November 2011

November 30, 2011

1 November sees a first trip to The Sage in Gateshead. The attraction is the chance to see Alison Krauss and Union Station. What the GLW and I got was top-class musicianship because they put on a quietly accomplished performance based primarily on the unerringly elegant voice of Krauss, who is also an exceptional fiddle player. Beautiful versions of Ghost In This House and Richard Thompson’s Dimming Of The Day were particular highlights. Band members also get their chance to feature and Dan Tyminski sang half a dozen songs including a moving version of Woody Guthrie’s Pastures Of Plenty. Jerry Douglas, Ron Block and Barry Bales all played a full part in a two-hour show with no slack.

There was a memorable encore as they gathered around a single microphone for an acoustic five-song finale. You could hear a pin drop as Krauss sang Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All and Whiskey Lullaby, followed by a gospel trilogy of Down To The River To PrayYour Long Journey and There Is A Reason. Mesmerising.

11 November – And it’s to Manchester to see Fountains Of Wayne at the Club Academy. I love PowerPop when it’s done well and currently no one does it better than FOW. The problem tonight though is the venue. It’s small and the sound for the first three or four songs is appalling. Thankfully they get it sorted and the entertainment really begins. They play songs from across their career as well as a generous selection from their new CD, Sky Full Of Holes. At the risk of sounding churlish I wished they’d played Red Dragon Tattoo, a favourite of mine. They did play a long version of Radiation Vibe that included excerpts for Tears For Fears Mad World, Wings Jet as well as three or four other covers. I also enjoyed the way they undermined expectations by playing a slowed down version of Stacey’s Mom. If you’re not familiar with FOW check them out as soon as possible!

14 November – The Low Anthem are not a band I’m particularly familiar with but I’d liked what I’d heard so I thought I’d check them out at The Irish Centre.

They’re excellent live and performed a fantastic version of To Ohio from Oh My God Charlie Darwin, which you should own if you don’t already. My only complaint was that they didn’t go on until 9.45 and finished at 11.45, which I think is a bit late for a school night. Still, I’d go see them again without a doubt.

21 November – Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at the Manchester Apollo. What’s to say about Gill and Dave that’s not already been said and said better? I’ll restrict this to saying that they were outstanding tonight. They played lots of material from their new CD, The Harrow & the Harvest,as well as at least one song from each of their earlier albums.  David’s spot tonight was To Be Young from Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker CD, which he co-wrote. They also perform covers of Snowin’ On Raton, written by Townes Van Zandt,  and Jackson, popularised by Johnny Cash and June Carter.

They played for about 2 hours and could have played for another two.

Set 1: Scarlet Town, Make Me Down A Pallet On Your Floor,  Rock Of Ages, The Way It Will Be, The Way It Goes, I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll, Dark Turn Of Mind, Annabelle, Tennessee, Red Clay Halo.

Set 2: Hard Times, Down Along The Dixie Line, Acony Bell, Revelator, Six White Horses, To Be Young, Snowin’ On Raton, Caleb Meyer.

Encores: Look At Miss Ohio, I’ll Fly Away, Jackson.

May 2011

July 1, 2011

4 May – Laura Cantrell is someone who is difficult to categorise, and I don’t like to do that anyway, but if pushed I’d say she was a country singer. I saw her in November 2003 opening for the awesome Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and, to be honest, I don’t remember much about that 30 minute or so set. I did try to see her during a trip to SXSW in Austin in 2005 but the queue was far too long.

Now she’s touring to support her new album, Kitty Wells’ Dresses, The Songs of The Queen Of Country Music, so I persuade the GLW to make the short trip to Sheffield’s Memorial Hall to see her.

Laura knows how to pick a cover version and, not surprisingly as her new album features nine songs (of ten) made famous by Kitty Wells,  she plays several amongst her own compositions. She opens with Trains & Boats & Planes, the song that first attracted the GLW’s attention. Among the other cover songs she plays are It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels and I Gave My Wedding Dress Away as well as some of her own compositions, such as Not The Trembling Kind, from across her career.

I hope it’s not another 11 years before I see her again.

26 May – Wilko Johnson is a force of nature. I’ve had no desire to see him since he left Dr Feelgood in 1977  as I always felt that somehow I would be disappointed. So I was a little surprised when my mate Stephen told me he’d bought me a ticket to see Wilko at the Leeds Irish Centre with him but I bit the bullet and went along.

Playing as a trio with Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums I have to ask myself why have I denied myself this fantastic entertainment for so long? A mix of classic Wilko penned Feelgood songs: Sneaking Suspicion; Roxette; Back In The Night and She Does It Right, as well as solo tracks such as Dr Dupree and classics like Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny.

I won’t be depriving myself of this kind of entertainment in the future!

Peter Green – Leeds, 13 March 2010

March 30, 2010

I’ve been a fan of Peter Green for years, in fact the first stereo LP I bought was Fleetwood Mac’s Pious Bird Of Good Omen. Regrettably I was too young to see him play with Fleetwood Mac and then, as is well documented, he disappeared from playing music altogether.

Since he made his ‘comeback’ I’ve avoided going to see him as I didn’t want to be disappointed. Friends who saw him with The Splinter Group confirmed that this was likely to be the case. However when my friend Stephen suggested that we go see him with a new band at The Irish Centre I decided that I should bite the bullet and take a chance.

I wasn’t disappointed! He was surrounded by talented and sympathetic musicians, who I was pleased to see included the fabulous Geraint Watkins (Van Morrison, Nick Lowe) on keyboards and Matt Radford (Nick Lowe) on stand-up bass. It would be foolish to pretend that Green sings or plays as he did in 1969 but he can sing and play and, perhaps more importantly, seems to be having a great time. The band play few Fleetwood Mac tracks – Long Grey Mare, Oh Well, Albatross and Black Magic Woman – but plenty of Blues, Soul and R’nB classics – Dark End of the Street, The Thrill Is Gone, Off The Hook – and three tracks from the Hard Road album with the Bluesbreakers, including The Stumble.

If he continues to play this well I’ll certainly be going again!