Sunday, 17 November 2019

GIG REVIEW: Bella Hardy - Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham. Saturday 16th November 2019

2019 is an active yet reflective year for Bella Hardy. The acclaimed English folk singer-songwriter has been in a non-stop cycle of music making, tours, album releases and innovative projects for close on twenty years. Maybe the time to take stock, and reflect on a back catalogue of an album count nearly in double figures and a recording song catalogue pushing three figures. It is certainly prolific output for a artist only in their mid thirties While not ready to step away from the limelight, she has taken a carefully selected twenty five songs from the catalogue, added a couple of news ones, and delivered POSTCARDS & POCKETBOOKS: THE BEST OF BELLA HARDY. This is a gift to old fans in a neatly presented compendium, and new ones in a shortened showcase format. The only polite thing to do next is take these songs on the road to remind folks why she is such as compelling live performer as well.

Birmingham's MAC has been a regular host for Bella Hardy over the years and it proved the final stopping point for a short week long tour aimed to promote the new record, which was part of a merchandise package that also included a hardback bound collection of all her lyrics. For this tour, a trio format was assembled with Sam Carter on guitar and Tom Gibbs turning his hand to piano most of the time apart from a couple of songs when he played clarinet. Bella opened on harmonium before settling on violin as her instrument of choice, both plucked gently and played conventionally. However, she is just as comfortable when playing the sole vocalist role; an attribute that has brought her most fame.

After Sam Carter opened the show with a couple of his own songs, including a new one titled 'The Anvil', Bella and Tom joined for a full two-set performance where fifteen tracks off the new album were shared alongside countless stories of their origin. An essential ingredient of any folk gig.

If you approached this gig with little knowledge about the music of Bella Hardy, it will be a given that you would have left well-versed two hours after entering the theatre. Not only is she an excellent writer of original songs, she often seeks out traditional ones and twists outcomes and perspectives. This happened on at least three shared this evening: 'Seventh Girl', 'Good Man's Wife' and 'Silvie Sovay'. While on the topic of traditional music, we were treated to a song that has only made the setlist in the last few shows after being a studio track for several years when Bella rose to the challenge of reciting the many, many verses of 'The Drunken Butcher of Tideswell'.

On the original front, 'The Herring Girl', the most familiar Bella Hardy song, made an appearance in the early stages. It is imperative a folk gig enacts its first murder as quickly as possible. Surpisingly, on this occasion the gruesomeness markedly receded.

For an artist steeped in the English folk tradition, Bella Hardy has often drew on her overseas experience which has seen stints spent living in China and America, plus a trip to Japan when opening for Lau. The latter experience led to 'Full Moon Over Amsterdam' being born during a lengthy stopover in Schiphol airport. Surely a place where many a touring singer-songwriter has drawn on the waiting experience.

Her stateside adventures led to 'Queen of Carter's Bar' coming out of a co-writing venture in Nashville, a city that gets referenced in 'Tequilla Moon' that formed the encore segment of tonight's show. The West Coast forms the backdrop to 'Learning to Let Go'', which opened the set, while 'Time Wanders On', a song Bella wrote in Calgary with Canadian artist Cara Luft, was one of the picks from the first half.

Perhaps the two crowning moments of this show came in the second half, a point where the trio's performance and particularly Bella's vocals hit that zone of aligning perfectly with the listening experience. First up, 'Lament for Derwent' came across as sheer bliss as Bella contemplated a moment when this Derbyshire location, in fact her home county, could have been lost to an onset of land re-alignment in the water industry. By the time we were served the beauty of the pre-encore number, 'Walk It With You', any investment in attending this gig had been handsomely repaid many times over.

If the next twenty years are as productive for Bella Hardy as the period leading up to POSTCARDS & POCKETBOOKS, then fans new and old from the folk circuit and beyond will be in for a real treat. Just like those attending the MAC this evening.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

GIG REVIEW: The Remedy Club + Hope in High Water - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 11th November 2019

The Remedy Club
A quick check in the gig archives revealed it was only February and April last year when Hope in High Water and The Remedy Club respectively made their last visits to the Kitchen Garden. Maybe the crazy amount of gigs in the intervening period made these shows feel a lot longer ago. Roughly eighteen months since both duos last dropped into Kings Heath has seen developments move quickly to the point where one has a new album, and the other will not be too far behind on the evidence revealed during this appearance. This gig was part of a run of dates arranged in liaison with the Fish Records operation, key drivers in helping both acts get wider recognition around the UK.

With the pre-gig promotion seemingly evenly balanced, it could have been a toss up to who took centre stage, but it eventually panned out that Hope in High Water opened proceedings with an extended fifty-minute support set. This left The Remedy Club with around half an hour extra following the obligatory short interval to give folks a glimpse of what they are about.

A chunk of this extra time was given over to covers, but the Irish duo of Aileen Mythen and KJ McEvoy have a subtle and smart way interweaving the work of others into their set. Covering Lucinda Williams' 'Can't Let Go' followed a link of both artists working with producer Ray Kennedy, while it was only going to be appropriate to share a Hank song after The Remedy Club's own tribute to the effect of the great man in 'Listening to Hank Williams'. Celebrating the work of Elmore James reflected the duo's own blues-inspired past and who can knock an Irish act paying respect to Rory Gallagher.

Hope in High Water
While comparisons in set up were on the surface, you only had to dig a little deeper to uncover the contrasts. First up, Hope in High Water, the performing name for Josh and Carly, hail from Milton Keynes and are now in the phase of promoting their second full album release. BONFIRE & PINE is literally only days old, but like so many releases, it had been a long time in the run up between owning the songs and ultimately sharing them in a recorded format. Starting their set with the album opener 'Healed', they went on to play the title track, 'It's Over Now', 'Pray Away', 'Grenfell' and a few others during their allotted time slot. The penultimate one of this quartet has emerged as an early front runner in being the album pick, while the latter possesses an emotive strength to push forward the social commentary side of their writing. It is ironic that 'Grenfell' was released in the same week as another song about this tragedy, 'The Fire' written by Jamie Freeman and Ben Glover, gained an AMA UK song of the year nomination. Adversity does inspire important song writing and Hope in High Water's effort possesses equal credibility to the widely acclaimed other composition. 

Maintaining the contrast theme, Josh and Carly give their whole operation a greater roots sheen than their touring colleagues, to the extent where they dig quite deep for song inspiration. They represent a slightly introspective 'from the ground up approach', appropriate to the lifestyle they candidly share with live audiences. Every ounce of recognition received pays dividends for choices made and they are the epitome of a DIY stance to making music, plus a sign of a grass roots scene being in rude health.

The Remedy Club are a far more expansive duo. There is showbiz tinge to how they present their music, fired through Aileen's theatrical background that seeps into the way her vocals are projected. Likewise KJ's extrovert guitar skills pepper a series of songs resonating with serious hooks and more than a nod in the direction of popular appeal. These styles do manifest into creating an imaginative and memorable live show leaving those caught in their midst searching for a little more in the aftermath. This latest sortie across the Irish Sea sees the duo armed with some new songs that will form a new album release in the near future. One of the new songs has just been released as a single with 'True Hand-True Heart' invoking more than touch of invited audience participation. The true gem from the upcoming batch was 'Sweet Symphony', indicating that 2017's LOVERS, LEGENDS AND LOST CAUSES will be joined by a worthy follow up. However, this album may not be ready to give its mantle up yet as exemplified by fine performances of 'When Tom Waites Up' and 'Bottom of the Hill'.

Factors may deem that this evening's gig at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham quickly fades into the memory as both The Remedy Club and Hope in High Water strive for some some level of plateau their music warrants. Yet there was something true, organic and connective about a show that may only live on in the virtual world of this site. Diamonds in the dust come from unlikely places.

Bonfire & Pine available here

Sunday, 10 November 2019

GIG REVIEW: The Delines - St.John the Evangelist, Oxford. Saturday 9th November 2019

Three assertions from this evening: Willy Vlautin and Amy Boone are exclusively compatible vehicles for each others art; the sedative-induced brass element gives the sound a more jazz than soulful feel, and The Delines are immense at magnifying a heavily curated album style in a live setting. Every column inch and word of mouth praise accrued in 2019 on the back of releasing THE IMPERIAL at the beginning of the year came to fruition at this sold out Oxford gig. Sheer class oozed from the stage as we were firmly reminded that it may be late in the calender year but pure polished gems can appear at any time.

On a personal front, The Delines experience began in June 2014 when they played the small room at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham to around fifty people. This evening the audience must have been pushing to the unconfirmed four hundred mark such is the interest generated. Much of this has been the buzz around the new album, which acted as the main follow up to the 2014 debut COLFAX, although a lower profile release did appear in the interim period. This period did include UK shows where shamefully paths didn't cross, however the biggest unfortunate episode in the last five years was Amy Boone's accident, inevitably putting a huge dent in The Delines project. Happily she is now in a position to not only perform but tour overseas, with perhaps an added zest to make the most of a talent that is flourishing in this operation.

First and foremost, The Delines is the brainchild of Willy Vlautin; a main focus for him now the Richmond Fontaine days are in the past. An exceptional all round writer and guitar playing band leader, he seems to have found the perfect vocal foil in Amy Boone to unleash this latest bout of song writing. To a large extent, she acts as a narrator, albeit one with a beautifully exquisite voice, acting with acute precision to execute often explicitly driven story songs.

Going back to the soul debate, the music of The Delines definitely comes more from the head than the heart. There is a calculated side to how they operate leading to a tight knit delivery. From an audience perspective the sound element is far more projected through the keyboard and trumpet playing of key band member Cory Gray. The tempo and strings section is so deft, delicate and unobtrusive it lingers in the background absolutely extolling the virtue: less is more. Exactly like a top class official at a sports event being highly effective without taking centre stage. The focal point of any gig The Delines perform is going to be Amy Boone and the songs of Willy Vlautin that she wonderfully conveys to a blessed audience. The whole five-piece band format in tandem tonight gears towards this goal.

A personal viewpoint expressed all year has been that 'Eddie and Polly' edges 'Holly the Hustle' as the leading song on the new album. However there was role reversal this evening as the latter for instinctive reasons came across better. One constant all show was the desire to hang onto and savour every lyric Amy wrapped her vocal cords around. Right from 'That Haunted Old Place' in the set's early stages to the old favourite 'Oil Rigs at Night' at the heart of a four-song encore, this show was an intense yet highly pleasurable listening experience.

This latter song was one of the early introductions into the work of The Delines alongside the track 'Colfax Avenue' that also appeared in the set list tonight. While the focus of the show was mainly on the latest album, we were treated to both sides of a single recorded in Montana, with 'Eight Floors Up'  opening the set just after nine o'clock and 'Wait for Me' (the b side of the single) being one of a couple of songs Amy delivered from behind the keyboard. The latter moments allowed the trumpet of Cory Gray to be more directly expressed.

From a genre perspective, I would place The Delines right at the heart of Americana, maybe more from a wider social scale than a means for getting music to market. I lost count the number of places mentioned in songs, but will have a stab at Fort Worth, El Paso, Atlanta, Phoenix, Albuquerque and New Orleans for starters. Woven in between the themes, characters, places and issues are beautifully crafted songs proclaiming the worth of their originator.

Opening for The Delines for this and other shows on the tour was the experienced duo Jody Stephens and Luther Russell operating as the front piece of the band Those Pretty Wrongs. They are obviously artists steeped in the tradition of rock 'n' rollers edging into the early confines of alt-country and pre-Americana. They lent on a formula of harmonies and twang, and when in full flow came across as a decent act, whilst providing a good support choice for the refiner sounds of The Delines.

This Oxford show was held in the grand surroundings of St. John the Evangelist, a church with a well appointed interior that is clearly geared to hosting the arts alongside its prime purpose of existence. It is a venue occasionally used by promoter Empty Rooms Promotions and one that I last visited in 2014 to see Sarah Jarosz.

There has only been three Oxford gig trips this year, but the trio of Dale Watson, Ryan Bingham and The Delines make it a choice of only the best. With the gig year coming to a close, this show made a strong case for the personal favourite of the year, a thought that will be mulled over during the next six weeks. In the meantime, let's just reflect on the marvellous music made by The Delines, whether on record or on display in Oxford this evening.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Ags Connolly - Wrong Again

Don’t judge art by the cover, the saying intimates, but maybe in this instance the image goes a long way to dictating the outcome of the latest album from Ags Connolly. The simplicity is striking from the front and back poses of our esteemed country troubadour sitting proudly and independently in the homely confines of his local. Exqusiitely profound and without a single air of pretence, WRONG AGAIN comes across as a singular aim of pursuing the holy grail of making music as close to an ideal as is possible. This album tramples over borders and any bow to consensus or evolution. Ags Connolly makes no attempt to be a pseudo- American or a Brit putting an Anglo slant on American music. There is very little deviation from a focussed goal and maybe, the realisation that we are getting close to reenacting a dream. People latch onto country music in distant lands for a multitude of reasons. If you seek some sort of escapist romanticism that steers your mind away from the norm then this record might just be for you. It fits a model; an ideal; a notion, that this style of music can be perfected away from the soil of the lauded South and the expansive West. 

Let’s banish thoughts that WRONG AGAIN may be the pinnacle of what Ags Connolly has set out to do. Many country artists over the years have found that golden touch and then added the knack of repetition without a drop in standards, even if evolution hasn’t been the byword. What Ags Connolly does in the future is down to his creative whim. What Ags Connolly has done in the present is make an album that glitters with the golden touch of idealism.

Throughout the ten tracks that form this album, an iconic sound is nailed down. Whether you seek a soundtrack rich with fiddle and pedal steel or symbolic themes of sadness, loss and contemplative thoughts, all can be found in the vaults of this album. There is a marked distance between singer and the song, leaving a gap where the listener can surmise, explore or play games of invention. As much as Ags Connolly is a talented singer-songwriter, he never shies away from extolling the virtues of those who have inspired him to pursue this artistic calling. Therefore seeing a cover nestled alongside the originals is no surprise. The highest compliment you can pay is that the Connolly-writes are not overshadowed by Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’. Our esteemed unassuming country troubadour would cast off such praise, but in this instance it is wholly endorsed. 

From the opening strains of ‘I’ll Say When’, through the pain of ‘Lonely Nights in Austin’ to the climax of proclaiming ‘Sad Songs Forever’ we are constantly in the midst of a country record that aches with feeling and emotion. Much is down to the vocal style that Connolly curates, but no doubt the utmost care and attention imprinted into the production process pays dividends in handsome proportions. 

You will have to seek far and wide to find a better country album in 2019 outside the parameters of the norm. WRONG AGAIN simmers, flourishes and glows with country gold. However, this is Ags Connolly we are talking about and many have known what he is capable of for a long time.

GIG REVIEW: The Local Honeys - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 5th November 2019

It has been a bit of a stop-go start getting into The Local Honeys. A last minute hitch delayed seeing them make their Birmingham debut at this same venue back in January. Likewise clashes didn't go in their favour when attending the SummerTyne Festival in the summer. It proved a case of good things come to those who wait when no hiccups impeded a Bonfire Night return to the Kitchen Garden and a chance to check out this highly rated touring duo out of eastern Kentucky.

First good news for Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs was a vastly increased turnout from the last visit and a point where they were just a handful of ticket sales short from a 'house full' sign. This is a testimony to the interest generated over the year and perhaps word getting around that they deliver a truly memorable and engaging show. Having now been fully engrossed in a two-hour Local Honeys gig, there is full concurrence with this sentiment and the firm prediction that we are going to hear a lot more from these two talented musicians in the coming years.

Hailing from the Appalachian coal mining area of eastern Kentucky provides a huge clue that the music style heavily leans towards the traditional side. Strutting the fault line where country music meets folk, bluegrass and old time roots, our two protagonists explore every crevice possible to seek the influence of song, or perhaps hollow to draw on a touch of local vocabulary. They adopt the caricature of southern lore purveyors to varying degrees, both natural and enhanced. Voices come straight out of a mountain haze, while the stringed procession of guitar, banjo and fiddle resonate from any homely shack fine tuning the sounds of the past.

The music and songs (both of an original and traditional origin) play a large, yet not sole part in what The Local Honeys bring to the live music experience. The interaction, chat, passionate approach to their craft and affable personalities weigh heavy in appeal as the pair steer down roads of serious social commentary alongside showing admirable camaraderie to their kinfolk, both geographically and musically.

The Local Honeys are two albums into their recorded journey with clear plans afoot to build on this in the near and distant future. Songs from the setlist called in on their debut record from 2017 and an album full of diverse gospel songs that has just been released. Alongside these, the duo frequently dipped into the traditional well and paid tribute to artists such as the Carter Family, Shirley Collins and Joan Ritchie, the latter in the guise of the much covered and loved song 'The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore'.

The plight of local Kentuckians adversely affected by controversial mining practices featured high on the duo's social agenda, in tandem with the environmental catastrophe of techniques like blowing the top off mountains to mine coal. These extended into substance issues afflicting many in the own counties and wider state including the prevalence of prescription addiction. This was highlighted on a personal scale by a song Montana wrote for a friend.

Interspersing the stern stuff was plenty of lighter moments and informative chat like the duo returning to the UK in the new year to open for Tyler Childers. From a musicianship perspective, the display was of the highest degree (an often given from touring American old time stringed bands). Linda Jean majored on guitar and fleeting fiddle, while Montana found comfort and pleasure in the banjo along with occasional guitar. They were not going to let a near sold out crowd go home without a yodel and a firm stamp of delivering a show that was both memorable and uplifting in equal proportions.

As much as I would like to whole heartedly bless the recorded music of The Local Honeys, it is near impossible to detach it from the riveting live experience. A doubled edged pill that does create a logistical challenge in perpetual touring, but the live arena is where the true treasures lie. Luckily, we look set to have plenty of opportunities in the future to enjoy the music of Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs. They ensured a Birmingham Bonfire Night had as much sparkle in the Kitchen Garden as in the many November 5th displays around the city.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

GIG REVIEW: Kim Lowings - Artrix, Bromsgrove. Saturday 2nd November 2019

The eleventh month has been the longest wait in any calendar year to catch a Kim Lowings live performance since first discovering her while opening for Jess Morgan in Stourbridge back in 2013. Indeed, the stretch is even longer as the previous performance seen was way back in the summer of 2018 when she appeared on the main stage at Beardy Folk Festival with the full Greenwood band. It is not that she has been totally inactive in this interim sixteen month period, although we are in a 'between album phase' that hopefully will be snapped at some point in the not too distant future. In light of the gap, there was something refreshing about seeing the live show again, even if this evening's format was a stripped back set up playing in a duo with her dad Andrew. To some extent, this also had its own advantages as Kim herself implied that it is good to revisit how the songs were born and take this side of her music out on the road. So the stage was set for a return to the studio performing area of Bromsgrove's Artrix arts centre and around an hour and half of what Kim Lowings does best.

This venue was also the host of the most recent album launch gig when WILD AND WICKED YOUTH was delivered to the world just over two years ago. Time is ticking along nicely in the breadth of material available for sharing at shows. Like many contemporary folk artists, Kim is at ease seeking three different song sources. Self composed material nestles neatly alongside traditional work that sees both arrangement and re-working. Smart covers have been generally limited in the past, but they seem to come more to the fore this evening. For the record, Kim's versions of Joni Mitchell's 'Carey' and Richard Thompson's 'From Galway to Graceland' have been heard before. This wasn't the case for the Show of Hands song 'Hallow Eve', topical to say the least. Another song not previously heard in a set before was the traditional piece 'So Early, Early in the Spring', made famous by Judy Collins.

The latter song was sung purely in a cappella style, the last of four modes she used on the evening to present her music. Instrumentally, she switched between guitar, piano and her trademark mountain dulcimer. The middle of this trio is one not always practically available at a lot of shows, so the piano is savoured when used. This evening Kim chose to share three of her own songs on the keys including a commissioned piece titled 'The Malverns', the Shakespeare inspired song written for the Company of Players project 'Song of the Philomel' and 'Firestone, taken off the last album.

From a songwriting perspective, early in the first set Kim presented a pair of newish songs, both yet to find a recorded home and written from a 'cause' angle, a source not really tapped into before. 'Call Me River' joined the growing band of society in general, and musicians in particular, focussing on mental health. On a more specific level, 'Go Tell the World' was inspired by an untold story of women suffering in Bangladesh and came across as a very impressively written and powerful song.

On the subject of new songs, 'Hells Own Town' had a particularly local theme which is best understood when in the presence of West Midlands folk, particularly those of us from the twin No.9 towns of Stourbridge and Halesowen. Yet another example of Kim's flair for contributing to the folk tradition of turning old themes into new songs.

While we have generally focussed so far on the recent past and intended future, there was still plenty of older material to entertain many fans who have supported her work over the years. She kicked off the evening with her version of 'Annie Laurie', housed on 2013's DEEPEST, DARKEST NIGHT EP and for a long time the go-to video when seeking something visually to link. Also from this record, we heard 'Off to Sea', a song that gets better with every version heard.

Kim Lowings regulars can have their usual singalong to her standard closer 'Away Ye Merry Lasses', 'Bold Riley' and 'Oh the Wind and Rain'. Also 'Maggie's Song', an original from a family story, is now staple on the setlist since first appearing on the HISTORIA album in 2015. To complete a superb night of song we heard 'The Newry Highwayman' and 'The Wood Wife'. There may have been the odd one missed here, but hopefully you get the point that this was an excellent and fulfilling show.

As previously stated, the Greenwood were given the night off leaving just Andrew on guitar, bouzouki and bodhran to provide the perfect foil to Kim's exquisite vocals and highly engaging approach to song interpretation. In some respects, the break between seeing them live acted as an energiser (bearing in mind I was probably pushing twenty shows/sets in five years), yet it firmly rammed home that the next break shouldn't be so long. Anyway with it highly likely that new recorded material will be with us in good time, circumstances will dictate matters.

The world of music is so vast and accessible that we can let our mind drift anywhere. Sometimes it is fulfilling to just focus a little closer to home. It helps you feel a little more grounded. Thankfully we have an artist with roots in our town to do just this.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

GIG REVIEW: Carter Sampson - St.Pancras Old Church, London. Wednesday 30th October 2019

America may have its Mother Church; the UK just utilises the real thing. A rough finger count has St.Pancras Old Church as the sixth different holy place to see a gig in recent years, with no doubt a lengthy list of many others doing likewise up and down the country. This exchange of performing space does throw an extra dimension on the live music experience. Acoustics, ambience and atmosphere are frequently called out alongside a tendency for artists to fully test the surroundings by stepping away from the mic to strip song and music down to its purist form. One of my earliest memories of a country/folk/Americana touring artist performing in a church was the Good Lovelies singing a version of 'Hallelujah' in Ross-on-Wye. To bring things up to date in a similar setting but very different town, Carter Sampson closed this return to St, Pancras Old Church with a personal moving version of the film classic 'Moon River', delivering an identical feeling to what occurred on the English/Welsh border a few years ago.

There has been more than a few column inches on these pages extolling the virtue of Carter Sampson's music following the discovery a couple of years ago. Primarily, these were around the album WILDER SIDE which proved a firm favourite in 2016, and still stands the test of time. Since this introduction, the follow up release LUCKY continued the good work and the recorded content has expanded into a couple of UK visits including a set witnessed at Maverick Festival also in 2016 and a full show savoured at the Kitchen Garden in 2018. Unfortunately dates couldn't be aligned for a Birmingham return on this latest short run of UK shows (yes UK is 3/4 accurate with gigs in England, Wales and Scotland), but Carter Sampson has enough credit in the bank to justify a reasonable road trip, and to be the focal point of a couple of half term days spent in London.

After initially touring solo, the format has expanded into a succession of trios for the last two tours. While the source of the touring companions remains Oklahoma, the enlisting of Kyle Reid and Jason Scott for the 2019 trip represents a pairing that is closest to the origin of Carter Sampson's music. Both have had a major impact on her recordings and there was a high degree of synergy to how this show projected and panned out. 

One enhancement from previous Carter Sampson shows was the addition of pedal steel. This came courtesy of Reid and added a zest to the country side of the sound. There was no finer example than a version of the Shel Siverstein song 'Queen of the Silver Dollar'. A shining beacon from the LUCKY album and one from the lofty plateau of tunes shared between coming on stage around quarter past nine before departing with a touch of the movies approximately an hour and half later.

The gratitude shown towards Scott and Reid agreeing to tour with her this time was extended in the invitation to share a couple of songs each, enabling them to show that they are equally as adept in fronting the party as playing the trusty sidekicks. They in effect acted as the third and fourth voice on lead vocals during the evening as the support came from one half of the Oxford-based duo Loud Mountains. It transpired that Sean Duggan is in the motion of branching out alone as the duo slims down to a solo core now that brother Kevin is/has re-locating/ed to Nashville. So alas no more sibling harmonies though Sean is far from done on the UK circuit as exemplified by his performance and intentions in the limelight this evening. 

Due to Carter being in an in-between album phase (apart from a short Trio release EP with Reid and Scott which sees four older songs re-worked alongside a new one), most of the setlist was drawn from last year's LUCKY album. Highlights included the title track, 'Tulsa', 'Ten Penny Nail', 'Hello Darlin'' and 'Rattlesnake Kate'. The last of these is fast becoming a popular Carter Sampson live number helped by its fascinating back story. The preceding track on this list referenced Kalyn Fay in its introduction, a fellow Oklahoma artist who I have got to know more about since Carter toured last year via reviewing her album GOOD COMPANY in September '18. If pushed into a corner to spotlight one precious moment from the show this could be the one. 

Sadly, the slight dimming of time as seen much of the excellent WILDER SIDE album slip off the setlist to the extent that we only heard the title track during this evening's show. Renewal and progression is the fuel for any forward thinking artist, but hopefully some of the cracking songs off this album such as 'Medicine River' and 'Highway Rider' don't fade into the memory as live favourites. Next time maybe. 

Despite this minor dip, there is still the utmost respect that Carter Sampson takes the risk to promote her music overseas with all the sacrifice and trepidation that must ensue. There is enormous faith in her ability as a singer-songwriter, and to deliver music in a sumptuous style that embodies the living spirit of a junction where strands of country, folk and Americana conspire to prosper. There was a good fit between the music of Carter Sampson and the spiritual upbeat surroundings of this evening's venue. St.Pancras Old Church in its form tonight may be a deviation for both host, guest and even, yours truly, however things gelled splendidly to take this Carter Sampson appreciation a few further steps down the road.