Thursday, 27 July 2017

Marlon Williams - SummerTyne Americana Festival, Late Night Lounge, Gateshead. Friday 21st July 2017

The name Marlon Williams may not be well known in the UK at the moment, but that has huge potential to change after witnessing his awesome set in the designated late night lounge on the opening day of this year’s SummerTyne Americana Festival. It was quite a coup to enlist the services of a New Zealand singer-songwriter en route to continuing his increasing growth in the US. Listening to his material online following the initial booking plus viewing an impressive KEXP radio showcase on You Tube, only probably prepared you for 10% of Marlon’s ultimate appeal.

The vocal prowess of this South Island resident from the Land of the Long White Cloud at times soared in jaw dropping proportions as he used every second of the allotted hour to primarily paint the landscape with a heavy dose of noir. This was an artist adept at coaxing the listener into a semi-conscious state, oblivious to the surroundings while totally immersed in the depth of the music. The songs spawned mainly from Marlon’s guitar, splintered by a couple served from the piano including the introduced new piece ‘Beautiful Dress’. It was also from this position that the line of the night was delivered in ‘like a snowman in the spring’; protruding starkly from the song, ‘Love is a Terrible Thing’.

As Marlon’s set weaved along, the song content wandered through infanticide territory (‘The Ballad of Minnie Dean’), expressing the thoughts of a river in his native New Zealand (‘Arahura’) and the self-explanatory ‘Dark Child’. Even his covers came from contrasting and interesting pools with a version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’ getting a glowing introduction and Jim Reeves’ ‘He’ll Have to Go’ just being being tagged with the comment ‘well it is an Americana festival’.

It would surely be a universal call to single out the powerful and upbeat closer ‘Hello Miss Lonesome’ as the superb standout moment. This prominently opens Marlon’s latest self-titled album, with its final two songs, ‘When I Was a Young’ and more specifically ‘Everyone’s Got Something to Say’, also reverberating profoundly around a totally absorbed room.

With Americana music being more frequently defined as a ‘state of mind’ rather than the ‘mind of a state’, this highly tuned evocative performer is well equipped with the depth of sound, gut wrenching yet articulate approach to song writing and a persona to invoke the spirit of a pre-determined mood. Marlon Williams may be more Southern Hemisphere than Southern USA, but the dark gothic tinge that flavours so much of the exploratory roots music of the area permeated this highly addictive performance.

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