Country Music People December 2017 - Page 52

livereviews THE SECRET SISTERS The Union Chapel, London 6 November 2017 The Union Chapel is my favourite venue for live music. It’s atmospheric, the perfect size for an intimate gig, and where else can you sit and watch your favourite sister duo with a mug of hot chocolate and a Tunnock’s teacake? With one of the years best albums behind them, The Secret Sisters’ comeback from the brink of bankruptcy was assured. They were also happy to talk about it and how grateful they are for being able to be back on the road again when they thought they’d be giving up a career in music. Their honesty and down-home charm impressed and endeared them to the audience as much as their perfect sibling harmonies. Laura, in particular, is hilarious. She knows that she might be talking too much and, indeed, if they had cut down the chat they probably could have fitted in a few more songs, but it was that that made the night so special. She shared her dating disasters, childhood memories, and even joked that at a bluegrass festival as youngsters they heard “the same song over and over again but with different lyrics”, before playing a Bill Monroe song. They didn’t seem as though they were just out to plug their recent album and it might have even been nice to have heard more from it but they did include Tennessee River Runs Low and You Don’t Own Me Anymore which, unsurprisingly, they dedicated to their previous record company. They also included material from their T-Bone Burnett-produced debut and sang several songs from their second album which they had not previously supported by touring the UK. A standout amongst these was the Brandi Carlile cowrite Black & Blue with its 60s girl group feel. More than once, Laura and Lydia commented on how The Union Chapel is their favourite venue in the world and rarely were a venue BRANDY CLARK Royal College Of Music, Manchester 22 October 2017 As a country music fan then it is hard not to be eternally grateful for the recent resurgence of female artists who write and perform their own material and don’t sing about pick ups, tight black dresses, ice cold beer and the intolerable pain of seeing your paramour from the other side of the bar in the arms of a rival similarly wearing denim and a Stetson. Brandy Clark is such an artist with other artists such as Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert. Clark, backed by Miles Aubrey on acoustic guitar and Vanessa McGowan on upright bass, strode onto the stage and worked her way through her last two albums with a few new tracks scattered here and there. Hold My Hand is an arresting place to start and may be her signature ballad. A tale of two former lovers meeting whilst he’s in the company of his new love. His new love gives the advice to hold 52 cmp - DECEMBER 2017 more suited to the heavenly voices of these two sisters. The Secret Sisters will be returning to our shores early next year for a full tour and you’re unlikely to find better harmonies or a more entertaining evening of roots music (and comedy). Kelly Gregory her hand to reaffirm that she isn’t “just a soft place to land”. Coupled to a devastating tune this song highlights Clark’s talent to tell a story with so much information in so few words. A true gift. Love Can Go To Hell has resonance with her thirty plus age group audience. That familiar sense of loss and pain from failed affairs and the acceptance of its vicissitudes. Many of her songs deal with real lives, their mundane struggles and the reality that you have to roll with the punches because paying the bills, feeding the kids or pouring a customer’s cup of coffee is the priority. Her clear strong voice, so simply backed, was sufficient given the quality of all the songs. She has the gift for melody with a country pop sensibility. Highlights were numerous but The Day She Got Divorced (covered by Reba McEntire in 2010) has its own story about an absent (soon to be ex) husband who drinks her alimony whilst she takes comfort in the arms of her boss. This is despite his bedroom lies knowing that housework and hungry children await her after her assignation. New songs included an outtake from her Big Day In A Small Town album that ended up as a single in July called You’re Drunk. The lyrics tell the story, maybe familiar to a woman who’s been dumped only to get a visit from her former lover in the early hours! A bass introduction followed by a vocal is distinctive and rhythmic and then she invited the audience to join in on the chorus as this hilarious yet depressing scenario is played out. She signed off with Stripes before re- emerging for two encores including a new song - Apologies. She describes many of her songs as ‘left of center’, which is clear and she comes across as an undemonstrative serious songwriter now getting increasingly used to the spotlight being on her. The whole set of 17 songs was a joy, but I must complain that it was disappointingly brief at 65 minutes. Tony Ives