I'm going to go with "spell-binding" as my key word (two words?) for last evening's gig. As you'll have noticed, I am hugely obliged to Paul Newbold of Lightspark Music Photography for his marvellous photos for many of my reviews, but nevertheless I still like to take a few of my own & the occasional video. So spellbound was I last night that for long stretches of time I was so caught up in the performances of Hannah Woof & Ellie Gowers that I forgot my camera...
In theory, any review of these two incredible writers & performers should be really difficult as I have done so for each of them recently: in practice new reflections on my part & new revelations of aspects of their art on theirs made it really easy.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating as I think this is a point which lies close to the heart of why our local music scene is thriving currently, but so many of our best musicians go out of their way to really back up their friends. The Magic Lantern was absolutely rammed for the gig. Friends were there, families were there. People who had never seen either artist but had picked up on the word of mouth were there. There were many musicians too as both are so popular & regarded including (amongst many) Callum Mckissock who was originally going to be the support act but was unable to for health reasons & Joe Dolman who co-wrote one of Hannah's songs she played.
Ellie, whose own stunning headline show at the venue is still reverberating around our minds only a few weeks on, opened with another breath taking set, one "Robin" being a cappella & the rest on her guitar. As I noted last time, she sings like an angel yet moves like a rock star. I was thinking as I watched her again how much she reminds me of the folk artists with attitude: I'm not surprised she admires Richard Thompson as you can detect his influence not merely in the music but also in her uncompromising approach to both a full commitment to her delivery but also in her lyrical frankness of emotions. I'd also bracket her for this energetic style with favourites of mine like Billy Bragg or Kate Rusby & hope I'm not offending her by so doing.
She is recording new material in 2019 & quite a bit of this appeared in her set: it is really compelling & I am greatly looking forwards to hearing it: some incredibly high quality songs with real emotional punch set in exquisite melodic frameworks.
My last two Hannah Woof gigs were when she was supporting her friend Izzie Derry and one remarkable thing has been the over the arc of those three performances I have seen her gradually revealing her talents like a bud slowly opening in the Spring sunshine to display its secrets. The first time, she accompanied herself on her guitar & was great. The next time, she split her time between her guitar & the Magic Lantern piano, unveiling some very fragile & haunting songs played with a very very spare style: watching her play keyboards is interesting: her fingers move slowly as if reluctant to play more notes than is absolutely necessary nor make too much noise. Last night she played guitar and her own electric keyboard & occasionally sang without either, as this was made possible by her accompaniment by (Ellipsis) guitarist John Connearn. This was an excellent development. They had worked hard on all the songs in the set & John was able sometimes to provide the only instrument to free Hannah & on most others added extra layers to the arrangements. Their two guitars entwined beguilingly on several numbers & the guitar & keyboards complemented each other on the rest. He also sang backing vocals throughout: if that's the best word: sometimes they were backing but often they harmonised yet he always let Hannah's voice take precedence.
And what a voice: much as I have praised it twice before, headlining her own gig seemed to lend Hannah an extra fillip of confidence & there was a considerable power which she unleashed when appropriate. She writes very personal songs & this gives them a distinction & personality which helps them impact. There is a considerable wit in both her words & her delivery of them: another of her strengths I think is in interpreting lyrics.
This was a really high class gig which had attracted a lot of buzz beforehand & to which a number of people had taken considerable efforts to be able to attend. It has received wonderful feedback not only from those who knew full well how good it was going to be but also from those who have seen these artists for the first time. Please do go & see them both, especially if in a venue where the full quality of their talent & intensity of their performances have maximum impact: they are among the finest current local musicians & who knows where their destiny lies?
It is always really great to have new talent introduced to you & it is a clear & highly admirable feature of much of the music scene locally that so many artists support & mentor emerging talent & as with last night, offer them gig opportunities they would not otherwise find easy to obtain.
Stone Bear invited young local guitarist Ollie Lawrence to support them at the Magic Lantern: his very first real gig as distinct from open mic appearances, but not I imagine his last. Stone Bear were keen to emphasise that in choosing a support act, his was the first name on the list: they hold him in high esteem & now I understand why.
A most accomplished guitarist, I had better get the Hendrix comparisons out of the way early on (virtue of being his first reviewer): I imagine others will draw the same parallels as he uses a similar approach< a very percussive player his fingers keep up almost incessant riffing with occasional chords & solos. Playing with a loud distorted sound, which was very powerful in such a small space, his singing was at times rather difficult to hear (something to work on) which was a shame as he writes his own material & the lyrics did seem interesting. His voice perhaps owes something to the style of Prince but also there are Steve Winwood soul echoes in there: the guitar sound may be quite a rock one but he does keep it pretty funky too. Playing despite a damaged finger (not good in such a dynamic player I'd imagine), Ollie demonstrated a great deal of confidence in his playing even if he had understandably expressed some trepidation.
Stone Bear (David John on guitar/vocals & Jeff Dennis on drums) are vastly more experienced of course, and one of the most respected of local live acts, but the irony is that although often a pretty loud duo themselves, had opted for a style on the night much more laid back than their support act.
This was not wholly to do with adjusting their set to the more intimate space. They have declared that 2019 is going to be a year for a new angle for the band with David adopting more finger picking & writing material which reflects this. Jeff's use of brushes & softer techniques may have been to do with the room but it certainly fitted their newer material & allowed, for example, me to really appreciate what a precise & inventive player he is. The same level of scrutiny of course applies to David under such circumstances & I think it offers them extra chances to show what fine & subtle musicians they are. The good crowd at the Magic Lantern certainly showed their appreciation.
As noted, the set tended towards newer original material (although several of their trademark roots blues covers were also performed) including the latest single "Ole Cherry Tree", "Woke Up This Mornin" (their most recently released track) and a track so recently composed as to be yet nameless. This is a really interesting direction for them to develop into & fits really well with some experiments in that vein on their debut album & which featured in the set, such as the enci=ore "Broken Stones".
You can catch Stone Bear at the APE Night at the Zephyr Lounge on April 27th as well as open mics at Apehangers (April 21st) & Leif (April 30th)
Kristy Gallacher will be performing at Temperance, in Leamington on May 3rd with Rob Halligan & Lisa Nowak.
Have had the pleasure of seeing Kristy perform so many times over the years since our first encounter at the Catalan Restaurant during the Warwick Folk Festival of 2010 and I have remained a huge fan of her work to this day.
Have so many fond memories of seeing her perform at Warwick Folk Festivals over the years as well as performances at The Napton Festival, The Cambridge Rock Festival and The Leamington Peace Festival.
Also remember her set supporting Steve Walwyn during the All Saints' Art Festival in Leamington and many other local events while last year she did me the great honour of performing at my charity photo exhibition at The Oak House.
So looking forward to the 3rd of May and here my is look back back over the years of Kristy in action.
It is a particular pleasure to report a gig which features not only artists who are as important in the history of popular music as Fairport Convention are, but also an artist who has been reviewed several times in "Hot Music Live" magazine & has a track on our own "Hot Music Live Presents" album, namely Izzie Derry.
This is a fabulous reflection of the esteem in which Izzie is held & hopefully an important career step in terms of revealing to a much wider audience the talent known already to us locally & where she has been playing around the country.
It will be a magical night with "one of our own" sharing the stage with sublime musicians whose influence cannot be adequately measured & whose skills are beyond my abilities to capture when I come to try to review it I imagine.
See you there I hope...
Tickets are £25 from Temperance or via this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/262883197762088/
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