Tuesday, 12 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Danni Nicholls - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 10th June 2018

There is precedence to a Danni Nicholls album having multiple lives and the scene is set for a repeat process now that the songs are in the can for the next album. The cycle may still be in the embryonic untitled stage regards the upcoming album, but tracks are beginning to emerge in a live setting. Fresh out of a latest stateside stint to bring the songs to near fruition, she has undertaken a few dates around the country to break them in gently. Birmingham’s Kitchen Garden has hosted Danni on a couple of previous occasions and it was a posse of familiar faces greeting her for this latest visit. Grander stages will feature ahead as the record nears release, but it is good for the new songs to be road tested and it can be unequivocally stated that treats are on the way to fans new and old.

A distinct theme characterised the two sets Danni played this evening. The bulk of the new material featured after the break, following a widely spanned selection in the first set from a recording and performing career fast approaching a decade in the spotlight. Old tunes like ‘Time’ rubbed shoulders with some of her finest to date such as ‘Beautifully Broken’, while joined by the recurring Randy Newman cover ‘Guilty’ and a live favourite in ‘Where the Blue Train Goes’. Not forgetting the gorgeous 'Between Forever and Goodbye' and the scene setting opener 'Long Road Home'.

As popular and much loved as these songs are, the long awaited new material created a sense of anticipation. Permeating the offering in the opening set was the first positive sign that the future is bright with a Birmingham premiere for ‘Hopeless Romantic’. It does not take many listens to a Danni Nicholls track to admire its appeal and there was no evidence in this trait being lost.

After the break, and an opportunity for folks to fill in their gaps of any missed album purchases, Danni was more forthright and informative about the next album, even if it means we still have a little time to wait before it reaches the market in the recorded format. Five further tracks were given an early airing, although one was vaguely familiar as ‘Ancient Embers’ did feature in the show here twelve months ago. Fingers were crossed at the time that it may make the cut for a future record and the faith appears to be repaid. A little was learned about the writing process and it was no surprise to hear that Danni has teamed up with Ben Glover for a couple of co-writes. ‘Texas’ and ‘Wild is the Water’ had the Ben Glover mark all over them especially the second one; although Danni’s effortless presentation style will soon assume ownership. They certainly came across as songs from a wider canvas on first listen and maybe a drift away from the fairly tight periphery that has reflected her writing in the past.

The other two new songs heard in the second set were ‘Power to Leave’ and ‘Losing It’. The first was revealed as another co-write, this time with Austin-based artist Jaimee Harris, while the other had not developed any introductory patter yet. True to form, the introduction of the new songs served tonight went a long way to suggest that another acclaimed album is going to emerge.

There was still time for plenty of old favourites as Danni never fails to play a comprehensive show when afforded the opportunity. ‘Beautiful Game’, ‘Back to Memphis’ and ‘Hey There, Sunshine’ will never outstay their welcome, and while the lengthy introduction to ‘A Little Redemption’ was shelved, the sentiment of this upbeat jaunty number is never lost.

Cover-wise, this was an evening free of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, but what better way to end the gig than Danni playing her version of Will Kimbrough’s ‘Goodnight Moon’. A heady mix of sharing humility while crafting a beautiful rendition.

In contrast to Danni’s previous shows at the Kitchen, an opening act was added to the bill and it was good to catch the music of Kathryn Marsh and Dave Sutherland again in the guise of their duo format: Ashland. During the half hour slot a varied source of appealing songs were shared with the audience, ranging from ones Kathryn has given a new lease of life to the odd cover and original from Dave. It proved a gentle start to an evening wholesomely defined by its intimacy and respect for the serenely delivered song.

Danni herself has been busy on the support front in recent times including playing fruitful opening slots for Shakin’ Stevens, Angaleena Presley, and most recently, The Secret Sisters. At the end of this current run of shows, the focus will switch to the next batch of dates later in the year, which she will surely headline with a big fanfare, and give fans an opportunity to take the new material home in some kind of recorded format. Since first coming across the music of Danni Nicholls back in 2010, it has been repeatedly stated that few if any match the strength of her style, at least this side of the pond. It is in the realm of ‘Americana’ that offers the best fit for her music and conditions are now set for a continuation of the growth and affection previously enjoyed. This show at the Kitchen Garden was merely the aperitif for a lavish banquet about to be served.