Thursday, 25 July 2019

GIG REVIEW: Don Gallardo - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 19th July 2019

From a low key solo start to a rampaging finish, Don Gallardo rode into Birmingham and conquered a small part of England yet to be intoxicated by his music. The Kitchen Garden may be more known as an acoustic venue, but the crafted guile of Jim Maving on Fender and Travis Stock  sturdily steering the ship on electric bass allowed a barrowload of exceptional Don Gallardo songs to flourish in the full band format. 

The Kitchen Garden has warmed the hearts of many American touring artists in its decade plus existence. Adding Don Gallardo to an esteemed list was a long time coming , with not a moment wasted in the hour and three quarters playing time. Older material like ‘Burgundy Wine’ from the ART OF TROUBLESOME TIMES album mingled with a few standout tunes from the new hot off the press IN THE NAME OF GOOD INTENTIONS EP release, ably led by its outstanding track ‘How Many Days?’ 

An audience made up of confirmed Don Gallardo fans and curious newbies had plenty of candidates to hang on the evening’s highlight coat hanger, with the time tested duo of ‘The North Dakota Blues’ and ‘Banks of the Mississippi’ certain to frequent any short list. The former closed the first set with its audience uninvited participation line ‘make sure you don’t run out of whiskey’ echoing round the venue. The latter did likewise to the pre-encore second set, getting underway with a hypnotic Travis Stock bass line and finishing with Jim Maving unleashing the Fender into undefined rock territory after chilling mainly in country mode for most of the evening. At this moment, the song morphed into a medley with the sampled Dobie Gray recorded classic ‘Drift Away’ injecting some funk groove into the proceedings. 

A casual observer noting his Nashville base would class Don Gallardo as a country artist. True this style is heavily influential in his music with plenty of slide guitar induced twang from the fender backing up this assertion. However, this is just one part of the Don Gallardo make up and one a fair distance away from the commercial country music hub of his home city. 

First and foremost, Don Gallardo is a finely tuned songwriter, penning incredibly influential songs rinsed with accessible simplicity. ‘Something You’ve Gotta Learn’, ’Carousel’, ‘Kickin’ Up the Pavement’ and the countrified ‘The Losing Kind’ are prime exhibits of a skilled artisan. Issue based songs like ‘Stay Awhile’, focussing on Nashville’s unabated building boom, and ‘Same Ol’ Alley Talkin’ Blues #12’ addressing homelessness, leads the content in a direction of the conscience. 

Humour and dry banter between Don and Travis, music partners for a long time now, is a familiar feature of their shows. Detailed stories and monologues tend to be left on the shelf as wit prevails. As a touring duo, they have previously linked up with UK artists to perform shows, most recently The Rossellys, with the latest on loan signing ex-Case Hardin guitarist Jim Maving proving their shrewdest and most dynamic move to date. Travis and Jim also help out on harmony vocals, and the trio opened the second set off mic and accompanied only by Don’s acoustic guitar to deliver an inspiring rendition of ‘Down in the Valley’.

Away from the original material, a nod to John Price was given with a cover of ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’. Additionally, the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic ‘Bad Moon Rising’ appears on the new EP, recorded in conjunction with Lilly Winwood, as well in tonight’s set list and you rarely hear a bad version of ‘The Long Black Veil’. 

This Kitchen Garden show came towards the end of a two-week European excursion that opened with an appearance at the Maverick Festival (complete with the legendary cow in the tent story) and had its core underpinned with an invite to play the Static Roots Festival in Germany across the middle weekend. Trips across the pond are a regular pattern for Don Gallardo and the more new venues that host him, widens the appeal and justifies the  investment made to spread his music overseas. 

Few who fall into Don Gallardo’s music sphere for the first time fail to leave a bonafide fan. Likewise few artists treading the Kitchen Garden’s stone floor fail to be moved by its magical intimacy and compatibly creative aura. Nothing to detract from these views occurred tonight. All was well on many fronts, not least listening and supporting some very good Americana music.

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