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.

Dec 14 2021

A Bright New Year: The Melrose Quartet

Sunday 12th December 2021

Photographs and review by Keith Belcher

A Bright New Year with The Melrose Quartet. Sheffield based Melrose Quartet are Jess & Richard Arrowsmith and Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. All dressed in festive finery and sweltering on what was a very unseasonably warm night, contributing on vocals to the glorious harmonies and between them playing violin, viola, melodeon, bazouki and guitar. The room was bedecked with Christmas lights and huge baubles as well as a Christmas tree on stage left.

Hilary and Ron welcomed everyone with what has become a traditional Live Room Christmas Show tradition with copious amounts of free sherry, mince pies and chocolates. The show was a sell out albeit restricted to all seating in deference to social distancing and audience and venue concerns.

Our “leader” was making his TV announcement midway through set 1 but the audience was, as usual, way ahead of him. Almost everyone turned up wearing face masks and I have no doubt they were also double and triple jabbed as well. Despite the precautions you really couldn’t get a more Chrismassy feel to a show than that produced by the soaring harmonies of The Melrose Quartet.

No one would deny there was a party atmosphere and there were also games and quizzes on the night. On the Christmas tree at the side of the stage were 6 red and 6 white baubles with numbers on. These were selected throughout the show by randomly picked audience members. These were for the Rudolph variations. 12 versions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but done to totally different tunes. A lot harder than it sounds. The audience had to identify the tune. I admit to being abysmal at said task but one group (conferring was allowed and took place , no one will deny that) scored 10 out of 12 and won a Chocolate Santa. A similar prize was given to the most memorable festive woollies.

The majority of the nights music was from the new CD THE RUDOLPH VARIATIONS , some traditional Sheffield Carols and modern classics by the likes of Si Kahn and Robb Johnson. They did stress that it wasn’t a CD full of Rudolph versions. The encore was a very rousing We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Let’s all hope for that and a Bright New Year in 2022.

It was great of the band to pay tribute to Ron and Hilary and the staff of TLR for keeping the faith and keeping the music alive during the last 2 years. I would like to also thank Ron and Hilary for continuing to do what they do so well. We are very lucky to have the club.

Dec 2 2021

Son of Town Hall

Sunday 28th November 2021

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Sunday 28th November 2021, The Live Room, Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire. The very welcome return visit of the intrepid mariners that are Son Of Town Hall, aka Englishman George Ulysses Brown (Ben Parker) and American Josiah Chester Jones (David Berkeley). Playing their first live show together in 2 years they went down a storm( probably not the most apt or best phrase for mariners!), clad in Victorian garb, singing in sibling type harmony with great guitar work and stories to match. Some dates left on their tour. Catch them if you can https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/son-of-town-hall

Dec 2 2021

Lady Maisery

Friday 26th November 2021

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Friday 26th November 2021, The Live Room, Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire. A return visit of Lady Maisery, usually a trio but owing to Hazel Askew coming down with a bug (thankfully NOT that one!) we had a duo performance from Rowan Rheingans and Hannah James. It was only on Thursday evening that plans had to be altered and a decision made to put on a duo show. Obviously a stressful time for all concerned. Full marks to Rowan and Hannah for rapidly creating and rehearsing a set list which comprised not only some vintage and forthcoming Lady Maisery material but collaborations on both Rowan and Hannah’s solo catalogues. They are both very busy outside the Lady Maisery performances. Judging from the audience responses this probably unique show worked really well and was greatly enjoyed by both artists and audience. Get well soon Hazel and well done Rowan and Hannah.

Nov 17 2021

The Breath plus support Boo Sutcliffe

Sunday 14th November 2021

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Sunday 14th November 2021 The Live Room Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire. The Breath: Ríoghnach Connolly, vocals, flute and Stuart McCallum, vocals, guitars and some electronic wizardry, with support Boo Sutcliffe.

Another excellent all seated restricted capacity crowd that had been sold out well in advance of the night. Superb opening from Huddersfield resident Boo Sutcliffe leading into The Breath.

There is an Irish word that sums up the night. I’ll quote that and list some of the comments on various Facebook pages and the pictures will speak for themselves. The music was superb and Ríoghnach had the most wicked laugh I have heard for many a year. Craic (Irish, noun) pronounced krak: fun and entertainment, especially good conversation and company.

Comments lifted from Facebook. The Breath: Amazing welcome, fantastic live sound, wall of fame, top quality banter! Well Done Saltaire! Thanks for having us Ron & Hilary!

Steve Lacey: Fekin awesome gig last night! Amazing voice, fantastic guitar playing🙂 Agree the live sound FOH was class. Pauline Booth: Thanks for a wonderful show and can’t wait to see you again soon! Ali Bassett: Truly awesome gig last night, thank you so much for the beautiful music, those lucky Belgians are in for a treat 😁Here’s hoping one day you’ll get your photos up on that soft focus hall of fame…😉 Thanks also to the organisers, first time at the Live rooms – what a great venue & live sound.

Rose Bowman: Such a great evening. Amazing music. Lovely to meet you. Mike Latham: Sunday evening was another visit to The Live Room in Saltaire to witness a new duo to us – The Breath. No doubt we shall see them again, a roaring success with the audience.

Pauline Booth: It was a brilliant night! Boo Sutcliffe: The faceless singer. I had a blast last night supporting The Breath – who were superb. Singing to a full-house of attentive music-lovers is a joy; you could hear a pin drop all night, except for the howls of laughter at Ríoghnach’s stream of consciousness and tall tales. Thanks to Ron and Hilary and all at The Live Room at Saltaire. They were kind and sensible (for these times) hosts. TLR: Thanks for a great set Boo!

Nov 9 2021

Chris Helme

Sunday 7th November 2021

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

Sunday 7th November 2021, The Live Room, Saltaire: Chris Helme, solo with one acoustic guitar, making his long overdue TLR debut. Being heard singing in the bath got him his first line up in the band Chutzpah, having heard his voice I can see why. Best known for his adventures with the band The Seahorses between 1996 and 1999, he auditioned for that job after being seen and heard busking outside Woolworths in York. During that time he and the band supported the likes of Oasis, U2 and The Rolling Stones. Between 1999 and 2009 he performed solo and with The Yards. Since 2009 he has been mainly a solo performer.

I admit knowing next to nothing about the indie scene of the 90’s but I was very impressed with Chris’s performance at TLR. During the sound check it was very noticeable just what a great voice he had. I can’t recall many people having that powerful a voice and I don’t mean the type of histrionics favoured by The Voice, X Factor etc. While setting up Chris requested a small table on stage a la the late Dave Allen, he favoured glasses of wine and water rather than Dave’s whiskey. He didn’t actually tell any jokes about the Pope but did sit on a tall stool and sip his drink in between songs and anecdotes in a very laid back manner.

He is a very natural raconteur, having the audience in stitches with his between song stories about all sorts, not just the song intros but his various office jobs. He could just have easily have performed a stand-up routine on a comedy night judging from the laughs and excellent delivery. We did get a few seconds of a George Formby version of Love Is The Law, much singing along from the audience.

Two sets, opening with Hello from Seahorses times. Songs performed on the night were a mixture of The Seahorses and The Yards as well as much of his own solo material . There was also a liberal peppering of covers of The Faces, Paul Simon , Nina Simone and the Doors. A stomping version of The Doors Five To One segueing into Be Your Husband as the encore, the audience being fully engaged in clapping and chorus duties. A different atmosphere in The Live Room tonight with a relatively younger audience than is usual, many making their first visit. I don’t think it was just the songs and his history that drew his fans to The Live Room, excellent though his performance was. He seemed to have an astonishing rapport with the crowd knowing many of them and it took an age for him to get to the Merch desk, so many wanted to chat to him. I for one, really hope we see him at TLR again in the near future.

Nov 3 2021

Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage

Sunday 31st October 2021

Photos by Keith Belcher

The second show of the weekend was another night of beautiful music from one of our favourite duos, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage from Cambridgeshire. Superb songs harmonies and musicianship all delivered through one microphone created a haunting soundscape. Just signed to the legendary Topic Records, keep a look out for their new album, due for release next April.

Oct 31 2021

The Little Unsaid

Plus support from The Silver Reserve

Friday 29th October 2021

Photos and review by Keith Belcher

The Little Unsaid are:

John Elliott (guitar, keyboards, main vocals)

Mariya Brachkova (synths, keys & backing vocals)

Alison D’Souza (strings)

Tim Heymerdinger (drums & backing vocals)

A superb short but stunning opening set from local songsmith The Silver Reserve. Very intriguing lyrics that caught many of the crowds attention. I heard and saw a few people discussing his lyrics after his set. It was difficult to believe that The Little Unsaid had not done a real, live , in front of people gig for 2 years. If this was warming up then the crowds later on in the tour are going to be really blown away. To me they were firing on all cylinders throughout. One of the liveliest shows I’ve seen at TLR. Catch them if you can.