Jun 23 2022

Stillhouse Junkies 2022

Sunday 19th June 2022

Photos by Keith Belcher

We’d been looking forward to this Colorado-based trio since their thrilling livestream show they gave us during lockdown and we weren’t disappointed. They delivered a spectacular performance for us, showcasing not only their highly original songwriting and arrangements, but also their sensational musicianship, with blistering solos from all three. A truly terrific live act that won a standing ovation from the rapt crowd. It was clear that they have a real joy in playing music together and sharing it wherever they go. We’ll be looking to bring them back as soon as we possibly can.

Jun 12 2022

Suzie Ungerleider

Friday 4th June 2022

Words and photos by Keith Belcher

A collection of stills from last nights performance by Suzie Ungerleider; a very memorable night. So nice to see an artist really having fun on stage

May 25 2022

Jake Blount

Sunday 22nd May 2022

Photos by Keith Belcher

The debut appearance of The Jake Blount Band at TLR. Jake on banjo, fiddles and lead vocals. George Jackson, fiddle, banjo and vocals, Nelson Williams, double bass and Gus Tritsch, guitar, uke and vocals.

May 23 2022

Willy Porter

plus support Rebecca Loebe

Friday 20th May 2022

Photos by Keith Belcher

We were surprised and thrilled to have a late addition to the bill for Willy’s first show here in the shape of Austin-based singer songwriter Rebecca Loebe, who is on tour in the UK and had a gap in her diary. She shares a booking agent with Willy and decided to come along to see him as she was in the area for a gig in Queensbury the following night. Things couldn’t have worked out better and the two even managed to rehearse a couple of numbers for the encore. Another wonderful night at TLR!

May 18 2022

Outside Track 2022

Sunday 15th May 2022

Words and photos by Keith Belcher

The Outside Track is:

Isla Ratcliff – fiddle, vocals (Scotland)

Fiona Black – accordion, vocals (Scotland)

Teresa Horgan – flute, lead vocals (Ireland)

Seán Gray- guitar, vocals (Scotland)

Ailie Robertson – Gaelic harp, vocals (Scotland)

Apr 5 2022

Lynne Hanson 2022

Plus support Malcolm MacWatt

Sunday 3rd April 2022

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

Canadian Lynne Hanson’s second visit to TLR had been one of the many gigs delayed , postponed and rescheduled due to you know what.  This time around she was accompanied on guitar, vocals and electronic wizardry by the very excellent Ottawa based Blair Michael Hogan. London based Scots singer songwriter Malcolm MacWatt was making his TLR debut.

Following his debut performance I am fairly certain that Malcolm MacWatt will be back at TLR soon headlining his own show. He was very well received by the TLR crowd, some of whom had travelled far and wide for tonight’s show. Morayshire born, currently living in London. One only has to look at the guests on his new album SETTLER and its many glowing reviews to get an idea of the rep he’s making for himself with his excellent song writing. The album features no less than Jaimee Harris, Laura Cantrell, Gretchen Peters, Eliza Carthy and Kris Drever. That’s not a bad guest list. A multi-instrumentalist playing almost all instruments on the album himself.

Tonight, he limited himself to guitar only. A very good selection of songs. A theme of Celts abroad present in many of the songs such as the opener The Crofter and the Cherokee, followed by a tragic Letter From San Francisco, a sad letter written from an emigrant to his mother. A slightly disturbing (these days) recount of his Dad keeping a shotgun in the car in case they saw any game. That helped towards the song Trespass a very intelligent and observational song. He finished his set with a taste of Red River Woman, a song he’s currently recording . His opening remarks to that song about hating misogyny and prejudice of any kind reminded me greatly of Dick Gaughan, another Scot with a huge social conscience.

Hilary introduced Lynne Hanson and Blair Michael Hogan to huge applause. A lot of people had been waiting a long time for this gig, postponed and rescheduled over the last 2 years.

Blair’s guitar painted a lush sonic landscape from the opening notes of Hold My Breath and continued that way all night. The song, about friendship and living in the moment inspired by the period of you know what making us think about our lives and relationships. Blair’s guitar was superb throughout. An array of pedals at his feet and the skill in his fingers creating wonderfully diverse textures and emotional backdrops to Lynne’s guitars and vocals. Blair also sang harmonies but mainly played really superb guitar with very little conversation (except for one point – more later).

The next song 100 Mile Wind had a Wizard of Oz intro about filling up her car with gas and almost being blown to Kansas. Lynne’s album JUST WORDS was written before lockdowns (“Before Times”) happened and it never got the extensive  touring it deserved and then along comes ICE CREAM IN NOVEMBER , to be released officially on April 22nd. Lynne commented on how lonely the songs from JUST WORDS must have felt not being allowed out to meet the world.

Lynne’s lyrics and songs cover a huge range of topics as do her in between song banters. It would be fair to say she could probably hold her own at TLR’s comedy nights as a stand up comedian. The audience were, at times, in stitches with her highly theatrical, animated conversations and gesticulations. They covered all sorts of topics from observations about Canada’s “big” neighbours and health services and huge vats of maple syrup, jigsaw puzzles, being vetted for a “Nice Canadian” card to allow exit from Canada. Imagined meetings with Ernest Hemingway and strangely named deserts.  

Lynne has a really infectious energy that crackles about her. Feeding on the energy from the audience and giving it back in spades. Blair ‘s only comments of the night were when she was relating her experiences of drinking (she stopped in 2011), something along the lines of finding it difficult to imagine her as a drunk. The song Long Way Home was written after giving up booze. It really reminded me of another TLR favourite the great Bronwynne Brent, it had that nice easy, bluesy, jazzy feel to it.

The pace and delivery of songs was very varied. The banter from factual, comical to philosophical sophistry – (did the colour blue exist before someone called it blue – Orion’s Belt). What was very evident from the start and throughout was the sheer joy at being back on a stage in front of real people playing live music. It’s been a common theme amongst artists since lockdowns ended but so far none quite so evidently displayed as tonight.

As the set drew to an end Lynne had the audience singing along with a very upbeat Shadowland with Blair pulling out all the guitar stops. In another country he would have been given several bursts of spontaneous applause for his breaks. With dramatic contrast Lynne and Blair finished set proper with an unplugged version of Gotta Have Rain, perched precariously on the stage edge. She said in the “before times” it was a song about gratitude and in the (hopefully) “after times” it is even more of a song about gratitude and appreciation of the way things are. ” You want to have flowers, you gotta have rain”. It was dedicated to as especial thanks to promoters and audience who are turning out to support live music.

They weren’t getting away without an encore which was the very superb River of Sand. A great night, good time had by all, performers, audience and everyone involved. What else do you want on a Sunday night?

Mar 28 2022

Little George Sueref & The Blue Stars

Sunday 27th March 2022

It has been an ambition of ours for around twenty years to bring the Cardiff-born bluesman to our stage and at last we managed it!

We don’t present a whole lot of blues here at TLR and when we do we look for something outside the mainstream ‘blues rock’ version, preferring to avoid the classic electric guitar ‘shredders’, as good as many are.

Little George eschews the flashier stylings of modern bluesmen, favouring the more nuanced, textured feel of the original giants, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter; a hark back to the music from the iconic Chess label.

That’s not to say there isn’t skill aplenty in the band. As well as George’s wonderfully soulful voice that goes from a growl to a two-octave leaping howl in an instant and his deceptively simple guitar lines, he is an amazing harmonica player. Last night, as well as classic blues harp, we were also treated to a beautiful minor key ska instrumental with George taking up the chromatic version of the instrument and showing a real mastery of that too.

Accompanying George were two brilliant London-based Italians. Davide Manzzantini from Empoli just outside Florence, treated us to some fantastic and very tasteful guitar, never over the top and always full of melody. On drums Loris Peverani from Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast, played some of the most tasteful drums, always serving the song and driving the rhythm with a delicate but powerful pulse.

We were treated to over two hours of soulful, old style blues that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Chicago bar room in the 1950s and suited the Caroline Street Club surroundings perfectly! Another great night of music here at TLR.

On a slightly sadder note, the evening also coincided with the club steward, Mark’s last shift at the club, as he takes his leave of the industry for a new job. We’re all very sad to see him go after all the work he has put in over the past five years to build the club into the success it has become. We wish him and his partner Gemma and their children the very best for the future.

Mar 22 2022

Track Dogs

Sunday 20th March 2022

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Some nights you get really lucky and get a whole lot more than you expected. So it was on Sunday night for the second visit (in the flesh) for the 4 piece Madrid based Track Dogs.  They comprise 2 Irishmen, I Englishman and 1 American. They are Garrett Wall, vocals, guitar and ukulele; Dave Mooney, bass, mandolin, vocals; Howard Brown, trumpet, cajon, vocals; and Robbie K. Jones – cajon, banjo, percussion, vocals. Instruments were swapped regularly throughout the night.Their music reflects the nationalities as well as their Spanish base. Their first visit to TLR was 15th March 2019 and there was a virtual performance on 4th October 2020.

Tonight, we didn’t get just a quartet. For large parts of the show we had, for one night only, a sextet with the addition of cello player Adrianne Wininsky and violinist Chris Demetriou. Adrianne and Chris have featured on a couple of Track Dogs’ albums. Towards the end of the show we had a septet with old school friend Fergal Gara, who lives in the area, joining the band on stage to play some great harmonica. Their music is often described as a dynamic fusion of folk, Latino, Americana & bluegrass. What they really generate is an immense amount of fun and enjoyment, both on and off stage. Something we all really need at the moment.

A relatively quick sound check as the club had a rock n’roll afternoon until 5pm with a scheduled start for Track Dogs at 7pm. You wouldn’t know it from the great sound. A big queue outside when doors opened. They seemed to have a lot of hard core fans who weren’t going to miss out on the performance.

Taking the stage as a quartet they got such a great reception they joked about going straight to the encore while they were ahead. The show opened by jumping in with The Deep End, an upbeat Latino style song, that’s the way to start, (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!). By the time they got to Whatever Happens the audience were buzzing, needing no persuasion or prompting to join in with the vocals with much gusto.

At some point in Set 1 the painter of their last album cover took a bow having been introduced from the stage. Eventually Chris and Adrianne joined the stage with violin and cello filling the 2 empty seats between Garrett and Howard. Garrett Wall’s vocals are really tremendous, their harmonies superb and both Howard and Robbie took turns with superb lead vocals.

Musically very flexible, Howard switching between trumpet and cajon, Robbie between cajon and banjo, Garrett and Dave swapping guitar, bass, mandolin and ukulele. Assorted tambourines littered the stage(you need to have been there to understand the relevance of that remark). Set 1 ended with a very lively All Clapped Out. Big queue at the Merch table and a lot of old friends catching up. It was a very friendly sort of night.

A far longer second set opened with the question Where To Now, the title song of the latest CD. As well as the really lively numbers they played some delicate songs such as the beautiful Broken Strings. It really showed just how good Garrett’s voice was and how well the band blend on harmonies and also just how much sensitive strings add to a song.

There were many songs in set 2 where the band played and sang bluegrass style around a single mike. A humourous few minutes as Robbie introduced Empty Tracks, a song about a tourist train that stopped running during lockdowns. The rest of the band commenting on his usual time of rising!! (not early!!). That was followed by a James Taylor cover of Carolina In My Mind, very apt as they remarked as they had been really looking forward to playing The Caroline Social Club again.

Cranking up the pace with another cover, Brandy (Looking Glass cover) with Howard on lead vocals. They really pulled out all the stops when Chris rejoined the stage and they launched into Gonna Get My Way. Very noticeable that Chris was now standing rather than sitting for this one. Some cracking bass, violin, cajon and banjo solos on this one.

They also brought on Fergal  to play harmonica, he got a solo too!!! Difficult to think it could get any livelier than that but they then launched into Donna Lola with huge audience participation, again unprompted, a lot of the song unamplified as they left the stage and walked around the venue.

A quick breather before the encore. The band giving a heartfelt thanks to Ron and Hilary for everything they have done during the last 2 years and more, especial thanks to Ron’s great sound throughout the night. The encore, sang by Robbie showing just what a strong voice he has was another tip of the hat to The Caroline Club.

A really powerful cover of Ruby (Are You Mad At Your Man?). Originally by Cousin Emmy & Her Kinfolk in 1946 then The Osborne Brothers in 1957 (apparently the first time twin banjos were used on a bluegrass recording! You learn something very day!!) but perhaps better known these days for the CAROLINA Chocolate Drops cover (2012). For this Adrianne joined Fergal and Chris on stage and they played out as a septet.

As I said at the start, sometimes you get a lot more than you expected. It was definitely one of those very superb nights.

Feb 15 2022

Paul McKenna Band

Sunday 13th February 2022

Review and photos by Keith Belcher

A debut appearance at TLR for the 5-piece Glasgow based band comprising Paul McKenna, guitar and main vocals, Conal McDonagh, pipes and whistles, Robbie Grieg, fiddle, Conor Markey guitar, tenor-banjo, bouzouki and backing vocals and Ewan Baird bodhrán and backing vocals. A fairly rare but very welcome appearance south of the Scottish border.

Last week we had Sarah Allen from Flook playing standing on one leg, out of choice. This week we had Paul limping painfully on one leg due to an injury picked up playing 5 a side football which attracted the absolute minimum of sympathy from band mates. There was certainly no limp to his voice, that was firing on all cylinders throughout the show. It was evident on the night just why he is regarded as one of the finest and most exciting Scottish voices. There was excitement all around, for the band the pleasure of actually playing in front of live audiences and as well as having the band appear, for the Live Room, the fact that for the first time there were 3 shows scheduled for this week. As well as 2 one leggers we also had 2 bodhrán players on the trot also with John Joe Kelly last week and Ewan Baird at this gig.

Introductions over the show started with The Mickey Dam a traditional Irish song about Immigrant labourers working on the Dam at Milngavie (pronounced Mil-guy) in Scotland. It’s rousing choruses got the night off to a great start. Throughout the night we had traditional Irish and Scottish songs, Paul’s own compositions, covers and also co-writes with other artists. Superb harmonious sounds coming from left of the stage with Conal and Robbie merging pipes, whistle and fiddle in a very pleasing to the ears sound. It’s not surprising that Paul’s voice has been compared favourably to the great Dick Gaughan. In Paul we have one of the most powerful and emotive voices on the musical circuits in any genre. Like Dick, Paul also writes songs with a social conscience, not yet as forthright as Dick but Dick didn’t get that outspoken overnight. There is a Dick Gaughan song called Whatever Happened which could have been the forerunner to Paul’s song The Dream, listen to both and see if you agree. Not surprising that Dick helped with the production of Paul’s album Between Two Worlds.

Conal switched between whistles and pipes throughout the night, playing both to great effect, likewise Conor switched between guitar, tenor-banjo and bouzouki as well as providing great backing vocals. A rock steady beat and great vocals from Ewan sitting mainly in the shadows at far stage right. The evening extremely well-paced, rousing songs alongside contemplative ones and 2 sets of very foot tapping tunes of jigs and reels. Lots of funny stories about Paul’s residency at Disneyworld in Florida and adventures in the States and Canada. There seemed a lot of alcohol involved with some stories. A co-write with the great Tim O’Brien, Can You See Me Sister, evoked stories of digital, transatlantic song collaboration.

Robbie weaved in and around all the other instruments superbly all night.  The audience participated enthusiastically and brilliantly on Paul’s own composition Home, which was the last “real” song of SET 2, an easy one as it didn’t involve words. They went off stage to rapturous applause, possibly a mistake for Paul to leave the stage as he had to hobble back for the encore, much to the amusement of his “sympathetic” bandmates. The encore of Walt Aldridge’s No Ash Will Burn also invited the same level of participation from the audience, this time a bit more complicated but the audience passed the memory test with flying colours. Outside it was very cold and wet but inside TLR a very entertaining and warming evening, a great debut appearance by a great band.

It was also the first of trial early starts for Sunday nights. Having started at 7pm the show was over shortly after 9pm. Those with “school” the next day were grateful. The trial worked well in my opinion.

Feb 6 2022

Flook

Friday 4th February 2022

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Shows in January were cancelled due to Omicron, so this year’s bumper set of shows opened with the long awaited Flook debut. This had been rescheduled due to you know what. Obviously disappointing that shows were cancelled, especially for Ron and Hilary and the club who have worked above and beyond the cause throughout the last 2 years.

Flook were well worth the wait. This extremely well-regarded band have been playing together for about 27 years. Unusually, largely the same line up all that time. Other members have been their good friends Mike McGoldrick and Damien O’Kane. Flook are Sarah Allen, flute, alto flute and accordion. Ed Boyd, guitar and bouzouki, John Joe Kelly, bodhrán and Brian Finnegan, wooden flutes, low whistle and tin whistle.

Not the most prolific of recorders with last album Ancora released in 2019 after a 15 year gap since 2005’s Haven with only a couple of albums before that. Practising together must pose some problems with Sarah living in London, Ed in Somerset, John Joe in Sligo and Brian in Armagh. Tonight they gave us 2 sets of mainly high energy, beautifully played tunes mostly from the Ancora and Haven albums although  I think Grannie in the Attic and the final encore, Rosbeg, were from 2002’s Rubai. Unlike most bands that play tunes they introduced almost every tune by name and background. I really wish more would do that.

They opened the show with the marches Ómós Sheamuis / The Quickenbeam from Ancora and the first set was mainly from that album. A very croaky Ed did his best with the introductions during set 1 but he was struggling a little. His guitar playing was, however, outstanding as was the musicianship of everyone on stage. Mixtures of marches, jigs, reels and waltzes, fast and slow. The tunes effortlessly flowed all night. As with other bands playing their first shows since a couple of years of restrictions the newfound freedom was palpable throughout the night. Most musicians seem to have missed being on stage as much as we have missed them being there so there was a reciprocal energy flow between stage and audience.  

It was a symmetrically arranged stage with Sarah standing on the audiences left and Brian on the right. Seated between them were Ed and John Joe. Sarah in fact stood on one leg (right, if interested) for a large part of the night in what looked to me like a variation of the yoga tree pose (Vriksasana). Amazing balance, I fall over after a few seconds!

As well as their own instruments they had the audience making trombone sounds in Grannie in the Attic (Rubai). The audience was a semi capacity seated and standing 250 in total. Many attendees were newcomers to TLR, always nice to see new members. Strangely enough the audiences seem to be getting younger (actually everyone looks younger to me).They were extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic but always respectful and listened  and participated beautifully.

The well-paced first set really flew by and judging by the very long queue for the socially distanced, screened Merch desk it was very well appreciated.

Set 2 opened with Reel for Rubik (Ancora)and the remainder of the set was every bit as captivating as Set 1. Intros were shared far more by Brian and Sarah in set 2 giving Ed’s throat a bit of a break. A lot of humour in the intros especially when Brian talked about the custom of burying a horse’s skull in old Irish front rooms to make the dancing sound better. This triggered references to Father Ted and Divine Comedy’s My Lovely Horse.

There were also some touching moments. They talked about their last visit to Saltaire which according to my recording was 13th September 2014 at The Victoria Hall just up the road. I was at that gig and the day after at Waterside Arts, Sale both promoted by the late and greatly missed Simon Heginbotham, long time musical agent and promoter who passed away in April 2018. Dervish always got Simon up dancing whenever they played Saltaire.  They paid a tribute to Simon by performing a tune from Ancora entitled Jig For Simon. They were recording the album and song at the time of hearing of his passing.

A cracking set with John Joe Kelly with an extended solo demonstrating just why he is so highly regarded amongst bodhrán players. All too soon it came to an end with an encore of a couple of waltzes Rosbeg and If Only a Little. A superb night. The Merch queue formed yet again. Let’s hope it isn’t another 8 years before we see them again in the area.

Next gig up at TLR is another debut. This time the very excellent Paul McKenna band on Sunday 13th February. I’ve seen them a few times in Scotland and they are really worth seeing.