Tuesday, 30 October 2018

GIG REVIEW: Rachel Harrington - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 29th October 2018

Rachel Harrington’s overseas music career has had two phases. Between 2007 and 2012, the singer-songwriter from the Pacific North West recorded three successful solo records and a one off country project as front person of the Knockouts. Additionally, she toured UK and Europe countless times utilising the solo, duo and band formats. This focus away from her American home met with critical praise including a session recorded for the Bob Harris Country Show on BBC radio. An extended hiatus followed that was only broken last year when making a tentative return to play a few UK summer shows. Among the dates on the tour was a first ever visit to the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham. Now the music rehabilitation is in full swing another overseas trip followed and with no surprises, a repeat engagement at the Kings Heath venue ensued.

The show put on by Rachel was of a similar vein to last year. She used the first half to share some of her older material including a few requests from fans that have actively followed her for years. Among the set of original tunes played this evening, ‘Karen Kane’, ‘Under the Big Top’ and ‘Carver’ were from memory additions to what made the show last year. On the other hand, there was no mistaking the repeat playing of firm old favourites ‘Sunshine Girl’, ‘Spokane’ and ‘He Started Building My Mansion in Heaven Today’. Supplementing each song was the ubiquitous backstory, an art that Rachel has perfected over the years.  Some of the stories were new while others retained an air of familiarity, the natural consequence of following an artist for over a decade.

Similar to last year Rachel switched focus after the break to share some of her favourite cover songs, a love that has helped rekindle her desire to play music again. Most of these were familiar tunes with ‘Unknown Legend’, ‘Ode to Billy Jo’ and ‘Dublin Blues’ featuring last year. Although once again from memory, ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ and ‘Those Memories of You’, the latter from the original Trio album, were new additions for this year. In true Rachel Harrington tradition, the gospel tune ‘I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted to this World’ was her parting gift to an appreciative audience.

A few of these songs are set to feature on an upcoming covers album that Rachel has self-recorded, but alas physical copies were not available for fans to purchase on this tour. Plans are afoot for her to return to the UK to play some shows next summer, so this omission should rectify then.

Although there is strong evidence online of new music coming soon, it was strange that not a mention was voiced during the show. Maybe a little insight or sneak preview would have whetted the appetite for the very aspect that won Rachel Harrington many fans overseas in the first place. Inevitably, this output will be the ultimate judge of how successful the return is rather than the covers. Fingers crossed that 2019 will be the year when Rachel Harrington – the songwriter completes the rehab and new material to match her esteemed past surfaces. 

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