Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Jenn Bostic, Kyshona Armstrong and Sarah Darling - Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 12th September 2016

Three artists bound by their Nashville calling. Three artists intrinsically linked by the concept of dreams. Three artists emotionally drawn to sharing their deepest personal songs. Sarah Darling – a stylish measured dreamer, Jenn Bostic – a therapeutic dreamer, Kyshona Armstrong – a spiritual dreamer, three independent artists making meaningful music and now performing collaborators in their deeply connective ‘in the round’ show.

Maybe more rotating songs than literally in the round, this trio have hit the sweet spot on a short English tour taking in several keynote venues where serious content supersedes superficial surroundings. If you’re seeking that heady moment of pure telepathic interaction, a sold out Kitchen Garden Café absorbing the songs of this trio was the place to be. Bands were left at home, exposing the naked reality of sincere songs delivered in a range of styles from cultured pristineness to earthy soul. This music was far from free of ambition, yet retained a mark of control.

All three artists reside at different levels of UK exposure, although for two hours at each show on this tour the equilibrium is stark. The pursuit and success of Jenn Bostic’s Radio 2 foray has been the result of several visits. She mentioned playing a fundraising show in Birmingham recently, but you can go back a little further to February 2013 when the Bull’s Head in Moseley hosted her. That night the door was opened for many to hear her emotive signature song live for the first time and three and a half years on, ‘Jealous of the Angels’ possesses the same personal therapy to move both artist and audience alike. This was the climax of Jenn’s five songs which were mainly presented from behind the keyboard and wrapped in sentimental vocal prowess. Pride oozed from the introduction when the current Radio 2 play listed ‘What Love Feels Like’ appeared. One of her older songs, ‘Not Yet’ demonstrated the range of her vocals and ‘Hollywood’ surfaced as one of the many moments on the evening invoking audience participation. Kyshona gave a little insight into the world of Jenn when referring to her planning tendencies and this rolls out in her structured approach to making music.

While Sarah Darling has been active in the Nashville music scene for quite a while, her overseas aspirations appear to be a relatively new addition. A ready-made growing audience is one attraction but also one prepared to show extraordinary listening potential. This appealing market quality is heaven sent for a performer staking so much on their song writing calibre. Whether or not, the mainstream industry comes calling, Sarah presses on with her independent project and this current tour acts as a showcase teaser for a new crowd funded album under the apt title of DREAM COUNTRY. Across the five songs she shared this evening, the first and last probably had the most appeal. ‘You Take Me All The Way’ opened the trio’s first set and confirmed its wise choice as an upcoming single with a sensual subtlety. ‘Stargazer’ was Sarah’s final offering and an attention grabbing delight.

This tour has been the UK’s introduction to Kyshona Armstrong and few exposed to her soulful spiritual depth will fail to be moved. It may sound contradictory but fragility came across as Kyshona’s strength, seeking solace in an innate capability to fire up the wounded soul. This is a performer who shared so many trepidations about moving to Nashville a couple of years ago from her ‘Deeper’ South roots. But Nashville’s Music City status is so much more than the perceived cliché and a fulfilling residency is locked in on tonight's evidence. Without hesitation, Kyshona’s sideways shuffle to belt out ‘Lonely’ from behind Jenn’s keyboards was the show’s golden highlight, closely followed by a calming segmented version of ‘Amazing Grace’ in one of Jenn’s songs. In contrast to Sarah’s upcoming album and Jenn’s latest from 2015, Kyshona’s THE RIDE is literally a month hot off the press and this evening she shared the title track, ‘Do Nothin’’ and ‘The Best of You’ from it, along with the aforementioned stand out performance in her quintet of songs.

With this tour being put together and managed by the Stafford based multi-music operation Fish Records, it was no surprise see one of the UK artists that they are associated with in Robert Lane being selected to open each show. Hailing from Birmingham and no stranger to the Kitchen Garden Café (he supported Caddy Cooper last November), Robert wasted little time in rising to the challenge of playing the archetypal opener. His confidence, wit and persona reflect a performer born for the stage. Intriguing short stories, Elvis singalongs, fine songs and a folk murder ballad, it was job done for Robert and he is surely set to thrive in the future on both the local and wider singer-songwriter circuit. In addition to Robert’s rousing version of ‘Suspicious Minds’, the other significant cover song on the evening was reserved for the encore with ‘Fields of Gold’ given an elegant coating of three beautiful voices.

So ‘A Night in Nashville’ became 'A Night in Kings Heath for one evening only with the quality of artists on show leading to the event being a resounding success. This was music in its purest form, reaching out in a format that engages an audience matching an assured level of performance with the ideals of what song writing can achieve. The Kitchen Garden Café proved to be the optimum venue for the intimate exposure of three artists, comfortable in their own words and so appreciative of each other's work. Where the future paths of Sarah Darling, Jenn Bostic and Kyshona Armstrong lead who knows, but for a solitary night, converging on York Road, Kings Heath proved a winner. 



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