Thursday, 21 February 2019

GIG REVIEW: Sarah Jane Scouten - The Slaughtered Lamb, London. Monday 18th February 2019

The first show of a tour when an artist has literally just stepped off a red eye flight can be a hold your breath moment for an audience. Yet so many times performers dust down and get on with a job that experience acclimatises them to do. This was the case for Sarah Jane Scouten, who flew straight into London from appearing at Folk Alliance in Montreal the day before and wasted little time in heading back on stage with her touring partner James McEleney. The Slaughtered Lamb was the first of two venues in the capital to host this Canadian artist, who continues to build a presence over here a couple of years after first introduced.

This was a rare excursion down to London for gigs, but an interesting insight in how this vast city supports touring artists at grass roots level, especially on a Monday evening in February. A quick glance around the basement performing area for this artisan pub counted around 20 to 30 customers, certainly not outside the parameters of venues of a similar standing in the provinces, to which I am more acquainted with. One common feature binding a lot of touring artists in this sphere is the stunning degree of quality they possess in their chosen field, and frequenting a more just world would realign the numbers.

Anyway, it is hard to change minds, so just supporting these artists and providing them with ladles of appreciation can travel a fair distance.

It was a case of comparable duos for this gig as Guildford based pairing Jonas and Jane had the honour granted by the Nest Collective promotion to open for the Canadian guests. They took full advantage of the afforded 45-minute slot to deliver a raft of good songs laced with a folk ‘n’ country dressing heavily slanted towards at least the continent of the main act. Harmony vocals, guitar courtesy of Jonas and occasional harmonica from Jane were the sufficient ingredients to conjure up these delicious tunes, which probably peaked in the triple offering of ‘Don’t Cry for Me’, ‘Jumping Ship’ and ‘Sedona Rain’. The first of these posed as the ultimate highlight, with the last one’s depiction of spectacular weather in Arizona grabbing the attention. There are a couple of EP releases floating around the system boasting the name Jonas and Jane that are worth checking out in the formats available, but the potential readily exists for the duo to break out further into something more extended. While the market for this type of set up can be a touch crowded on the roots circuit, there is certainly room for the more talented ones to prosper.

Sarah Jane Scouten was previously seen live back in 2015 when she popped into the Marr’s Bar in Worcester for a show a lot lower key than this one. Appearing alone on that evening did not diminish the effect she exuded, and subsequently she has progressed to deliver a superb album titled WHEN THE BLOOM FALLS FROM THE ROSE, which attracted rave reviews in 2017. It would be on the right track to say that performing with James McEleney was an upgrade, and even if few songs from that album ultimately made the set list there is enough quality in Sarah Jane Scouten’s armoury not to be bound by a single record.

In fact, the most impressionable songs on the evening were not from the album but older tunes in ‘Our Small Town’ from THE CAPE record and one titled ‘I Had to be Right’ written interestingly for her mother. Other pieces to catch the ear were the requested ‘Show Pony’ and a version of the Tennyson poem ‘Crossing the Bar’, given a twin guitar accompaniment.

The latest album was not entirely forgotten with ‘Poland’ opening the set, ‘Every Song I Sing’ showing off Sarah’s country credentials and ‘Bang Bang’ audibly reminding what a strong diverse record this was with this touch of retro rockabilly.

Sarah Jane Scouten is the latest in a long line of Canadian touring artists who do not fall into pigeon holed categories such as folk, country, Americana (or its cousin Canadiana), but seem to possess the knack of brilliantly blending all facets of the roots spectrum. With a twist of justice, the subsequent dates on this latest jaunt around our Isles should see her stock continue to rise. We really are spoilt with super shows from fabulous artists at this level where creativity and loyalty can lead into various realms of success.