May Erlewine will no doubt have played to more populous audiences in her lengthy career, but would have to seek widely to find a gathering of more dedicated gig-goers than those frequenting the Kitchen Garden on this January evening. Bestowed with knowledge, experience and a smart ear, they intensely soaked up the divine offerings of our visitor from Michigan USA and duly responded with the warmth and appreciation commonly showed to outstanding touring artists in this intimate venue.
From the opening strains of ‘Wild’, housed within the 2017 album release MOTHER LION, to the crowning moment of ‘Never One Thing’ adding to its vast amount of song admirers, May dipped into every nuance of her unrivaled class to spin a magical weave of multi-faceted singer-songwriter music. Ably assisted by her ‘trio’ compatriots, Julian Allan (percussion) and Max Lockwood (bass), the treat splendidly dealt to those taking a chance on an artist still relatively low key overseas, despite a well-stocked discography.
The current tour had its launch at the annual Celtic Connections jamboree, famous for providing musical comfort to a deep Scottish winter. Tagged onto this were a few dates dotted around England, and there was certainly no harm tapping into a West Midlands scene, often a challenging market to touring artists of an ‘Americana’ persuasion. However, the open and affectionate way that May shone a light on her career, inspirations and frequently free-spirited existence made any prior knowledge or experience a non-prerequisite. Indeed, through a constant flow of musings, thoughts, amusing stories and the occasional rant, a graphic picture of a performer born to share an innate talent splashed across a spacious canvas.
If you like your Americana a patchwork quilt of folk, country and soul with a dash of temperate pop, then May Erlewine comes the pre-packaged article. Throw in a honey voice, a gracious smile and an acute knack of arranging a sophisticated sound in strains of subtle simplicity, and the stage is set to for the holding of a gratifying court. Songs for the memory bank were aplenty, with lofty candidates for the standout moments starting with the delicious ‘Shine On’ ,the oddball ‘Big Mama Brown’, in addition to momentous versions of the often over covered ‘Crazy’ and one like ‘Mama Said’ that could be covered more.
May Erlewine’s brief visit to Birmingham left a notable impression, laying a foundation that could grow with a prevailing wind. Sitting in the midst of her on-stage charismatic appeal generated beams of spiritual waves and the introduction of an artist with an impressive trail could not have been a more fulfilling experience as a new gig year quickly moved into place.