Monday, 23 March 2015

Live in 2015: The Dreaming Spires (with Don Gallardo & The Rosellys) at The Louisiana, Bristol on Sunday 22nd March

What an amazing night - it was like a throwback to the 50s & 60s where the labels used to take their artists out on tour together. So tonight, two of Clubhouse Records major talents, The Dreaming Spires as headliners, new signing Don Gallardo and local Bristol band, The Rosellys came to The Louisiana to entertain us.

The Rosellys fronted by vocalists Simon & Rebecca put on a spirited performance which got the show up and running from note one.
They play a joyous mix of UK Americana and fit perfectly into tonight's show. 
With lead vocals taken by Simon and Rebecca, they play a seven song set based around their released albums since 2006. They have much in common with another Clubhouse band, The Redlands Palamino Compnay, two of which, Alex & Hannah Elton-Wall are in attendance tonight.

Their sound is crisp and tight. If someone had told you they hailed from the USA, then you wouldn't be surprised. With Rebecca's delicate vocals and Simon's impeccable fiddle & guitar skills they tackle the songs with ease. Years of touring in America have honed their sound and surely it must only be a matter of time before they have a big hitting record. They are due to release an album later in the year - Co-Produced by Alex Elton-Hall, so perhaps 2015 will be their time. I really hope so. And I can't wait to see them live again. 

After opening with Empty Pockets, the band reach into their catalogue for some of their best songs including Maryland and Cocaine Train

After the raucous Americana of The Rosellys, came the soothing, authentic Nashville sounds of Clubhouse Record new signing, Don Gallardo.
Hailing from California, and now a resident in Nashville, Don has been a regular on the folk and Americana scene for many years. He has even had his songs played in the hit TV show Nashville - like another of my favourite Nashville artists of the moment - a certain Trent Dabbs. It's got a good pedigree of finding quality songwriters.

Don has now found a natural home in the UK on Clubhouse Records and tonight was a showcase for his new album, Hickory. Out in June - or if you have a chance to see him, at the gigs. And a beautiful thing it is too.

Don, armed with his six string acoustic, began his set with the lovely first track from Hickory, Down In The Valley. With a voice like burnt velvet, Don immediately had the audience listening. And I mean listening.

Songs such as Diamonds & Gold, Banks Of The Mississippi & The North Dakota Blues sound just as good stripped of their purposely limited album sheen. Always the sign of a great song.

Don was joined for several songs by The Dreaming Spires' Joe Bennett (or Jose Bennetto for the evening) adding sympathetic pedal steel colours to the songs.

I'll review the album nearer the time of release but suffice to say Clubhouse have managed to continue selecting artists of quality and distinction who can really deliver the goods.

Towards the end of the set, Don was joined by Sion & Rebecca of The Rosellys. Clearly at ease in a band situation, it rounded off Don's set perfectly and sent the audience off to find copies of the new album - only available at the gigs so far.

So, after two excellent performances, The Dreaming Spires (brothers Robin - guitar, Joe - bass and new drummer Society's F. Scott Kenney), had the perfect platform to display their immense talent as songwriters & musicians. And by God they didn't disappoint.

This short tour is to promote the release of their new album Searching For The Supertruth. I will sing the praises of the album later in the year but I've just got to say that it's an incredible record (yes, it's available on vinyl - and that's the best way to hear it) - and the phrase 'All Killer & No Filler' cannot be more apt. As is appropriate for an album launch, the show focuses heavily on the new album.

From the moment Robin & Joe strap on their Rickenbackers I know I'm in for a great evening. The Spires kicked off with the scene setting first track from Supertruth, the barnstorming Still Believe In You. The perfect way to kick off an album and a show. It was Loud, It was Dynamic.With a wailing Rickie & pulsating bass it drives and swoops like an eagle on speed!

Just two albums in, the brothers are still experimenting with their sound and the new record builds beautifully on the first album Brothers In Brooklyn. And with only a small selection of pedals they manage to recreate the essence of the sound of Supertuth.

Next up was one of the highlights from the debut album, the driving 60s powerpop of Everything All The Time. 
Robin & Joe have the kind of harmonies that only siblings can conjure up and they were in fine voice throughout the performance.
The trio of opening blockbusters was finished off with All Kinds Of People.

The boys recorded so much material that earlier in the year they released an EP  - Before The Dawn.
and next up was the delicious harmonies of the sparkling House Of Elsinore.

The Spires have always worn their retro hearts on their sleeves and The Byrds are revisited in the form of  If I Didn't Know You, and gave Robin a chance to chime that Rickenbacker like a young Roger McGuinn.

We Used To Have Parties comes up next and Robin is joined on stage by the Redlands Hannah Elton-Wall for some lovely, soothing harmonies as one of the quietest moments of the new album unfolds. It also gives Joe a chance to show his accomplished lap guitar skills.  As this track proves, Supertruth is certainly not all upbeat and bombastic.

One of the highlights of many highlights of Supertruth is the epic Dusty In Memphis. The song first saw the light of day last year in the Spires festival appearances last year and now comes fully formed and is probably the keystone of the whole album. It gives Robin a chance to get in among the audience and sing the refrain 'You Know We've Got Soul' and encourage a bit of audience participation. On the album, Free Jazz Geoff from Danny & The Champions adds some Muscle Shoals type brass. Tonight it's replaced by Rickenbacker chiming. 
Not a bad trade off!!

The slinky When The Magic Comes is followed by a storming version of Hype Bands. Where Robin & Joe joust with the lyrics, which are certainly one of the strengths of the new material.

The debut Brother In Brooklyn has some gems on there and the next song up is the bouncing Not Every Song From The Sixties Is A Classic. A pean to 60s nostalgia. 

The show ends on the title track Searching For The Supertruth. It's a song that builds up into a glorious swirl of sibling harmonies and the boys pull it off with elan.

Now, the Louisiana is so small the band has to come on through the crowd - so the guys stay on stage for the two song encore.

First up is my highlight of the whole set and of the new album. Easy Rider builds and builds in layers. Tonight, The Spires are joined by Simon Roselly on guitar and the dueling between him and Robin is electrifying. It takes the song to a whole new dimension. Totally absorbing and totally brilliant.
After the song, some wag shouts out 'Play Sweet Home Alabama' to which Robin replied, 'We've just played it'. And he wasn't far off the mark. The song live WAS that good.

How do you follow that? Well, they gave us one more song the title track from Brothers In Brooklyn, which chugs along beautifully like a Doobie Brothers song.

So, that was the end of my first Clubhouse gig - and what a gig it was. Totally brilliant. Totally inspiring. And like all the best gigs - I wished I could have done it all again the day after.

Twitter - @dreaming_spires

Twitter - @dongallardoband

Twitter - @TheRosellys

All photos by the inimitable Robert Hurley & Macwood Fleet

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Live in 2015: The Unthanks - live at St David's Hall, Cardiff on Thursday 27th February 2015

The Unthanks have just released their latest album - Mount The Air. And this is the tour in support of that release.
I am totally confident that Mount The Air will be in my Albums Of 2015 by the year's end. The chance to hear the tracks live was just unmissable. So it was with much excitement on my part that I arrived at St David's Hall.

It was an extra special performance as we had Reavennan Husbandes as support. In an odd move, Raevennan was introduced by Adrian from The Unthanks and played just two songs from her debut EP, Box Of Innocence. (I've had the EP from when it was released in November and a lovely thing it is too.)

But, she was to come back later and play two more songs after the break. She really is a special talent and listening to the crowd at the break, others in the audience had the same opinion as me. I haven't heard an audience want more from a support artist for quite some time.

Nothing can really prepare you for The Unthanks new album. With two tracks over 10 minutes long, it's a long way from their traditional folk roots - but not completely. I feel their career trajectory has been building up to this record.

The live set up has Rachel, Becky & Adrian NcNally joined by seven more musicians playing Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Brass & percussion. They have produced a lush, hypnotic album and this live band reproduce it beautifully.

The set starts with a couple of the more gentler songs from the new album, with Hawthorn and Madam. The sound is just breathtaking and St David's Hall is just the place to experience it. With just piano and trumpet (or it could be flugelhorn) accompaniment, the sisters' voices were as clear as a bell.

Following this subtle opening, the band then returned to an older song with Felton Lonnin. Adrian in particular seems at home behind a Steinway grand piano and the more intricate sections of the music are enhanced by his piano work.

Over the last few albums, The Unthanks have expolred other musical genres such as their album, Diversions 2, with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band and working with these other musicians must certainly have had an influence on their new music. 

Two new songs, Died For Love & Last Lullaby highlight the amazing vocals that Rachel & Becky have used to create the wonderful harmonies on the new album. They're just spine tingling.

Throughout the show, the Sisters & Adrian had a bit of banter between the audience as they talked about how the songs had come about.

One of the major highlights of the new album is the opening & title track Mount The Air. 10+ minutes of music to lose yourself in. It's almost Prog, it's almost Jazz. Pieces remind me of Miles Davis, sometimes Talk Talk at their most elegiac. Totally mesmerising. But it is a musical tour-de-force and shows just how far The Unthanks have come from their pure folk beginnings.

This is the single version of Mount The Air which gives just a taste.

Then came the break.

Following two more songs by Raevenna Husbandes the band came on again and gave us the traditional Gan To The Kye from their album Last.

But the new album is what tonight is really all about and next up came two more songs from Mount The Air, For Dad & Magpie

The next part of the show focused on the album that The Unthanks released which covered songs by Robert Wyatt & Antony and The Johnsons.

First up was Wyatt's Out Of The Blue followed by Antony's Sprialling.

We are then given an astonishing version of the King Crimson track Starless, which features on the Unthanks album Last. They sure know how to choose a song to cover. So perhaps it's not so surprising that Mount The Air has shades of Prog after all.

Adrian talked about the other highlight (for me) of Mount The Air, another 10 minute song called Foundling and how the band thought they couldn't play two 10 minute tracks in one show - I'd have loved to have heard it live. Maybe next time.

The band came on for an encore and played Lucky Gilchrist and the title track from Last.

It was such a moving concert in so many ways. The music obviously, the scope of sound and the dynamics of the music but never losing that human touch. Mount The Air has taken The Unthanks to another level - but that's another blog post later in the year. For now, I am just happy to have witnessed something very special.

Twitter - @TheUnthanks