‘Bluebird, Blue Flew by caught my eye and I fell in love with blue Don’t know what to do Sweet song lead me on I just wanna follow you.’
Harking back to the best of country and bluegrass, Dawn Landes follows in the tradition of Hank Williams and Jimmy Driftwood. On 7th December 2019 Dawn Landes performed at The Grace, London and brought with her the echoes of those musical heroes on a grey night. A voice that carries you to a land of harmonies, love and laughter.
Songs that evoke feelings of the open road, travelling across wide open skies, the joys of whiskey and the downfalls of that mercurial liquor. Fleeting memories of heartbreak brought vividly to life on stage by an artist whose dextrous finger picking skills on the guitar are sublime.
Dawn sang songs from ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Meet Me at the River’ starting with the title track ‘Bluebird’, ‘Keep on Moving’, ‘Bodyguard’, ‘What Will I Do’, and ‘Wind and Rain’ which is a stunning song about the effects of the elements not just on the landscape but as a metaphor on the eternal battles that swirl within us all.
The song that brought Dawn to my attention was ‘What Is The Color Of The Soul Of Man’. A song about the politics of colour, race and belonging. An extraordinary song considering it’s origins are from the 1960’s. A time of racial upheaval which still continues to be felt now sixty years later.
This was followed by ‘How To Say “I Love You”‘ and ‘Why They Name Whiskey After Men’. A real show stopper was when Down took off her right shoe to sing ‘I’m Your Mamma’ acapella and create the percussion elements of the song by stamping her feet and her thighs. A truly original way of bringing the song to life and using her own body to be the instruments!
Dawn ended the evening with two songs the first was the classic ‘Lost Highway’ a phenomenal performance which showcased Dawn’s vocal abilities and kept the hearts and minds of the audience captivated.
The final song was ‘Silent Night’ which Dawn performed had only recently added to the setlist. This was the second time that I had heard this sung by an american artist that week. The first had been by Sarah Darling at Union Chapel and now again in a smaller venue but one no less potent or sung with such emotion.
I had been waiting to hear Dawn sing her songs and perform live for more than a year. Now meeting Dawn in person was an absolute pleasure and was the perfect way to end a year of seeing live music and supporting artists from a music genre that is thriving and brings to life a feeling of love and genuine affection from fans from this grey island.
‘Blue skies smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies. Do I see Bluebirds? Singing a song nothing but Bluebirds all day long.’
When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. It was billed as the concert to end all Christmas concerts, something for the history books, a point in time forever etched onto the minds of those who were there.
When Sarah Darling stepped onto the Union Chapel stage on 2nd December 2019 no one could have predicted the joy and happiness that erupted and burst through the winter gloom that had started to grip the capital city.
Opening the evenings entertainment with ‘Where Cowboys Ride’ this ode to the frontiersmen of the west which has over 3 million plays on Spotify exemplified all the best of Sarah’s vocal talents. Backed by her band of brothers the song carried you away to those open skies where horses run and prairie landscapes.
England and more specifically London has been the second home for the Iowan native who has spent so much time touring these isles that when she returns to Nashville friends believe she has an English accent. You know that Sarah has turned native when she sings about the weather, a national obsession for anyone who lives on this emerald isle.
Sarah’s songs such as ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘London Fog’ dramatically conjure up all those feelings associated by being in wide open spaces with azure blue skies and the silvery dusky fog that still settles in London mornings.
Having acted as her own warm up act Sarah introduced Jamie Lawson a phenomenal singer songwriter who was the first artist to signed up to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records. Singing ‘I wasn’t expecting That’ and ‘Hallelujah’ he blew away the crowd with his passion and intensity of delivery to produce a stunning performance.
And then as the ecstatic audience applauded Jamie for his music, Sarah came back on stage and introduced her next guest stars The Wandering Hearts.
Now this evening was beginning to look like we had been transported a million miles away to the Grand Ole Opry. Where rising stars of country perform to showcase their unique contribution to the pantheon of country legends that had stepped on stage before them.
Then Sarah had the audience in the palm of her hands. What delight were to come next?
The answer to that came in shape of new songs that Sarah had been working on in Los Angeles and the Campfire Sessions. ‘Hungover’, ‘Waves’ ‘Drive away with You’ and ‘Leave the Pieces’
After an intermission Sarah came back onstage in a new sparkly black dress which shimmered in the lights. This was not the only thing that sparkled as Sarah introduced the sister duo Ward Thomas onto the stage to sing three songs ‘Landslide’, ‘River’ and her new single also featuring Ward Thomas ‘Divide’.
Ward Thomas were simply divine and the harmonies that they produced with Sarah on these songs weer breathtaking. It was my first time hearing and seeing Ward Thomas perform and I am forever grateful to Sarah for this gift. Truly the evening was one musical gift after another especially with the three guest star artists that had performed this night.
Then as this was a Christmas concert Sarah sang such Christmas hits as ‘Santa Baby’, ‘Have yourself a Merry little Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Silent Night’. Now when Sarah sang this last song she did so unplugged and acoustically. What better venue to sing ‘Silent Night’ then at Union Chapel. The audience were silent, all were mesmerised by the pure sound coming from the angel praising the birth of Christ.
Sarah left the stage to rapturous applause from the audience. What an extraordinary night had been enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to attend. Would there be anything else left for Sarah to showcase?
The answer came when Sarah appeared on stage again and delivered two more songs ‘Monmatre’ and Hailey’s Comet’. ‘Monmatre’ is Sarah’s love song to the city of love, Paris. It exquisitely captures the essence and magic of that eternal beacon of romance.
What a way to end the nights performance than with this song. A once in a lifetime natural phenomenon that lights up the universe with its fiery approach emblazoned across the night sky.
Sarah lit up the sky’s tonight with her whole soul. A messenger from the Heavens, a traveller from Nashville, tonight heralded the return of the native. The musician who belongs to two cities but who had captured the heart of London this night and every night.
A little bit of magic happened last night when Lauren Jenkins stepped on stage last night (September 18th 2019) at the re-branded ‘The Grace’ venue. The last date of her latest European tour Lauren showcased her stunning vocals and joie de vivre to an audience hungry to see their musical hero. In a sold out venue the magic began to sparkle in front of people’s eyes.
Lauren Jenkins opened her act with ‘Twenty Years from Now’ a song originally sung by her friend Kylie Rae Harris who tragically died in an automobile accident in New Mexico while Lauren was on tour. The two had met while in Barbados and had become fast friends (incidentally this is also where Lauren met her manager Whitney Pastorek).
Lauren told the audience how she had found it difficult to grieve for her friend while touring abroad but was grateful for the support of her fans across Europe who had supported her by coming out to her gigs. At the end of the song tears flowed from Lauren as she also sung ‘You are my Sunshine’ in dedication to Kylie. The audience joined Lauren in singing this song in remembrance of her lost friend.
Lauren then brought her album ‘No Saint’ to life in front of an audience who matched her word for word on songs from ‘Maker’s Mark and You’, ‘Cadillac’, and ‘All Good Things’.
Lauren told of how all that glitters isn’t gold in the world of country music artists. Having moved from New York to Nashville. Lauren had played at many, many gigs across the states where being the opening act meant using Porterloos as a dressing room and trying to explain to her family that she may be a country artist but that didn’t mean she was rolling in dollars. At least not yet.
Lauren also told the back story of how she had difficulties with an ex-boyfriend who had cheated on her and how that had inspired her to write the song ‘My Bar’ Working behind the bar she had thrown out the ex when he had brought the other women to the bar she was working in.
Lauren freely admits that she is herself ‘No Saint’ and is only doing the best that she can on a daily basis. Sometimes she’s winning sometime she losing.
With the night coming to an end Lauren opened out to the audience as to what songs they wanted her to sing? The requests came thick and fast. Lauren sang ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac and Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ This was a consummate performance of the song by Lauren bringing a real cheer from the audience. A re-imagined take on the classic with Lauren’s smoky voice replacing Palmer’s distinctive timbre.
Then Laura produced something extra special two new songs ‘American Spirits’ and ‘It Ain’t Love Any More’. Both were phenomenal and I can see these being added to a future album and definitely on Lauren’s next tour.
Lauren ended the evening with ‘Running out of Road’ one of the breakout hits of her album. Audience participation at its maximum and the effect was electric. ‘All Good Things’ have to come to an end and Lauren’s journey through Europe did just that but with a celebration by the artist of her songs and the life she has lived so far.
Lauren Jenkins gave the performance of her lifetime at parts, raw, emotional, in others full of bravado and soaring vocals. A true magician who cast a spell over this audience and gained fans old and new.
After the performance Lauren was warm, enthusiastic and genuine in her appreciation of the fans who had come to see her sing. I had waited 7 months to see Lauren sing and she didn’t disappoint. Looking forward to the seeing Lauren when she returns to the UK and seeing a true magician in action.
Kip Moore has written over a thousand songs some of which have seen the light and have been breathed into existence and played before the audience at Roundhouse London on 2nd September 2019. Kip Moore had only just played out to sold out audiences at Cadogan Hall in May of this year and was worried that UK fans would be sick of him. There was no fear of that as the atmosphere was electric. Fans had just seen Jillian Jacqueline perform (see previous post) and were left hungry for more outstanding music from artists at the top of their music game.
Entering onto the stage in darkness and opening with ‘Crazy One More Time’ Kip Moore performed for nearly 2 hours for the audience who had packed out the concert hall. Taking sips from his bottle of Jack Daniels Kip rattled through songs at a break neck pace. His voice resonating deeply with a voice that carried effortlessly through the auditorium. I’ve never seen a country audience that energised by a performers music and on stage presence.
Supported by a full band and charismatic guitar players who lifted the songs to even higher levels of energy. This was not just country music this was country rock at it’s best. Having seen Brothers Osborne up live and personal I didn’t believe there was an artist who could match the brothers in a live performance. Kip Moore did that and more on this Monday night. My ears are still ringing from the auditory experience.
Thanking the audience for being so supportive of his music and for selling out his UK shows Kip Moore walked off into the darkness from which he had emerged. The audience were in shock surely their night of pulsating guitar riffing country rock couldn’t be over could it?
The audience shouted out ‘Kip! Kip! Kip!’ for what seemed an eternity and then Kip returned to the stage for an encore starting with the country rock ballad of ‘Bittersweet Company’
Between the final songs Kip shared with the audience that he had been born with congenital defects which continues to affect his hearing so much so that he wasn’t sure how long he could continue playing live to audiences.
Kip ended the night with his personal anthem ‘Guitar Man’. This song more than others captures the spirit of the man and his music.
“Well, I woke to the rise, sun going down Still taste the whiskey, still fresh on my mouth Hot cup of coffee, smoke in my hand Another day in the life of the guitar man La de da”
For two hours the boy from Tifton, Georgia had transported world weary Londoners to the sunshine of Nashville. Bravo Kip Moore! You absolute legend.