For one night only, the Kitchen Garden Café ditched the quaint singer-songwriter ethos and kicked the proverbial in the guise of Swedish alt-country trio Baskery. The regular nine month stints the Bondesson sisters have spent in Nashville has formed a dim view of the modern country music direction and inspired them to further pursue a mission of spreading the word of mud country and banjo punk. A ninety minute set of frenzied activity, raucous tunes and using every inch of the confined space saw a Birmingham audience thankful that Baskery had ended their five year exile of playing the city.
In fact the three sisters, now veterans of three studio albums with a fourth on the way, admitted that they had neglected the UK market for too long with festivals and the odd date being their recent focus on our shores. On the evidence of this evening, the songs, sound, stage show and passion is in place to build an audience that had an initial lift half a dozen years ago with an opening slot on Seth Lakeman’s 2008 tour. With a striking visual presence and enamoured chemistry, the girls have well and truly branched out from their Stockholm roots becoming strong international artists in their own right.
From a left to right audience view, Stella holds things together on upright bass; Greta’s multi-faceted input excels on banjo and percussion, while Sunniva mixes the acoustic and electric rhythm guitars. Together they share, harmonise and combine vocals to bring a bunch of songs that both inform and entertain with only the odd cover thrown in. Tonight, Neil Young’s ‘Only Man’ got the Baskery treatment suggesting where they get their lyrical inspiration from to add flavour to a sound paying homage to bluegrass, old time country and the raw energy of new wave punk.
Interspersed between the songs, often in extended live mode, was a mixture of irreverent chat and informed background to their origin with perhaps the most interesting being ‘The Big Flo’, taken from the most recent album LITTLE WILD LIFE. In addition to the theme of that particular song, incidentally a contrived plane crash in Mexico, we also learned how newspapers inspired Sunniva to write ‘The Last Beat’. Along with these pair of songs, of which the latter shaped up to be the encore number, the recent album offered ‘The Shadow’ and an a Capella opening with ‘Northern Girl’.
The signal that the girls are about to enter the studio to record another album came with two preview numbers ‘Cat Flap’ and ‘Cactus Boy’, songs which on first listen appeared to have a more alt-country rock feel to them. However the two highlights of the evening saw the band return to their debut release, FALL AMONG THIEVES. ‘I Haunt You’ closed the main set, while the girls produced a frantic peak on ‘One Horse Down’ with Greta taking the banjo to its limit and Sunniva deciding it was time to raise the stakes in the Café a little higher turning the bass drum into a platform to showcase her guitar playing skills. The come down from that evening high saw a more tender song in ‘Tendencies’ as the venue had its usual demeanour returned.
An evening initially delayed by traffic problems, got off to an impressive start with a good opening set from local artist Alex Olm, ably supported by Julianne on fiddle and defined by a subtle mesmeric vocal style utilising the sound system well. An effective support artist always sets up the main event well as Baskery proceeded to raise the temperature and remind everybody what an exciting live act they are. We need the Bondesson sisters to keep their promise of increased Baskery UK shows as there is definitely a growing audience thirsty for more of their Swedish take on Americana music.