUCKY.

Carter Sampson is right at the heart of a bunch of American singer-songwriters currently creating waves in Europe, fully adept at exporting their own unique style of Americana. LUCKY will be around for a long time and is well on the way towards matching the heights of WILDER SIDE. This is captivating music capable of shifting through a pile of mixed emotions to find the primal point.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Bennett Wilson Poole - St.Georges Hall, Bewdley. Friday 1st June 2018

Liberté, egalité, fraternité is an old French revolutionary saying that applies to Bennett Wilson Poole in terms of their free spirit, egalitarian approach to music and comradeship. Maybe their unison has not quite stirred a musical revolution in 2018, but it is definitively re-energising an iconic sound. Billed as an Americana supergroup revs up the hyperbole, although echoes of 60s LA fire out of a multi guitar attack stoked by the jangle tones of the twelve stringed Rickenbacker. 

Gigs are beginning to stack up for this seasoned trio, formed to quantify a mutual love shared by Robin Bennett, Danny Wilson and Tony Poole. It was no surprise to see one of their early shows scheduled for St. George’s Hall in the north Worcestershire town of Bewdley, a venue frequented twice by Robin in the guise of his band The Dreaming Spires and sibling collaboration The Bennett Family Singers. Therefore, it was all systems go when the full band hit the stage at 9:30 complete with a further Dreaming Spires complement of Joe Bennett on bass and backing vocals and Fin Kenny on drums.

When you want to expose the fruits of a brand new album then why not play it in its entirety, even in track order. Self-titling their album further etched the name Bennett Wilson Poole on the roots music scene and its contents quickly accrued widespread praise when it hit the shelves earlier this year. The birth of eleven new original songs only begin to tell the story of how well this trio have gelled as both a recording and live performing unit. Across the hour and forty minutes onstage, the vocal harmony and exchange excelled alongside a tight knit sound that ebbed and flowed within the mood of each song.

A carefree and good time atmosphere exuded from the stage as frivolous humour sandwiched some heavy content in the songs. Danny adopted the central position and lost none of the impish wit that defines a ‘Champions of the World’ show, but it is clear that no leader emerges in Bennett Wilson Poole. Robin plays the measured role, often keeping Danny in check and effortlessly switching between electric and acoustic guitar as required. Elder statesman of the trio Tony Poole, hailed as the UK’s greatest exponent of the twelve stringed guitar, was up for milking the opportunity to share the limelight in an acclaimed set up, probably re-living his performing heyday as lead member of 70s rock band Starry Eyed and Laughing.

There was a great deal of insight to the songs in the press around release time and this reaffirmed during the evening. Interesting nuggets included Robin writing ‘Wilson General Store’ as a tribute to Danny’s grandparents in Australia, and Tony providing the stimulus for the two politically charged songs – ‘Hate Won’t Win’ in response to the death of MP Jo Cox and ‘Lifeboat (Take a Picture of Yourself)’ paradoxically linking the refugee crisis to the phenomena of the selfie. The eight-minute duration of the latter proved the fitting climax to the main set with Danny strapping on the electric guitar to ensure the powerful instrumental segment got the full amped up treatment.

Without exhausting the content of the album, it all came across brilliantly in the live format and at least you should be checking it out on a format of your choice.

Of course you need some extra material to pad out a full headline set, but that presented little trouble for the band. The Dreaming Spires’ ‘Searching for the Supertruth’ and ‘One Foot in the Boat’ by Starry Eyed and Laughing were easy fits, while paying homage to the Traveling Wilburys with a cover of ‘Handle With Care’ saw the band pin an allegiance. The temptation to utilise the venue’s piano was too good to miss and Robin showed his pianist skills to play Graham Nash’s ‘Simple Man’, vocally accompanied by Danny and Tony. This show saw no Grand Drive or Champs tribute, with Danny choosing to celebrate the work of Michael Nesmith in covering ‘Different Drum’. The final cover appeared earlier in the set when Crosby Stills and Nash’s ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ bridged the serving of sides 1 and 2 from the album.

In line with previous Severn Sessions presentations at this venue, the evening opened with a double set from a youth and bona fide support act. Local duo Ivywoods were the youngsters on show and used their slot to deliver a bunch of mainly familiar covers, while the not much older but distinctly more experienced Chloe Mogg followed with a set of original material delivered in a quirky and offbeat style that displayed a growing confidence.

In contrast to the openers, it would be difficult to count the number of years and shows members of Bennett Wilson Poole have accumulated over the years. Yet you are often judged on your most recent output and against this measure they are in safe territory. Although it may be considered a side project in some respects, this set up is likely to take up much of the year and keep all concerned busy. The blistering performance delivered tonight proved ample evidence that no effort is wasted in making it a wholesale success. 

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