This was my first visit to the Barnabas Arts House in Newport, South Wales. We are in the basement of this converted church - (it's good to see churches used in this way) - for the second Down By The River Session being presented by the two gents who form two thirds of local band Blind River Scare Tim Manning - Vocals/Guitar & Stuart Loosemore - Bass/Vocals. Drummer Keith Boast is the third member but not involved tonight. This is the second of hopefully many more sessions to come as the duo try and bring some great Americana and Folk music to South Wales.
So, it is fitting that the first of tonight's trio of artists are Blind River Scare.
Now veterans of several releases, the latest being 2014's The Point Of No Return - the band are a vehicle for the songs of Vocalist/Guitarist Tim Manning and he has written some mighty fine tunes over the last few years if tonight's song choices are anything to go by. It is my first time to see all the bands tonight and hopefully not the last.
They kick off tonight's proceedings with Restless Soul. The songs are all Americana based songs and are an excellent mix of uptempo and slower songs which showcase Tim's observational lyrical style.
Reading Between The Lines is up next. The band get an enthusiastic response to their music and rightly so.
There is quite a dearth of decent Americana bands coming out of Wales so it's good to see a local band producing some quality Americana and getting a good reputation among the musicians. Indeed, members of new Clubhouse Records signings The Rosellys (check em out) are in the audience tonight - when fellow musicians come out to see you, it's always a good sign.
When You Walk Away & Pastures New are next up in the Blind River Scare setlist tonight.
A six song set set isn't really enough to appreciate the variety of songs but it will have to suffice as with two other bands on the bill - time will be of a premium. So little chat and more music is the order of things tonight.
The last two songs this evening are No Remorse, Guilt or Shame and the lovely Mother's Day.
As with most great gigs - the time has just flown by.
And it seems that before the applause has died down for Blind River Scare - we have the next artists on stage- American Bob Collum and his life and musical partner Marianne Hyatt - but not with the rest of his current band The Welfare Mothers tonight.
Bob is currently playing in support of his new album Little Rock -and an excellent record it is too.
They opened their set with Across A Crowded Room from the album More Tragic Songs Of Life
But tonight for Bob was all about promoting Little Rock - and why not - so next up was Little Rock Calling.
Bob has quite an acerbic wit and it comes across in many of his songs if you dig a bit deeper into his catalogue of albums - which you really should.
His banter with Marianne onstage is one bourne of may hours of travelling and living together no doubt and they are both engaging and uncompromising at the same time - in a gentle sort of way.
Wasted Wonderland and Johnny Held Em Down - both from Little Rock were next on the setlist - both excellent songs - even stripped of their album sheen and extra instrumentation. There's always something special about hearing songs in their most stripped down versions - exactly as they must have been written. And Johnny being especially topical at the moment with all the controversy sounding the Confederate Flag in the United States.
But it was not all Little Rock tonight - we even got an excellent new song called Blue Sky Rain.
Some of the songs tonight were of a more reflective nature and when Bob declared he was going to play a Southern Gothic Death Song the audience did indeed give a chuckle. Bob & Marianne then played a gorgeous version of Locust Grove.
A Good Thing We're In Love seems quite apt up there on stage with Bob and Marianne before the final song She Hates Me.
Another set which has just flown by tonight. I urge you to check out Bob and his back catalogue - there are some real gems to be unearthed there.
The headliners tonight are the Gloucestershire duo The Black Feathers - consisting of Ray Hughes & Sian Chandler.
They have released one Ep so far - the excellent Strangers We Meet.
They have turned to PledgeMusic to release their forthcoming debut album Soaked To The Bone - from which several songs tonight are taken.
There are several Americana/Folk duos around at the moment but I've always believed that The Black Feathers were one of the best after hearing them on a Bob Harris Show and on Adam Wilson's Quiet Revolution too. They really are the real deal and seem to have both the musical integrity and onstage charisma you need to succeed in this day and age,
As I stated earlier - they play several new songs tonight from the new Soaked To The Bone album which I must say are of fantastic quality indeed and they opened up with a new song Goodbye Tomorrow.
Next up we had the lovely All Came Down from the Strangers EP. Ray and Sian's vocals are truly beautiful tonight and they seem very at ease with playing in such an intimate venue.
Like most relatively new bands The Black Feathers are not adverse to the odd cover song and they play a lovely downbeat version of the Greenbaum classic Spirits In The Sky.
We were then introduced to two new songs which I believe are from Soaked To The Bone - Homesick and my highlight of the evening, the sublime Arclight which is achingly beautiful and such a tremendous song.
And the prize for most apt song of the evening went to Ray & Sian for their song Down By The River, an original song and not the Neil Young classic from which these live sessions take their title. It got a great reception tonight, as you might expect.
The songs from their first EP Strangers We Meet are still sounding fresh and interesting and we have a song from that EP as their penultimate track - Open Book.
It really is special when you see artists at the beginning of their careers who are obviously very talented - just waiting to see what they come up with. I think that The Black Feathers have a secured future. I think they may go down a storm in America. But let's keep em here a while longer.
The duo complete tonight's set with Someday Somehow and then they come down into the crowd and perform unamplified a song whose title I didn't catch - sorry. But it just went to show how pure their voices are together. Just beautiful. They certainly won a lot of new fans at this show.
Twitter - @BlindRiverScare