Sunday, 5 May 2019

GIG REVIEW: Hannah Aldridge - St. George's Hall, Bewdley. Friday 3rd May 2019

Hannah Aldridge made her name in the UK largely as a solo touring artist alongside maximising opportunities and connections. Expanding horizons also extends to mode of operation as exemplified in her latest run of live dates where this Muscle Shoals native - Nashville resident teamed up with North Wales cosmic country outfit The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. This was not the first time Hannah has sought out a temporary backing band to freshen up her delivery as dates back in 2017 had Swedish rock band Jetbone in tow. Electric traded for acoustic in the current guise and positive reports from the early shows were put to the test with a return to Worcestershire’s version of a 'river town' - Bewdley. 

The standard of the monthly Americana shows at St. George’s Hall this year has been exceedingly high and there was no let up with the action packed evening gracing the venue for the early May showcase. From the first strains of the youth support act on the stroke of eight to Hannah and the boys wrapping things up gone eleven, breaks at a minimum and music of a high standard guaranteed value for money. 

We learned that the association between Hannah Aldridge and The Goat Roper Rodeo band goes back around five years, but this is the first time they have formalised an on stage arrangement for an extended run. The North Wales trio do feature on the brand new live album that has been launched in conjunction with the latest tour and it was clear that their frenetic brand of roots activity combined with vivid energy showered a new dimension on a string of familiar songs from the Hannah Aldridge repertoire. 

Before The Goat Ropers played their own forty-five minute set prior to the main presentation, Kidderminster College based four-piece band Humble Helios opened the evening with around half an hour of their own songs delivered in a vocally and lyrically appealing way. This set the tone for a contrasting array of these qualities to follow. The distinctive vocals of The Goat Ropers whether in switched solo or harmony driven proceed to early define the band’s sound. Perhaps later when supporting Hannah the music came more to the fore, although the same harmonies had a strong role to play there as well.

Vocals have played a key part in how Hannah Aldridge portrays her own songwriting acumen, although they were in a state of control this evening to combat the dreaded onset of difficulties in this direction. However, they were skilfully managed during an hour and half dedicated to another majestic display of Hannah’s awe inspiring music. 

Songs forming the main part of the show fell into three categories: old established favourites, others destined to be future recorded favourites and a couple of covers chosen to represent a diversity of influence. For the latter, Rawlings and Welch’s ‘Red Clay Halo’ sizzled in one of the encore slots, while earlier Hannah paid tribute to the rock side of her musical appreciation, in particular Chris Cornell, and a cover of Audio Slave’s ‘Like a Stone’

A co-write with Ben Glover titled ‘The Fall’ represented the wealth of the future. Although not new, ‘Ride the Rails’ and ‘Born to be Broken’ could experience a renaissance with a version cut on a future album. Both do appear on the live record. All three added value to this evening’s show.

Populating the familiar list included detailed introductions to 'Lie Like You Love Me', ‘Black & White’,Lace’ and ‘Old Ghost’. An inner desire to replicate a passion for 70s rock infiltrated ‘No Heart Left Behind’ complete with a thirty-second tambourine moment, echoing an iconic rock pose. As experienced before, a chosen crowd choir lent a hand to ‘Burning Down Birmingham’, a song that always shows the nearby UK version in a better light than its distant Alabama cover. ‘Howlin’ Bones’ and ‘Razor Wire’ completed the setlist alongside the reflected stand out moment on the evening, a stunning version of ‘Lonesome’. This was also a gig where ‘Parchman’ took a night off.

While this show was essentially a Hannah Aldridge - Goat Roper Rodeo Band collaboration, those preferring the solo route were treated to a special four song segment. One providing a determinable reminder why Hannah resonates so high with many UK fans bound by a love of Southern flavoured Americana music where country melts into the fertile world of rock and blues. 

Hannah Aldridge UK visits are thankfully a regular occurrence, just as the likelihood of a return trip just around the corner. As frequent as these are, sometimes it is worth embracing moments as experienced in St. George’s Hall this evening. The format may change, but every show is underpinned by a winning formula that continues to grow in awareness and appreciation. 

More info on Hannah Aldridge