Wednesday, 4 December 2019

GIG REVIEW: The Small Glories - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 3rd December 2019

Cara Luft has built a loyal UK fan network, following the many tours she had undertaken over the years. On one of her several visits to Birmingham a few years back she introduced a new touring partner in the guise of fellow Canadian JD Edwards, which in effect was the embryonic stages of a brand new duo being born. Since that January evening at the Kitchen Garden in 2014, The Small Glories have gone from strength to strength on the back of a couple of album releases, signing to a US label and continual touring around the world including a successful stint in Australia. Perhaps it is the latter that shines the most favourable light on the duo as there is nothing quite like the interactive and connective nature of the live show to bring the best out of the pairing. It was of no surprise that the Kitchen Garden appeared on the latest touring schedule, and also that the venue was packed to its near capacity to greet the return of Cara and JD.

Once recollections from previous Kitchen Garden visits were out the way, the duo set about showing why they have become such popular performers, mixing wit with engaging stories and songs straight to the heart of the Canadian folk genre. Yes, the land from the Rockies to the Maritimes comes to the fore as the songs and stories evolve. Whether discovering hidden mountain communities, celebrating civic pride in Winnipeg or tracking some old fishing tales from the east coast, the audience were treated to a thoroughly entertaining spin across a land so effective in exporting its musical treasures.

Instrumentally, Cara exchanges between her trademark banjo and conventional folk acoustic guitar, while JD does likewise with his stringed accompaniment and harmonica. Vocal compatibility wrapped within a sheen of diversity helps shape the songs, of which many on the night were lifted off the latest album ASSINBOINE & THE RED, a title drawing influence from the duo's home city of Winnipeg. Indeed the whole album featured across the brace of sets that formed this fun-filled evening with numbers like 'Don't Back Down' and 'Sing' proving popular participation pieces.

The lengthy chat interludes didn't outstay their welcome, although material away from the latest album was a little thin with 'Time Wanders On' (a song written with Britain's Bella Hardy) and the unforgettable 'Bring 'Em All In' standing out. The latter was one of Cara's earlier songs pre-dating her link up with JD and recalled from the days when Cara toured alone as when first catching her play Bishop Auckland Town Hall back in 2012. Sadly a show not reviewed on these pages, but still fondly remembered.

Although it had been a couple of years since seeing them last, you only need to have a brief exposure to Cara and JD's infectious onstage persona to instantly realise why you have been a fan for a number of years. Across a show that ran almost up to two hours in active stage time, there was so much to enjoy in The Small Glories with every indication out there that we are likely to see more of Cara Luft and JD Edwards in 2020.

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