Blog

Nov 16 2017

Martin Simpson, Sunday 12th November 2017

Review by Graham Smout, photos by Peter Graves

Martin Simpson was spellbinding at The Live Room at Saltaire on Sunday evening. Playing a mixture of familiar and newly recorded numbers, Martin paid tribute to the fact that it was Remembrance Sunday by including poignant introductions and songs referencing tragic wartime conflicts across the globe, including the contributions and sacrifices made by members of his own family.

With all seats taken, the audience were treated to an extended set, with encore from Martin, which went on for so long that some would have missed the last bus home – had they been catching buses! The thing that strikes me about Martin is he never compromises in any way in his performance, which is first class entertainment from beginning to end. It was also heartwarming to overhear him talking enthusiastically at the end of the evening with fans about his guitars and styles of playing.

‘It was a great night. His songwriting is amazing’ – Biddy Unsworth

Nov 12 2017

Harrow Fair plus support Billy Kemp, Friday 3rd November 2017

Friday 3rd November 2017, The Live Room, Caroline Social Club, Saltaire. There were many outdoor fireworks displays on Friday night. Indoors at the Live Room however we had some musical pyrotechnics to match anything going on outside. The opening act was Billy Kemp, born in Baltimore but a long time Nashville resident who played a 1930’s Martin guitar and an opened backed banjo, named Moe and Bart respectively. A Grand Old Opry performer and a great song writer and raconteur who had a very relaxed and accomplished manner. Opening with ‘Death & Taxes’, his delivery reminded me very much of Loudon Wainwright III. In the 1980’s Billy hosted song writing nights at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. He mixed great stories with very well-crafted songs, many from new album ‘ANOTHER LIFE’, all delivered in a very clear distinct voice with great musicianship on both guitar and banjo. He finished his set to great applause with ‘Mr. Wilson, The Stonecutter’, stone cutter being a term used to describe people who drank too much ‘falling down water’.

Ok, now for the main act, Canadian duo Harrow Fair based in Toronto. Comprising Miranda Mulholland on fiddle and Andrew Penner on various percussion and guitar, both having very powerful, often rootsy voices, used to great effect. This is where the musical fireworks started. I’d describe a lot of their music and ‘down and dirty’ stomp rock. A recording of an auctioneer provided the backdrop to their opening song ‘Told A Lie To My Heart’ from their CD CALL TO ARMS. Miranda having a very animated stage presence and one of the best rock style fiddle techniques I have seen recently. While Miranda was extremely mobile Andrew spent a lot of time seated at a bass kick drum with his feet while also playing quite cranked up guitar with occasional bottleneck. Their overall sound was bigger than two people, Andrew being bass and rhythm as well as lead guitar, standing on occasions to play drumsticks on the side of the kick drum, the pair at times seemingly singing at each other across the stage, at times harmonising.

The last thing I expected was a confession from Miranda to being a ‘Escape To The Country’ addict, all 17 series, no half measures there. Songs were not all cranked up rock, ‘Emmaline’, described as their version of Dolly’s ‘Joleen’ was tender and haunting. A lot of the material may have been new to the audience but several covers all done brilliantly in their own style were well known. A really punchy version of John Hartford’s ‘Long Hot Summer Day’ was the first of these. I think Miranda had to change bows at the end of that song as she put so much into it. Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ was a definite audience pleaser and Memphis Minnie’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ would bring a smile to even the most dedicated Led Zep fan. The set finished proper with ‘Bite The Way’ before coming back for a totally off mike encore of The Rankin Family’s ‘Fare Thee Well Love’ with both Miranda and Andrew off stage, filling the room with a very emotive performance. A well satisfied audience had a great time.

Nov 4 2017

Audience Reaction!

Hi Hilary and Ron,

We missed Blair Dunlop, so we still had the sublime sound of Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage in our heads. The wonderful sound they produced was spiritually uplifting and close to the angels. Harrow Fair sent us spinning in the other direction with red devil dirt and dust (And I swear I saw Jack Nicholson beating the drum!) Fantastic!
My top three this season:
Harrow Fair
3Hattrio
Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage
(Vicky would put HS & BS at #1)
Really enjoyed the support acts as well.
Thanks again to you both for bringing this great music.
John & Vicky
Oct 29 2017

Blair Dunlop with special guest Brooke Sharkey, Friday 27th October 2017

Friday 27th October 2017, The Live Room, Caroline Social Club, Saltaire. Still pursuing their ‘hit list’, Ron and Hilary brought two artists who have featured on said list. Brooke has been on the it for some while, Blair since Kansas last year (more artists to come from the Kansas trip in the coming months!).

Brooke was a new find for me. Ron turned during the sound check with one of those ‘wow’ looks which just about summed up the performance. Her music can be described as intricate, sparse, beautifully sensuous and very personal. Using a range of techniques such as drum machines, vocal and guitar loops to build an at times spellbinding, hypnotic sound that was a sheer delight to the ears. Her harmonies with herself were a real delight. Even persuading the audience to contribute to a sing along in Merge and her closing song; very much appreciated by the crowd.

Blair was far more of a known quantity to me, having seen him several times before, though not as often now, as he lives in that there London. It does allow him to see his favourite team Spurs more often though, something he seems to take delight in.

One of a group of very accomplished young excellent guitarists/ singer songwriters that the UK seems blessed with at the moment, Blair entered the stage in true Eric Morecambe style (ie through the curtains). The only other artist to have done that I can recall is Chris Wood. Blair seems to be building on the strength of his 2016 3rd studio album, ‘Gilded’. Switching between an acoustic and a new electric Gretsch, he performed many new, as yet unrecorded songs from his next release. His dexterity on both guitars quite staggering and effortless.

From the strength of Friday’s performance, both his songwriting and guitar work are going from strength to strength. An engaging, warm personality on stage, Blair brought Brooke on stage for the encore, to bring another great night at The Live Room to a close. Canadian duo Harrow Fair play on Friday November 3rd.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Oct 29 2017

Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage with guest Emily Mae Winters, Sunday 22nd October 2017

The Live Room, Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire, Sunday 22 October 2017; having watched and listened to the sound check, I knew the audience were in for a real treat.

A voice to stop you in your tracks is an overused cliché but when referring to opening act Emily Mae Winters it really applies, and I do mean that in a most complimentary way. Ranging from a delicate whisper to a fully-fledged growl with no discernible effort, creating a wide variety of moods within the songs. Competent guitar work accompanied most of her self-penned songs, the exception being an absolutely beautiful acapella ‘She Moves Through The Fair’, which had the audience utterly entranced and fully demonstrated the power and subtlety of both her voice and interpretive skills. Definitely a lady to watch out for.

Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage have been long sought by The Live Room. The wait was worth it. They were, quite frankly, sublime. Ben playing guitars and dobro, Hannah, guitar and mountain dulcimer. Sharing a single, very impressive looking microphone, both sang lead vocals and on occasion some of the most delicate and delightful harmonious merging of voices The Live Room has witnessed. The Live Room audience is usually an attentive and listening audience but last night, as well being able to hear a pin drop, I found myself actually holding my breath at times. I don’t think I was alone in this, the beauty of the music was that good.

They opened with a cheery up beat song about death, ‘Ribbons and Bows’, a Richie Stearns song that features on their CD followed by one about insanity, ‘I’ll Weave My Love A Garland’ from Hannah’s solo CD ‘Charms Against Sorrow’. As well as enchanting music, they had an engaging manner with the audience throughout. Set 1 finished with ‘Awake’, the audience joining in a sing along, Ben’s husky voice leading then joined by Hannah.

Set 2 opened with another cover, Woody Guthrie’s song ‘Way Out Yonder In The Minor Key’, the music for this written by Billy Bragg. No criticism of Billy, but in his wildest dreams he couldn’t make the song sound like Ben and Hannah did. They have just released the song as a single. The oh so delicate ‘The Sun Is Gonna Rise Again’ followed, with Hannah’s voice soaring and circling around the room.

And so it continued for the rest of the night, a mixture of their own material and covers. One notable cover was their two-part dialogue in Dylan’s ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’. It’s strange that you don’t hear the song done that way more often. Their covers all had their own individual stamp. Two sing-along encores closed the show ‘Oh, Yes I’d Climb The Highest Mountain’ and finally welcoming Emily Mae Winters back on stage ‘Deep Blue Sea’. The audience would have quite happily listened all night. Catch them live if you can.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Oct 23 2017

Jess Morgan & Dan Whitehouse, Friday 15th October 2018

A third visit from Norwich born singer songwriter Jess Morgan, previously seen as support to Richard Shindell and Luka Bloom, which is pretty illustrious company.

A dual bill this time with Dan Whitehouse, originally from Wolverhampton, who will take to the road with Eddi Reader as soon as this tour has ended. Both had great songwriting skills and powerful, evocative voices. Dan, using a variety of loop and electronic techniques, made it seem there was more than one person on stage. Aptly described as ‘Black Country Soul’, Dan opened with a solo set, accompanied at the end by Jess. Jess’s second set saw Dan reciprocate. As well as their own material they did some classic covers as a duo. They received the usual great reception and audience response from The Live Room crowd.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Oct 9 2017

Leveret, Friday 6th October 2017

There was a knock on the Live Room door during sound check for Leveret on Friday 6 October. A day tripper to Saltaire waiting for his coach home was so enchanted by the sound escaping the room he enquired who was playing and bought 2 CDs. He was very disappointed he had to go home and miss the show.

That gave an indication of the quality of the music created both during the sound check and the show proper by all-instrumental trio Leveret, comprising Andy Cutting, Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney.

This was Leveret’s Live Room debut. They all knew the Live Room from previous appearances in other line ups. A great show , hugely enjoyed by a very rapt and attentive audience. It’s hardly any surprise their new CD ‘Inventions’ and current tour are getting such rave reviews in the National Press.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Sep 11 2017

3hattrio, Sunday 10th September 2017

Sunday 10 September was 3hattrio at the Live Room, Saltaire; strangely enough a 3 piece all wearing hats. That was about as far as predictability went for the rest of the night.

Hailing from the desert region of Utah, the rain of Saltaire must have been unusual. Comprising Hal Cannon on lead vocals, banjo and guitar, Greg Istock on upright bass and bass drum. Eli Wrankle completes the trio on fiddle. Eli considerably the youngest by some way but up there musically in a way that made a mockery of his relative youth.

They opened with “Flight” a jaunty banjo opening before the fiddle joined the tune, some vocals and then the bass and bass drum joined the party on ‘River’. Musical layering formed a massive part of what can only be described as unclassifiable. They have rightly been described as a genre of 1 –‘An ethereal magic that puts them (3hattrio) in a field of one’, as Julian Piper of Acoustic Magazine puts it. Maverick magazine describes them as desert chamber music.

The number of audible influences are too many to mention but this was no mish mash of style, rather a unique and very refined, ethereally haunting and possibly addictive blend. Minimal conversation between songs had the audience entranced, at times an almost Tinariwen style beat was hypnotic. At times, almost classical music reverence from the audience, at other times whoops and yells for instrumental breaks. Not something that happens too often in the UK.

Vocal styling varied as much as the music with jazz style scat as well as new age multi layering. The 2 sets flew by swiftly leaving a very satisfied audience who would have booked their tickets for a return visit on the spot. Let’s hope they return to the UK soon. Full marks to Ron and Hilary for sharing their excellent taste in music with the good folk of Yorkshire.

Review and Photos by Keith Belcher

Pre Show Interviews

Interview with Rob & Molly from BCB Radio's Into The Buttercup

Aug 29 2017

The Sweet Water Warblers, Friday 25th August 2017

Sweet is an apt word to describe the sounds made by The Sweet Water Warblers, who graced The Live Room, Saltaire on Friday 25 August 2017. Comprising Rachael Davis, Lindsay Lou Rilko and May Erlewine, they brought sublime three part harmonies, encompassing swing, gospel, bluegrass, soul and pop. They traded instruments throughout the night, taking turns on double bass, guitar, banjo and ukelele. It was fairly obvious at the sound check that the TLR crowd were in for a treat. A superb night’s entertainment, greatly appreciated by a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience . They left knowing they would be very welcome to return to Saltaire; great night, come back soon.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Jul 30 2017

Hamilton Loomis, Friday21st July 2017

We’ve been asked many times when Hamilton Loomis would return to TLR over the past three years, so we knew the crowd would be more than ‘up for it’ after such a long wait. Well, he and his amazing band didn’t disappoint! With almost 200 excited blues fans packed in to Caroline Club, the atmosphere was absolutely electric as the band tore into their set.

With pre-release copies of his latest album, ‘Basic’, hurriedly packaged up for the tour, the set was liberally sprinkled with songs from the record, alongside old favourites, such as Bow Wow and Stuck In A Rut. We even had some Prince thrown seamlessly into a medley after only being rehearsed at the sound check!

Photos courtesy of Flo Cat

For those seeing Hamilton for the first time, there were open mouths at the sheer energy and skill of the musicians, all of whom played their hearts out. Many of the crowd remarked on just how tight the band played; the result of many years playing together. Mexico City born Armando Aussenac on drums and backing vocals and the UK’s own Roger Inniss are a pumping, driving, funky rhythm section that provides a perfect platform for the blistering guitar and harmonica work of Hamilton himself and the brilliant, Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, Fabian Hernandez, who got a standing ovation for one of his stunning solos. In fact, it was the first time we’d seen three standing ovations for any band here at TLR, such was the rapturous reception with which their two sets were greeted.

A scramble for the merchandise table after the show saw many of the crowd leave clutching signed copies of albums by Hamilton and Fabian and beaming smiles wandering out into the Saltaire night! A return visit surely can’t be another three years away!