Friday, 30 August 2019

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Over the Hill - Cogges Manor Farm, Witney, Oxfordshire. Monday 26th August 2019

The spirit of John Martyn loomed large on the stage of this inaugural festival as it soared towards a searing finale with a communal version of the latter’s popular tune, aptly named ‘Over the Hill’. Naming its festival in honour of one of this country’s finest roots artists was among many successful manoeuvres by the organisers. At the forefront of this was arranging for the hottest possible late August day to in effect bless the serene surroundings of Cogges Manor Farm in Witney, Oxfordshire. Obviously booking eight excellent homegrown acts to fill the pair of barn located stages played the premium part, with it proving a testimony to their lure and the pre-festival promotion that the sold out signs were raised with literally hours to spare. From the opening bars of Ags Connolly digging deep into his country soul to Dany and the Champions of the World playing their usual ‘best ever show’ vast riches were on display, especially for those glued to the near non-stop array of music from one in the afternoon to gone ten thirty on a balmy late summer’s evening.

Like most events tagged ‘Americana’ a diversity of styles reigned supreme, whether you took the artists at face value or their ability to mix ’n’ match mid set.  Leading the more rock orientated sound, the Niall Kelly Band laid down a pair of kings at the end of their set, thus challenging the Champs to play the best possible hand to take home the uptempo honours. The sets may have been eight hours apart and compared only in the competitive mind of yours truly, but they scored highly on many points, only contrasting in cultured panache where the Northern Irishman and his talented team held sway over the more roots orientated rockers from London and other assorted southern parts. 

Plying a more isolated path on the rock corridor was Ruarri Joseph and his increasingly acclaimed guitar fuelled trio William the Conqueror. Making use of the hour long set all acts on the American themed Nashville Stage were afforded, Joseph alongside his team of bassist Naomi Homes and Harry Harding on drums quickly found their rhythm and groove, a significant step for a band who rely strongly on these two attributes to provide a mantle for seriously emotive poetic outpourings. William the Conqueror is further expanding a festival presence in 2019 with the band set to feature next at the Long Road as part of their label’s (Loose Music) Saturday takeover. If they can hit their stride in this shorter slot as they successfully did at Over the Hill, then a wider audience in attendance are in for a treat.

Before returning to the hypothetical dual between Niall Kelly and Danny and the Champs, the fourth act to grace the larger Nashville Stage saw Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds expand their husband and wife duo format to a six-piece combo anointed as the Ramshackle Band. This was the only main stage act not to go down the electric route and thus a folkier sound emerged, in tune with the recent record, a positively reviewed collection of Appalachian songs. The front pair exposed their many years of performing experience to deliver an entertaining set, mixing original compositions with the archivist material. The family theme radiating from the stage was one frequently dealt as the day unfolded.

Niall Kelly was accompanied by his wife Caitlin on fiddle and frequently drew on an Irish brogue exuding wit between songs with his kids at the front sitting targets. This all added to the charm, with humour becoming a recurring theme later in the day. Ultimately the six-piece Niall Kelly Band rocketed to impressive heights as the set escalated. Blues, rock, rock ’n’ roll and some form of Americana were all celebrated in the set as the band excelled on many points especially a red hot keyboard player and a lead guitarist delivering some stunning licks when given the call. The name Van Morrison cropped up when mentioning that one of the great Northern Irishman’s band had played on the latest record PANDEMONIUM. It wasn’t too hard to detect where Niall Kelly gets a lot of his influence from. 

Van Morrison is not a name you associate with Danny Wilson. In fact there are few if any comparisons laying at the feet of this incomparable South Londoner. It’s common knowledge that his Champions of the World operation is in the midst of a quiet period as the Bennett Wilson Poole moniker takes up a lot of the leader’s current time Indeed this Over the Hill appearance is set to be the band’s only festival performance in 2019. It’s also common knowledge that the band play a ‘greatest ever gig’ every time they hit the stage and Cogges Manor Farm in late August proved no exception. Opening with a post fifteen minute version of ‘Colonel and the King’ set things up nicely and Danny’s desire to fill the extended hour and half slot with so much music meant ‘any questions’ had a night off. Yes, the Champs were great, that’s a given, and those ‘in the know’ never stop building that proverbial rocket.

The Nashville Stage was only 50% of Over the Hill, although maybe slightly over as the four acts assigned to play the accompanying Austin Stage had a marginally less forty-five minute (though still ample) playing time to share their wares. As previously mentioned, Ags Connolly opened both this stage and the whole festival with a brand of country music deemed maverick only in contrast to the slide of the UK country music mainstream down an inauthentic path. 2019 seems to have seen Ags get a foothold into the Americana side of the wide reaching ‘country family’, not that this proud Oxfordshire native playing on home turf seemingly gives a hoot to what labels are banded around. He just does his own thing. 2019 has greater significance for Ags Connolly in that his brand new album will see the light of day later in the year. New songs are beginning to seep into the live sets and early promise suggests another fine record is about to head our way, while striking a balance that traditional country music can be relevant in today’s eclectic market. 

To cement the ‘family’ theme embedded into Over the Hill, two further husband and wife duo acts graced the Austin Stage. In line with the comparative process of this review, sets by The Black Feathers and Hastings based duo Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou were lavishly savoured, while noting the contrasts with interest. If you wanted to draw a big thick Americana line between the duos, The Black Feathers reside on the southern side most recently exemplified in the song ‘3 Stars (and a Country Song)’, their latest single and on the day the climax moment of an impressive and enjoyable Over the Hill performance From earlier in the set, ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ was a solid candidate for the best song heard on the day.

Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou are so far north on the Americana map that you could envisage them at the heart of folk revivalist New York City back in the early sixties. Whereas Sian and Ray harmonise a pair of voices with a single guitar in The Black Feathers, Trevor and Hannah go one step further with an additional guitar to achieve a similar level of unity. Both acts have an active past in touring America, with the latter duo detailing one adventure when opening for Tori Amos leading to a series of intriguing developments. Conclusively, both acts were astute additions to Over the Hill and represent our community so well in the harmony department. 

Seven acts in the book with the one and only Paul McClure raising the stakes on the Austin Stage to complete the line up. In a parallel universe, the Rutland Troubadour would have hot footed it to Witney straight from a sold out stint at the Edinburgh Fringe. A dry satirical wit is as much part of his stage show as the catchy and well-constructed songs that bridge the gags. Both aspects of the live presence have been firm fixtures for several years and Over the Hill 2019 saw McClure on top form. Family was also on the agenda in more ways than one during this set. Wife and kids in the audience were the red rag for the wit, while Clubhouse twins Danny and Tristran Tipping adopted the apt tag The Local Heroes to play bass and assorted strings in support. 

Over the Hill has been a long time in the planning for the Witney based Glovebox team and the endeavours had many rewards, best exemplified by a slick operation, the maximising of excellent sound in the barn environment and accruing full approval from those investing time, money and musical capacity on an often busy day of the year. A provocative question prior to the event was: is there room for another roots based Americana festival in a market prone to limitations? An Oxfordshire public plus a few travelling from more distant places resoundingly answered that question in the affirmative. Positive noises were heard about 2020 and maybe in twelve months time the lyrics to John Martyn’s ‘Over the Hill will be gustily sung in the main barn of Cogges Manor Farm at the end of another triumphant festival. 

Friday, 16 August 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Rod Picott - Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil : Welding Rod Records

From a partially hidden gaze on the front cover, Rod Picott is in a mean mood as he slips out yet another album of self-reflective industrial grit. Even by his own substantive standards, this latest record sinks into the depths of a mind — troubled, pensive and ultimately grasping at faint shafts of light. To get TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL out from the inner vaults to the ears of a somewhat tuned-in listener, Picott engaged no more than his guitar, harmonica, gruff vocals, fertile mind and a living room-style setting appropriate to disseminate such candid thoughts. There was an extra helping hand from Neilson Hubbard to mould the recordings into a more palatable state, but this takes the term ‘stripped back’ into new territories and it wouldn’t be amiss to stamp some sort of ‘content warning’ on the cover.

This album challenges the notion of a third way when engaging with a record. If you get to the end of the forty-seven minute playing time, you are likely to be a fully paid up member of the Rod Picott Appreciation Society. All other entrants will likely fall at the first hurdle, with newbies probably requiring a dose of Picott’s greater produced back catalogue to ease themselves into the work of one of the most intense songwriters you are likely to encounter on the contemporary Americana scene. 

On a record where a personal health scare supplied the canvas to see these songs flow, mortality features prominently whether reflecting on the suicidal demise of one real life character in ‘Mark’ or the deeply personal outpouring in ‘A 38 Special & a Hermes Purse’. The latter sinks to its knees with the line ‘I’m a train wreck turning Beaujolais to piss’, but the good news is the parting track, ‘Folds of Your Dress’, shares a touch of hope and Rod Picott is still alive and kicking to tour the album in the UK in the autumn. 

Alongside mortality, nostalgia plays a strong part, although you could say the two concepts go hand in hand. When staring back at past events, ‘Mama’s Boy' considers masculinity, ‘Spartan Hotel’ recalls live music in its most basic form and ‘Sunday Best’ takes a twisted look at the mundane. To get the best out of the twelve songs, reading the liner notes is an essential companion. Context is key to how these songs played out and the subsequent importance of the vehicle adopted to share with a fanbase, one likely to be hardened to the stern stuff. 

Rawness and complexity melt into the listening experience of TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL. Although a fan of Rod Picott’s music for over a decade, this was still a tough album to grasp, suggesting a contradiction to the earlier point that a third way doesn’t exist ie you’re either in or out. The jury is still out as to whether this record in its primal format reaches out past a core, but it is probably the most important album of Rod Picott’s career and may clear the way for a prosperous future where recognition of his stellar song writing skills sail above any facet of self doubt. You cannot deny this guy makes interesting albums and surfacing on the other side is an invigorating experience. 

TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL is out in the US and available for listening on overseas platforms. It is scheduled for a formal UK release on September 6th and sure to be available at most Rod Picott gigs subject to the inevitable sold out sign.

Monday, 12 August 2019

FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Over The Hill - Witney, Oxfordshire Monday 26th August 2019

Is there room for another festival in an apparent crowded field? Definitely when it's a quality roots event within 80 miles of the West Midlands conurbation on a quiet Bank Holiday Monday. So let's embrace the birth of Over The Hill and wish it a prosperous existence. Plenty of top acts lined up for this inaugural staging including a somewhat rare appearance these days from Danny and the Champions of the World (for the right reasons though and we know they ain't going far away). For further details, check out the official press release below and look out for future coverage from the day's activities down Cogges Farm.

The beautiful Oxfordshire countryside is destined to become immersed in the world of Americana this Summer at the first-ever Over the Hill Festival. Proudly presented by Glovebox Live, Over the Hill takes place on Bank Holiday Monday 26th August at the picturesque Cogges Manor Farm.
With plenty of opportunities to delve into the Americana experience with authentic American food and bars, Over the Hill will also feature intimate performances from some of the finest live Americana and roots acts in the UK today, on two stages housed in beautiful tithe barns.
Local, award-winning brewer Wychwood Brewery will be providing the thirst-quenching beverages notably the refreshing American ale Shipyard IPA and To The Moon will be running a Gin & Prosecco Bar. In addition, Over the Hill will feature authentic American food from vendors such as The Burn Out BBQ and Fat Lil’s providing a selection of Mexican and vegetarian cuisine.  You’ll also have the chance to discover the whole of the Cogges Museum site : the 17th century Manor House and it’s “Downton” links, the orchard and courtyard.
  • Venue is access friendly.
  • A limited number of 12 and under tickets are online priced £5 + booking fee.
  • PLEASE NOTE that both Stages are STANDING only – no seating inside the Barns.
  • The Courtyard will have some seating and you are welcome to bring your own camping chairs.
  • You can find details about the venue, and travel options here
  • There is plenty of FREE parking.
  • No dogs on site apart from Guide Dogs which must be on a lead at all times.
  • The site is totally NON SMOKING but you can vape.
  • PLEASE NOTE your own food and drink are not permitted on the festival site.
  • If you are looking to stay over we can recommend The Premier Inn and Oxford Witney Hotel both of which are walkable to the venue.
  • Enquiries and box office 0845 2574938
26th, August 2019
 doors @ 12noon
On the Door Price: £30
Advance Ticket Price: £30
Book Tickets: Click here

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Weekly Blog Post 11th August 2019 : OK Monthly

Fair enough there hasn't been a weekly blog post since July 14th, but a couple of album reviews returned, a comprehensive look back at SummerTyne was published and the full gig coverage resumed albeit during a quiet period on that front. Meanwhile the steady stream of album releases flowed continuously and news of upcoming records gathered pace. So in the little world of this blog, here is a round up of activity covering the period July 14th to August 11th including the sharing of a couple of September tours.


All reviewed and accessed via links

Don Gallardo at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham

SummerTyne Festival at the Sage in Gateshead

Baskery at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham

Lucinda Williams at Birmingham Town Hall

Album Releases

Click on the links for clips/further detail

Carly Dow - Comet (July 15th)

Alice Howe - Visions (July 15th)

Karen Jonas - Lucky, Revisited (July 19th)

Annie Bacon & Her OSHEN - Nothing Stays the Same (July 19th)

Lasers Lasers Birmingham - Warning (July 26th)

Will Bennett and the Tells - All Your Favourite Songs (July 26th)

Beth Bombara - Evergreen (August 9th)

The HawtThorns - Morning Sun (August 9th)

Upcoming Album Releases Added Since July 14th 

Amy Speace - Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne (out September 6th)
Ellis Paul - The Storyteller's Suitcase (out September 6th)
Ana Egge - Is it the Kiss (out September 6th)
The Achievers - The Lost Arc (out September 6th)
Jeremy Ivey - The Dream and the Dreamer (out September 13th)
Jared Deck - Bully Pulpit (out September 13th)
Hoth Brothers - Workin' and Dreamin' (out September 16th)
Catfish Keith - Catfish Crawl (out September 16th)
Darrin Bradbury - Talking Dogs and Atom Bombs (out September 20th)
Shane Alexander - A Life Like Ours (out September 20th)
Bob Bradshaw - Queen of the West (out September 27h)
Daniel Meade - Rust (out October 4th)
Mean Mary - Cold (out October 4th)
Silver Lake 66 - Ragged Heart (out October 4th)
Hannah James and the Jigdoll Ensemble - The Woman and Her Words (out October 4th)
Tim Grimm - Heart Land Again (out October 11th)
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - Dragons (out October 11th)
Bradford Loomis - Where the Light Ends (out October 11th)

Tours of Interest

Native Harrow

Frankie Lee

Sunday, 4 August 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Beth Bombara - Evergreen : Self-released

Beth Bombara is explicit proof of how taking your music out on the road in front of new fans can be a game changer. Back in 2017 her most recent record MAP AND NO DIRECTION was given an international promotional opportunity. The danger in new markets is the extent of the competition and whether your record is going to fight through the crowded room to find sufficient listening time. Twelve months later she had the opportunity to leave her US home (Missouri to be more precise) and play a series of UK dates with Jamie Wyatt. Listening to her music in a different zone unlocked the door and a back catalogue, which stretches back a further four albums in addition to the latest release at the time, was duly explored. With connections in place, the chances of her brand new album EVERGREEN slipping through the highway cracks had all but eradicated and with little hesitation a whole hearted recommendation is forthwith. 

Of course, such a process is hugely personal and the next potential batch of Beth Bombara fans may not get the luxury of seeing her play live. Therefore it’s left to those in the loop to advise those outside that this album is rather good and you should take a punt on adding Beth Bombara to your listening repertoire. 

Once again, the Americana community, one that stretches far from the land implied in the name, is the likely landing point for the music of Beth Bombara, or those with rock or more precisely folk-rock leanings. EVERGREEN is a neatly rounded compound package of ten songs all smartly layered with a rich texture of guitar infused rock. This is the sort pioneered in the heartland by the usual suspects and more of a mid-west nature than downright southern. Melding into the guitar strewn pot is the poignant self-reflecting thoughts of a songwriter driven by sensibilities and one striving to find oxygen for her lyrical musings. The result is an album driving hard into your psyche and building a momentum to secure a listening spot in a multiple of settings. 

The impact of an ear bending opener cannot be over stressed in this day and age where new releases shower down like wedding confetti refusing to recognise borders or boundaries. In the guise of ‘I Only Cry When I’m Alone’, Beth Bombara not only safely reaches first base but seeks extra hit territory to bring in an analogy with America’s favourite pastime. To the uninitiated, it’s basically a super song. Not too far behind is the title track, with ‘Evergreen’ benefitting from a cool melody underpinning the strength of the album’s second half. 

From a strong start the record powers forward, taking a couple of rejuvenating pitstops to toss elements of flexibility into the mix. This includes a touch of twang injected into the excellent Tenderhearted’ and the slightly tempered beginning to Does It Echo before the guitar solo segments return. The biggest sound switch comes at the end where All Good Things tunes into piano mode and a seriously poignant ballad escorts the listener to the door reminiscent of the moments when Brandi Carlile slows things down. 

As impressive as the final track is, EVERGREEN is defined by its subtly crafted rock elements where jangly and conventional styles entwine. All this is bound by warm vocals adding to the satisfying feeling of tuning into the latest instalment of Beth Bombara’s flourishing recording career.

ALBUM REVIEW: The HawtThorns - Morning Sun : Forty Below Records

Open an album with an absolute belter of a track and you’ve got your name on the board. Follow it up with several other strategically placed crackers and you’ll get yourself on repeat mode. Make a smart move in covering a John Moreland song and folks with an acute ear for a finely crafted lyrical masterpiece will pay attention. Alternatively just make a record that finds its audience with arrow-like precision and the great minds of artist and discerning listener will align as designed. Through the body of their debut release MORNING SUN, California-based duo The HawtThorns have all the aforementioned attributes nailed on and are now set on the next path to widen the appeal of music fully deserving of extending far from a home base way out west. 

The HawtThorns is the slightly modified moniker for the artistic output of husband and wife duo KP and Johnny Hawthorn (the extra t remains a mystery). They bring a vast experience of rock, pop and country music into the style of their newly founded operation and you won’t be surprised to learn that such a melting pot of sounds is likely to see a gravitational pull to that, ’catch all waifs and strays’ entity’ - Americana. While mere words are required in this medium, once the album moves into listening territory, its own laudable attributes take over to ensure any risks on those taking a punt on a new name evaporate quickly. 

The bright and breezy opener ‘Shaking’ is everything you want from a catchy tune set loose to snare its prey. Being seduced by this song is not a bad expense of your listening time and who can resist an infusion of well-crafted pop. Where you place this track is down to individual interpretation (check out the promotional video below), but a slice of 00s pop country was detected with a striking resemblance to Sara Evans’ ‘A Real Fine Place to Start’ jumping out in parts. 

It may seem a little ingenuous to comment second on the sole cover among ten originals, but a version of John Moreland’s ‘Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore’ struck a major chord. Apart from being a guilt edged piece of lyrical composition, it did send a signal that we are likely to hear more of this Oklahoma singer-songwriter’s classic material in the works of others, especially as his living legacy gathers pace. The HawtThorns don’t make a stab at owning the song, but just a mere acknowledgment and celebration of a precious art form is fine. 

Other songs to resonate strongly in the opening shots of this record’s life include a classy acoustic duet closer in ‘Lucky Charm’, creating the perfect bookended combination with the stand out opener. Midway through the album, ‘Give Me a Sign’ shines like a beacon and multiple plays see second track ‘Rebel Road’ advance with appreciation despite being slightly overshadowed by the opener; a recurring theme of this review. 

The chances of The HawtThorns being more than a distant mark on the horizon (with a great record, mind you) are greatly enhanced by a tie up with the label Forty Below Records, which has connections in the UK and have recently led to Jamie Wyatt and Sam Morrow touring our shores. Should this occur with The HawtThorns, the queues can start now.

Everything you require from an affable and freely accessible Americana album is wrapped in MORNING SUN. Maybe a freudian symbol in the title that the dawn is just breaking for this phase of a career that should prove fruitful for KP (formerly Kristen Profitt and owner of most of the vocals) and Johnny Hawthorn (the prime guitar architect). The HawtThorns have arrived and plenty will sit up and take notice.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

GIG REVIEW: Lucinda Williams - Birmingham Town Hall. Friday 2nd August 2019

Like a false start in a 100 metre sprint final, sometimes greatness requires a re-boot to click into gear. Maybe presentational timing wasn’t fully in place when the band entered the Town Hall stage, but we are in the presence of the queen of imperfection, an artist who turns frailties and fragility into a virtue. A false start indeed, but one quickly gathering pace to blossom in its pomp and prime. Here, the sprint analogy ends as events move into the territory of a two and a half hour marathon. This is Lucinda Williams as candid, full-on and content as any fan could wish. An artist entering a zone of proud reminiscence and an audience taken on a journey that few suspected could ever be so deep, intense, revealing and downright enthralling. Any whispering doubts substantiated by precedence were cast aside. This is Lucinda Williams - the legend. This is CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD - an album cementing a genre. This is a gig of the ages.

The algorithms were in full throttle on social media to sell this Birmingham Town Hall show out. OK nearly, if you literally interpret ‘limited availability’, but who’s counting. After missing out the city when promoting the last two albums (in my opinion her most compelling bodies of work since CAR WHEELS), what better way to amend than celebrate an album that never ages in the mist of time and refreshes the mind with each listen, no matter the distance apart. 

A two-dimensional approach worked wonders in making this evening tick. One that became so apparent as the show evolved. In the strictest or loosest of terms, CAR WHEELS is a folk album (a Grammy winning one to boot) composed by a folk artist to the most stripped down degree in its sensitivity. Yet the release from piling so much into a life affirming creative project was to rock out with total inhibition. Just like the subsequent albums post-1998, there was no holding back for the second part of this gig as Lucinda’s backing band, the Buick 6 (a three piece with twice the velocity), had the brakes released to have every rock purist purring at the excellence on display. 

The seven-track segment that followed the crowning moment of CAR WHEELS accounted for the final forty-five minutes of this extended-no interval gig, a period where any opportunity to sink back into folk mode was resisted. In no particular order, ‘Foolishness’, ’Righteously’, ‘Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings’, ‘Unsuffer Me’, ‘Steal Your Love’, 'Essence' and ‘Hard Times Killing Floor Blues’ was the alternative hand dealt. The first of these saw Lucinda unite 900 people in the most important message, while the last one (an old Skip James song) was sent out to that regular Midlands gig goer - Mr Robert Plant. Will Kimbrough famously said at a show in the area once ‘I hear Bobby Plant’s in the audience tonight’, Lucinda just hoped he’d stayed around long enough to hear her tribute to one of the greats of the blues. 

Of course, there is a difference between Lucinda Williams the folk singer and Lucinda Williams the rock star. While both feature strong in her DNA, it is allowed to err to one side as a fan and here it is the sheer magnitude to write, perform and sweat out the most delicate and articulate of sensitive observational songs. During the thirteen track running order presentation of CAR WHEELS, the vocals undulated across the peaks and troughs of an artist battle weary from attaining the summit of a life mission. Occasionally they misfire, but when digging deep they shatter into a million pieces to ache, hurt and bury deep into the mineshaft of her poignant songs. Frequently during the hour and three quarters spent celebrating a 52-minute record (yet not a second of talk time was wasted or drifted into the ether) you were lulled into a zone of live music fixation, no finer from my perspective than the absolutely adorable ‘Lake Charles’. Listening to the intro, switching the eyes between a singer immersed in a song and a screen displaying some impulsive images coupled with hearing the voice in pristine gravelly form added both chills and the early signs of a moist tear. 

Closely following this total stand out moment (unlikely to be surpassed all year), was an outstanding version of ‘Greenville’, which needed no introduction if you interpreted it as the follow-up to the preceding ‘Metal Firecracker’, one that did have its origins laid out. Joining the holy trinity of CAR WHEELS slowed down, you have to travel a long way to find a better closer than ‘Jackson’. A secular gospel song if such a beast exists and one where you could listen alongside viewing the original scrawled lyrics displayed on the screen. Of course, to warn off any karaoke, they often didn’t match. Also, the soulful element to ‘Still I Long for Your Kiss’ was strikingly evident. 

After listening to endless stories of how the album came about and its multitude of inspirations, nobody present could ever listen to CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD in a similar light again. If education is as important as straight up listening to your live music experience, then tonight was right up your street. Names, events, locations and liaisons freely flowed from a performer seemingly having the time of her life. A solitary thought was, could this make a good live album or DVD, but then countered by, you had to be there to really grasp the moment. A tough statement for those not able to catch this show on a tour that didn’t call at all ports.

Thankfully, Birmingham Town Hall was one such port and without hesitation it gatecrashed the top of the 2019 gig standings by a lengthy margin. 

You could literally write an essay on the findings of the show. To summarise a couple of feelings: ‘2 Cool 2 Be 4-Forgotten’ came over in a totally different mantra live than on record, ‘Concrete and Barbed Wire’ is one of those gifted songs where interpretation can be so personal - a true trait of a great song - and Lucinda did well to emerge from her Blaze Foley and Townes Van Zandt days as laid out in ‘Drunken Angel’

Reflection material from this gig is varied, comprehensive, rich and provoking. Four words that probably go a decent way to interpreting the career of Lucinda Williams. 

For one night only, Birmingham Town Hall was planted on the fault line of East Texas and West Louisiana. A place where music sinks deep in its soul and alongside the delta of Mississippi, where Americana finds it true home. Lucinda Williams - the full package - didn’t miss its intended destination tonight. Now, let us slip on CAR WHEELS again and discover that different light. 

GIG REVIEW: Baskery - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 1st August 2019

Baskery is a band that periodically flickers on the radar, usually when passing through town. A little delve into the archives throws up 2008 opening for Seth Lakeman in Wolverhampton, 2012 at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and a 2014 gig at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham. You can now add 2019 at the last venue as the Bondesson sisters made a somewhat surprise and unexpected return. Yet a welcome one as the Kitchen can bring out the versatile side of a band set up especially when the multi instrumental operation can challenge the dynamics of an intimate space so often the domain of the solo singer-songwriter. Across two sets, each roughly 50 minutes, the trio bound through a thumping arrangement of songs, all structured by a mystical road trip starting in their home city of Stockholm before venturing out to Europe, America and even outer space. 

A healthy gathering of the committed and curious gave the sisters (Stella, Greta and Sunniva) a receptive environment to ply their trade, one that heavily leans into the roots side of Americana. Combining the most stunning of sisterly harmonies with a banjo and percussion driven soundtrack ably supported by stand up bass and multiple guitar changes, Baskery conjure up a sound that races along, raucous in places yet controlled and measured. They are a band that enlists your focus and undivided attention whilst serving an appetising style of music. 

Album releases have been strategically spaced out across their thirteen year existence as a formal band (informality likely stretches back longer). Back in 2014 songs from their most recent effort 2018s COYOTE AND SIRENS were previewed and fast forward five years, ‘Shut the Catflap’ and ‘Cactus Baby’ have fully embedded into the Baskery repertoire. Older favourites like ‘One Horse Down’ and ‘Oscar Jr. Restaurant’ from their full length debut record FALL AMONG THIEVES still sound good with the latter getting its origin from the Greek island of Rhodes explained in the song intro. Another port of call on their mythical journey. 

Similarly to five years ago, they still pay homage to one of their heroes, Neil Young, with a version of ‘Old Man’ and Sunniva still manages to momentarily play guitar while standing aloft on Greta’s kick drum in one of the shows more kinaesthetic moments. While there was so much similarity to previous Baskery shows, namely the energy, vibrancy and sheer intensity, you didn’t get much insight to where they are going as a band. Their American adventure seems to have tailed off with Greta commenting on Devon now being her home. 

Maybe that is how the experience of Baskery is destined to be. Periodic gigs that capture the moment and album releases that hover on the horizon. However, when the force of their unison is in full flow, the live impact is packed with value adding qualities while stimulating the live music experience. A uniqueness surrounds the way Baskery go about making music and a little room will always be made, especially when they hit the road for exciting live dates like this.