May 16 2018

A voice from The Chorus!

So there I was: on my way to the loo having been listening to an exquisite first set from Birds of Chicago when I stopped to listen to what Hilary was saying on stage. She was talking about it being the club’s sixth birthday and ended up with the announcement that she and Ron had decided to make a gift of six free tickets, one for each year to the person who had been to the most gigs. To my utter disbelief Hilary then read my name out and called me on stage. I was dumbfounded, speechless. If I’d had the nous to say anything this is what I’d have said:

‘Having come to the Live Room more or less since it started, I can recall the times when there were around 40 people spread thinly across the room listening to music that was new to most of us. These were trying times for the club and it took quite a while to establish. Look at the change now: packed audiences fighting for seats in what could be described as a community of music-lovers.

The style of music might change from one week to the next but the quality does not: high-quality performers setting the scene alight. Between them Ron and Hilary have saved the Caroline Street club from extinction and  changed its way of working. They have developed the club through the ‘Chorus’ and website and last year rightly won a Yorkshire award for music eventing.

Having spent much of my life hovering around music events and clubs, this is undoubtedly the best club I’ve ever been to. The welcome is great, Ron’s sound engineering is now legendary and Hilary keeps the organisation sweet through her hard work and empathetic input. I trust their judgement about bands implicitly and always look forward to the next gig. My free tickets will all be used, no doubt, so thank you Ron and Hilary and happy birthday the Live Room.’

Alun Pelleschi

May 1 2018

Rachel Baiman & Molly Tuttle, Friday 27th April 2018

Friday 27 April 2018. The Live Room, Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire. The sold out opening date for the brief UK tour of Rachel Baiman and Molly Tuttle. Fantastic night, if you get the chance to see them – don’t hesitate.

Guitarists seemed to have ventured to Saltaire from far and wide to witness International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year Molly Tuttle’s remarkable playing. Rachel Baiman on fiddle and banjo was equally impressive with superb singing, fiddle and banjo.

Words and photos by Keith Belcher

May 1 2018

Michael Chapman plus support Henry Parker, Friday 20th April 2018

Thanks to everyone who gave us a sold out show on Friday for the legend that is Michael Chapman! It was a very special night, with an excellent opening set from Henry Parker, accompanied by Augustin Bousfield on double bass and harmonium. Michael himself, at 77, was on top form and was also joined for the last couple of songs by Sarah Smout, who has just been in the studio with Michael, along with pedal steel maestro, BJ Cole, to record the great man’s new album. If the interplay between Michael and Sarah is any indication, it’s going to be an absolute cracker, so roll on October for release day!

Words and photos by Keith Belcher

Apr 17 2018

Korby Lenker plus support Katie Spencer, Friday 6th April

The evening opened with relatively local Katie Spencer. I first heard Katie on The Durbervilles Radio Leeds Show earlier this year and was very impressed . She is a huge fan of the late, great John Martyn and like him she is self taught and is very keen and eager to explore an acoustic guitars potential. Her guitar style can at times emulate the very deft and stylish touch and feel of not only  early John Martyn recordings but also Bert Jansch and John Renbourne.  Amazing when you realise she has only been playing 5 years. I found her rich and vibrant vocals reminiscent of Laura Marling. At all times though she was definitely Katie Spencer, not an imitation of John or Laura or anyone else.  After Hilary’s introduction Katie launched straight into Best Thing About Leaving, as yet unrecorded. This self penned song allowed her to demonstrate her song writing as well as her vocal and guitar skills. There was an extended delicately played guitar break mid song demonstrating a very nice feel and light touch ending in a flourish of harmonics before the vocals resumed.

Remarkably assured for her 21 years Katie related her first visit to Saltaire on a school trip. Can’t Resist The Road  followed from her only recording to date, an extended 5 song EP entitled GOOD MORNING SKY. By this time the audience were firmly in their seats and very attentive. Another new song , You Came Like A Hurricane, slightly faster, reflecting its subject matter, again giving ample opportunity for guitar work. Remarkably self assured on stage and doing the thing that a lot of openers don’t do. That is introduce and name her songs. Yet another new song Too High Alone  followed a chat about witnessing murmurations of starlings. Helsa , about a village in Germany was a delightful guitar instrumental. Katie using various electronica to make it sound like far more than just her and guitar on stage. The all too short set finished with Hello Sun, a plea for the good weather to return. Hopefully all tonight’s songs and more will feature on a full CD later this year. Judging from the audience reaction and the number compliments  her return will be very welcome.

The Live Room is one of the increasingly few venues that actually quieten the  house music and introduce the artists onto the stage. Many venues, no names given, wait for the artist to get on stage before the sound/lights guy notices they are there and ready to go. Some only even notice after the artist is on stage and playing. At that point the lights are altered , up or down, depending on where you are and the house music stopped. The audience then  notice the artist is on stage and may or may not, again depending on where you are, pay attention and stop their conversations. Thankfully not at The Live Room.

An additional twist at the Live Room is that members can actually opt to introduce someone they hopefully like. It would be strange, although possibly interesting,  to introduce someone you don’t like. Tonight long time club member Ian for the second time in 2 shows introduced the main act. In Ian’s words,  Idaho born troubadour Korby Lenker, now an East Nashville resident is an  accomplished singer, songwriter, author , photographer and producer with 7 albums to his name. Korby jokingly added he could also juggle but thanked Ian for not mentioning it! The first song of the night was the very tender If I Prove False To You from Korby’s 6th album – KORBY LENKER. It was evident we were in for a treat .

Korby’s relationship with his guitar has been commented on by many. It’s an intimate dance for two that Korby weaves with his guitar, bending strings and notes in an almost rowing, waving action to accentuate and sustain notes and harmonics. Akin in some ways to David Rawlings motions on stage. He is a very chatty person on stage. All songs were given a full, comprehensive and articulate introduction and explanation. If you want to just hear the song then play the album, live shows should hopefully give you that bit extra. This one certainly did. His stage dialogue leaps about but in a good way, at times almost stream of consciousness, never still, jumping from topic to topic.

Incredibly observant, paying great attention to the big picture and also minutiae both in his song lyrics and stage conversation. His story telling paints a vivid picture in sound and vision, a kind of mental picture painting with sound. It is always kept humourous, almost part stand up comic as well as singer/songwriter. His upbeat song Nothing Really Matters  from latest album THOUSAND SPRINGS was prefaced with a comment she (the person in the song) looked like she had followed the (Grateful) Dead too long, even after they had stopped touring! I understood the comment. His enthusiasm bubbles to a point that along with the guitar style could give him a slight manic expression. He switched to a tiny ukulele for Gotta Do, another buoyant song,  the uke held almost under his chin. He joked his therapist had said it was clinically impossible to be depressed while playing the ukulele. The latest album THOUSAND SPRINGS was recorded in various locations in Idaho, including his Dad’s mortuary. He wanted to do that as it was where music started for him. One exception was the very punchy, Last Man Standing, inspired by Chief Sitting Bull and the book, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. He got special permission to record that at Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

His songs varied in tone, colour and pace throughout the night. His dialogue with the audience was casual almost like a one to one conversation. He covered a huge amount of topics including social media, Star Trek, Roald Dahl, drag queen contests and in the middle of the song Book Nerd  launched into a recitation from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” as written in middle English. He performed one new, unrecorded song , a quasi spiritual, possibly titled Jesus Turned The Water , no instrumentation on that one , just snapping fingers. His official autobiographical last song, My Little Life ,was performed off mike  at the edge of the stage. Despite having said he wasn’t he came back for an encore of the great Lyle Lovett’s (too cool to be country, too country to be cool!)If I Had A Boat which had many of the audience joining in. Just one of 4 UK gigs on this trip, he seemed to really enjoy himself.

The audience who also really appreciated Katie Spencer certainly enjoyed the night. I have no doubt both artists would and will be welcomed back.

Keith Belcher

Pre Show Interviews

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

Mar 30 2018

The Secret Sisters plus Danni Nicholls, Sunday 25th March 2018

Sunday 25th March 2018, The Live Room, Saltaire. The Secret Sisters with special guest Danni Nicholls opening the show. There was a tangible sense of anticipation and excitement from the maximum capacity crowd for tonight’s show. Many guests, judging from the rapturous applause throughout and some of the remarks at the end found tonight one of the best ever Live Room shows. Both Danni and The Secret Sisters wowed the Saltaire crowd.

Danni Nicholls, originally from Bedford opened. A very competent guitarist, strumming and picking her own richly imaged songs and also singing them beautifully. Danni is well regarded by musicians and media alike. Her latest CD MOCKINGBIRD LANE features, amongst others, the legendary Al Perkins on dobro. Danni opened with “Long Road Home”, a homage to returning to Bedford (or anywhere else you knew well).

She was well paced in her delivery and stage manner. The tempo was mixed throughout with the upbeat “Hey There Sunshine” followed by a break up song “Beautifully Broken” which was really well received by the audience who were listening intently to every word. Danni finished her set with huge crowd participation with a sing along “Back to Memphis”, closing with a humming part to “A Little Redemption” from her 2013 CD of the same name. From the reception and comments Danni would be very welcome as a headliner next time around.

Onto the main act. The Secret Sisters, Lydia and Laura Rogers from Alabama. They and Danni had set off at 05:15 from Western Ireland so it was a very long day for them. The performance did not reflect that. They had spectacular reviews earlier in the year while appearing in the Transatlantic Sessions tour, many reviews claiming they and Daoirí Farrell stole the shows. Easy to see why. From the start they warned the audience that there were no happy songs in store, but everyone was “welcome to spiral down together”.

On stage Lydia as well as singing plays guitar and delivers the punch lines and comments to Laura’s many stories. Laura sings and does most of the on-stage banter. Laura can and does talk a lot. Their show consists of beautifully sung and arranged songs, some covers but mainly self-penned. Their versatile voices equally as effective whether singing solo or merging into the kinds of spine tingling sibling harmonies that can genuinely touch your soul. An equal part of the show is very good natured and very humourous sibling bickering. Laura’s recollections and stories of her previous break ups and the songs they have inspired cause the audience to laugh out loud on many occasions.

They opened with the very popular “Tennessee River Runs Low”, the opening track from their latest CD YOU DON’T OWN ME ANYMORE. This set an extremely high standard to follow. However, follow it and build on it they certainly did. Their songs are well crafted and superbly performed. There is some leaning towards old school doo-wop which makes the songs that much more catchy and infectious.

Throughout the night Laura related their history, talking of both ups and downs and how life led them through record label loss, court cases and bankruptcy to just where they are now. Where they are now seems a very good place to be. The songs “Girls Who Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me Any More” expressing their feelings of downs and subsequent ups very eloquently.

The highlight of the night, for me, was “Bad Habit”, another love song but so well sung and moving that the crowd just went into raptures at its conclusion. They had a very fancy looking microphone that they used for a medley of songs. The songs being Graham Nash’s “Wasted On the Way”, Paul Simon’s “Kathy’s Song” and inevitably an Everly Brothers classic “Let It Be Me”. This medley, of course, allowed further confessions of crushes on Graham, sisterly bickering as to who was Paul and who was Art, both wanting to be Paul ….and Don Everly joining the stage at a tribute show.

Thankfully, they dispensed with the usual pantomime of going off stage for an encore by telling the audience that they were getting an encore whether they wanted one or not. I wish more acts would do the same. The audience would have actually liked several encores. Their penultimate song was the very sing along hit “He’s Fine”. Who would want to be the person that song is about – hell hath no fury etc.

The audience were invited to hum and snap their fingers to the final song of the night but only if they had a fine sense of rhythm. This was a very sweet acapella rendition of the 1926 song “You Belong To Me”. They ended the night just as well as they began it. The audience were on a definite high as they made their way home.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Mar 25 2018

Son Of Town Hall, Sunday 11th March 2018

Sunday 11th March 2018, The Live Room, Saltaire. The first visit to the Saltaire shores by Son of Town Hall. Son of Town Hall being the union of Santa Fe’s David Berkeley and London’s Ben Parker. Both very sought after and extremely talented musicians.

Named after the recycled junk raft built by Poppa Neutrino which crossed the Atlantic in 1998, David and Ben have cast themselves in Victorian period costumes telling tales of their seafaring lives in bygone times. Many reviews compare them to Simon and Garfunkel lost at sea. I heard more similarities to The Milk Carton Kids, possibly because of the sense of humour and storytelling they brought to their show.

Besides the powerful and versatile voices and excellent guitar work they combined with effortless divine harmonies which equal those of S&G and The Milk Carton Kids. Their superbly crafted songs lean towards storytelling and feature many sing-along’s. All done with a sense of theatre.

It’s rare these days to have acts with walk on music (both sets) and a planned exit from the theatre. Their dry goods store (merch desk) so far contains only one 4 track CD EP and a vinyl 7 inch , we won’t mention the overpriced potatoes and ginger. An entire album is planned for later in the year and hopefully another tour. Judging by the rapid sales of merch they would be very welcome back.

Pre Show Interviews

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

Mar 8 2018

Bronwynne Brent, Friday 2nd March 2018

Friday 2nd March 2018, The Live Room, Saltaire. The return of the Mississippi Delta’s Bronwynne Brent. Accompanied by Mario Caribé on upright bass and Graeme Stephen on guitar. I was lucky enough to watch the sound check, or rather a complete rehearsal of every song played. I would have been a very happy bunny having just watched that but was very glad I was also there for the entire show. The quality of both Mario and Graeme showed not only in the ease with which they picked up all her songs but also how they enhanced once the show started.

Bronwynne often has her voice compared to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday and more but to me the best way to describe her voice is that of Bronwynne Brent, she has her own very distinctive voice which really does encompass all the usual hackneyed clichés of strong but vulnerable, earthy, bluesy, jazz tinged etc. She really is all those and more. She has the X factor and The Voice in their true sense, not the recognised commercially packaged varieties. What she does have is an ability to make you stop and listen intently. It’s often dark but still uplifting. Again the cliché of a voice stopping you in your tracks is very true. I don’t think it would matter if she was playing to The Live Room crowd or a much larger auditorium, the effect would still be the same.

Not only did Mario and Graeme learn the songs but once the performance was underway they improvised and adlibbed bringing smiles to each other’s faces as they surprised each other and the audience with astonishing deft touches, improvisation and virtuosity both on bass and on Graeme’s Gibson 175, the jazz guitar of choice to many. Graeme not only putting in delicate guitar breaks but also at time electronic lush sound effects.

Bronwynne is incredibly self-deprecating and very , very candid on stage, some nights she must wonder just what she has said on stage during the performance, the audience love it. I don’t think that will stop her though. The first set opened with “Devil Again” and consisted mainly of songs from her first 2 albums with two new ones “Big Talker” and “Lost in the Moonlight” from the forthcoming, as yet untitled album. It was hoped it would be available for this tour but sadly no.

Set 2 opened with “Dark Highway” and “Already Gone” before going into the very jazz tinged “I Know It’s Late”, another new song. The band carried on the wonderful level of the first set. The show finished with a traditional broadside probably about 200 years old with various titles, tonight’s was Lily of The West. First well-known recording by Joan Baez in 1960, covered by many since.

Many had seen her last time around, but many were new to Bronwynne’s music. Most will be firm fans after the show, the warmth of the music made the effort of going out on a very cold, snowy and icy Yorkshire night very rewarding. Some gigs were cancelled so we got lucky in that ours went ahead.

Bronwynne appears in Leeds next Saturday 10th March at Seven Arts. I heard more than a few people considering going to see that show too. I shall certainly be there. Some of the gigs on the tour will be duos but based on Friday’s performance they will only just keep getting better as the tour progresses. Our Lady of Mississippi is a rare talent and well, well worth seeing live.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Feb 26 2018

Adam Holmes and The Embers, Friday 23rd February 2018

Friday 23 February 2018, The Live Room, Caroline Social Club, Saltaire: the long awaited first visit of Edinburgh born Adam Holmes & his band The Embers to the Live Room. The wait was worth it. A superb performance. With Adam on guitar and vocals, Alex Cutter on bass, Calum McIntyre drums and on keyboards and sax Colin Train. Backing vocals from everyone.

Colin stepped in at late notice virtually learning the set during the sound check, if Adam hadn’t told the audience then no one would have known, such was the quality of the show. It was obvious to all present that the band were having a great time as well as the audience. From the first set opener of Monday Morning to the encore of Bob Marley’s Stir It Up they had a fully attentive and participative audience. They won a quite a few new fans during the night.

Review and photos, Keith Belcher

Feb 26 2018

The Railsplitters, Friday 16th February 2018

The return of Colorado’s Railsplitters after three years was a complete triumph, with 170 crowding in to see them. A truly unique addition to the bluegrass genre, they bend the music in many different directions, with pop, rock and even jazz influences in their playing, particularly that of fiddle player, Joe D’Esposito and banjo picker Dusty Rider.

Add to those ingredients the sweet soul vocals of Lauren Stovall, the blues inflected mandolin of Peter Sharp and the rhythmic and melodic bass of newest member, Jean Luc Davis, and you have something completely irresistible. We has several of the crowd telling us it was the best thing they’d ever seen at TLR on their way out, clutching CDs. We should also mention their impeccable harmonies, with the whole sounding so much bigger than the sum of the parts. A brilliant band!

Thanks to Keith Belcher for the photos!

Pre Show Interviews

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

Feb 15 2018

Sam Baker, Sunday 11th February 2018

Sunday 11th February 2018, The Live Room, Saltaire. Probably the slickest and most polished Sam Baker show I have seen to date. Sam was accompanied by Grammy nominated master percussionist Mike Meadows (Willie Nelson, Shawn Colvin & many more bands). By the end of the show you could appreciate the Grammy nomination.

During the show Sam transported the rapt audience through a wide range of emotions with his own very sparse but oh so rich individual style of looking at the world and telling the stories he has seen there. The most intense point must have been the introduction to ‘Broken Fingers’, the story of the terrorist bomb exploding and killing a German family and severely injuring Sam on a train to Machu Picchu. I cannot recall another show in The Live Room creating a mood quite like that number created last night, the song details Sam’s remembrance of the young German boy who lost his life that day and contains the very harrowing lines (lyrics Sam Baker 2007)
‘Forget his face? Of course I don’t, Etched like a crystal vase, These broken fingers, some things don’t heal, I can’t wake up from a dream when the dream is real…’

Continuing the dream references he then performed ‘Angels’, dedicated to the 99% of the world’s population that are intrinsically ‘good’, again a wonderful line ‘Everyone is at the mercy of another’s dream’ (Sam Baker 2004).
However, the mood was by no means all sombre, Sam’s shows and songs always have a great deal of humour (‘Isn’t Love Great’), poignancy (‘Waves’) and interaction with the audience, last night was no exception, it was superbly paced both musically and emotionally. A wonderful night greatly enjoyed by a very attentive, appreciative and respectful audience.

Review and photos by Keith Belcher