Category Archives: Gigs

Jason Isbell – Taft Theater – 15th June 2016

Every now and again you go to a gig where everything is just perfect, the venue is great for the event, the support act kick up a storm and the main act turn out to be even better than you’d hoped for. Wednesday night at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati was one of those nights!

Being a Brit, I was looking forward to seeing Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. To my shame I never saw him perform live in the UK, only seeing him on TV, most notably at the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony in London. He kicked off his set at the Taft with I Still Believe from his England Keep My Bones album, starting off the song on his own, with the Sleeping Souls joining him on stage one by one. The audience enthusiastically took up his offer to join in the chorus. He followed this with The Next Storm from his most recent album, Positive Songs for Negative People, another barn storming anthem. Apart from this great opening, the highlights for me were Peggy Sang the Blues, a song, he told us, about his grandmother giving him his first taste of whisky at the age of ten, and Dan’s Song, which he’d written for a recently departed friend. The one low point, for me anyway, was the audience participation slot with a guy being brought on from the crowd to play (badly) a harmonica solo! Other than that, it was a superb energetic set, which more than got the crowd warmed up for the main event.

I’ve seen Jason Isbell a couple of times prior to the Taft, firstly back in the UK, at the London Palladium in April 2012, supporting Ryan Adams. That night he performed a brilliant, but short, solo set. I then saw him a couple of years ago at the Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, that time with a full band. With it being a festival, again his set was far too short, so to say I was looking forward to seeing him perform a full set was a bit of an understatement!

And he didn’t disappoint!

The concert covered all eras of his career, with three songs from his time with the Drive-By Truckers. The best of these for me being Decoration Day. I saw the Drive-By Truckers a few weeks ago at Bogarts, and I have to say when Jason Isbell and his band rocked out, they were more than a match for the DBTs. The bulk of the set-list was taken from his two most recent albums, Southeastern and Something More Than Free, and that was fine by me. Southeastern for me is just a classic and one of my favorite albums and it was great to hear some of these songs performed live. Different Days and Stockholm were standouts for me, but Cover Me Up, just blew me away. The new songs sounded even better live, Hudson Commodore and Speed Trap Town being highlights for me. He also threw in Alabama Pines, a song I love.

For the encore, he performed Elephant and Flying Over Water from Southeastern, sandwiched between these two was Sing Me Back Home, a beautiful Merle Haggard song.

It was a great set, with a great band, including his wife Amanda Shires, and the show was enhanced by a brilliant set design and spectacular lighting.

Now the evening could have ended there and I would have left for home feeling more than satisfied, but I was lucky enough to meet Frank Turner after the show.

And what a great guy he is. He had time for everyone and was more than obliging, posing for photos and signing autographs. I found out he’d just been touring with Gogol Bordello, somewhat different to Jason Isbell!  Apart from talking about previous gigs he’s performed in my old town, he mentioned that he was returning to Cincinnati for the Midpoint Music Festival, how good is that?

So all in all, one superb night!







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Throwback Thursday – 23 February 1999 – Lindisfarne at Trinity Arts Centre, Gainsborough

I’ve never written a Throwback Thursday post before today. So for my first Throwback Thursday, I’m going back to 23 February 1999, at the Trinity Arts Centre in my hometown of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

I saw Lindisfarne quite a few times in the 1980s & 1990s, in their original line-up, but this was my first time seeing the reformed Lindisfarne. They were touring their comeback album, Here Comes the Neighbourhood, which featured a number of the original members, plus Billy Mitchell.

Lindisfarne - Here Comes the Neighbourhood











I remember the night well, as my son, wearing a Newcastle United top, got to meet Marty Craggs of the band, in the bar prior to the gig. He was kind enough to give us his autograph and managed to get Billy to sign as well.

As for the gig itself, it was up to the usual high standards, with songs from Here Comes the Neighbourhood, standing up well against well known classics, such as Run for Home, Lady Eleanor and Fog on the Tyne.

I’ve seen these guys so many times, in various line-ups, but every time they’ve never failed to deliver. I’m sure there’ll be some more posts on Lindisfarne in future Throwback Thursdays


Here’s a cool video of one of my favourite songs from Here Comes the Neighbourhood, Ghost in Blue Suede Shoes



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500 Miles to Memphis, Noah Smith, The Black Pearls – March 21st – Southgate House Revival

I paid another visit to the Southgate House Revival last Saturday and had yet another great night. I only went because I’d heard a track by the headliners, 500 Miles to Memphis, on the Cincy Music Spotlight a couple of weeks ago.

500 Miles to Memphis, Noah Smith


After spending twenty minutes trying to find somewhere to park, during which I decided for some reason to revert back to my British driving habits and turned into a street on the wrong side of the road!, I wandered to the Southgate House Revival to find a party going on outside the venue, which was pretty cool!

The first group on were the Black Pearls from Columbus, Ohio, who simply rocked! They did an awesome cover of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, which went down a storm.

Following the Black Pearls was Noah Smith. I’ve been going to gigs for over thirty years now and I haven’t seen such a powerful opening to a set in such a small venue as I did on Saturday night. One of the band members was using a chain and a box as an instrument, the percussionist was banging a chain on his, well I don’t know what he was banging it on, but it sounded great! There were obviously a few fans in the building and it seemed appropriate we were in the Southgate House Revival, as at times Noah Smith‘s set had the air of a preacher whipping his congregation into a storm!

I’m not of a religious persuasion, but he converted me, not to God, I can’t see that happening any day now, but to his music. Every song in the set was brilliant, the band were superb, particularly the multi-talented banjo player. It was a set I won’t forget in a long time and I look forward to seeing Noah Smith and his band in the near future.

I bought his self titled CD after the set and I was lucky enough to meet Noah Smith, who kindly signed the CD. I’ve played the CD a few times since and it’s a corker!

Noah Smith










As for 500 Miles to Memphis, I enjoyed their set, but they didn’t sound as clear as the earlier bands, which spoilt it somewhat for me. Not being familiar with their music and struggling to hear the lyrics clearly I didn’t get into their set as much. They did do a storming version of Bethen, Oh, which was the track I first heard on Cincy Music Spotlight and their Lap Steel Guitarist gave a great vocal performance on what I think was a Johnny Cash cover.

Again I bought their latest CD, Stand There and Bleed, and it’s a brilliant album. So I need to see 500 Miles to Memphis again and also check out their earlier stuff.

500 Miles to Memphis - Stand There and Bleed










CincyBeat has a review of Stand There and Bleed which tells you just how good this album is. There’s also an article on Noah Smith in CincyBeat that’s well worth a read.

Well I have to say I’m loving the music scene in Cincinnati, wherever I’ve been I’ve tried to support local music. Nights like this make it all worthwhile, a great night’s entertainment, two bands I want to see again and two great CDs to add to my collection! And I love the Southgate House Revival, what a great venue!

And to finish off, here’s Bethen, Oh, from 500 Miles to Memphis



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American Originals at Cincinnati Music Hall – What a show!

Well I was right to be a “tad excited”, as I said in one of my earlier posts. The American Originals concert at Cincinnati Music Hall more than lived up to my expectations.

American Originals


First of all a word about the venue, what a building Cincinnati Music Hall is!









We arrived there for the doors opening at 1 pm, which gave us a little time to have a wander round the building, and it’s magnificent. We’ll definitely be returning for a tour of the building. We had a look at the timeline, which was fascinating, particularly the list of artists who have performed there.

Another reason for arriving early was to catch Hickory Robot, who were playing in the foyer as we arrived. We caught them towards the end of their set performing a great version of The Band‘s classic, The Weight.









Our seats were up in the Gallery,and I was somewhat worried about the view when I purchased the tickets, but my fears were unfounded, we had a great view. The set was interesting with a carpet, with a chair and a lamp at each end, with a bust of Stephen Collins Foster, in the middle.

Looking around the audience, it was interesting to see that at the age of 53, I was one of the younger members of the audience! I’m not sure whether that was due to the show being on a Sunday afternoon or whether the American Originals didn’t appeal to the younger generation, which would be a great shame. I have to say this is the first concert I’ve been to where I’ve heard an oxygen tank, three rows behind, being used throughout the performance! Fortunately, it was only noticeable during the interval and the breaks between the songs. I  would have hated to ask the user to turn it off!

As for the show itself, where do I begin, it was excellent from start to finish.

The first half opened with a rousing version of the Battle Cry of Freedom. There were many highlights in the first half of the show ,Over the Rhine‘s take on ,Why No One to Love,was beautiful, with Karen Berquist sounding lovely. Dom Flemons performing Old Folks Home was wonderful. Mind you I’m a big fan of Dom Flemons, so there maybe a slight bit of favoritism there!. Rosanne Cash just blew me away with Beautiful Dreamer, she also performed one of her father’s songs, which for the life of me I can’t remember the title of! The first half finished with another highlight,  Aoife O’Donovan singing Amazing Grace, ably supported by the Comet Bluegrass Allstars.

The second half had even more high spots! Dom Flemons performing Ring, Ring de Banjo was superb. Joe Henry, reclaiming the Love me Tender tune, for Aura Lee, was another high spot. But for me, Rosanne Cash, singing My Old Kentucky Home was the highlight of the old show. I had a tear in my eye and lump in my throat at the end of this and I’m a Brit who’s only just moved to Cincinnati, god know’s what it did for the Kentuckians in the audience!

The show ended with a rip-roaring version of Camptown Races, with all the performers on stage, contributing to a fitting finale. In fact, they performed it again for the encore.

It was an absolutely superb afternoon’s entertainment. I’m no musical expert, but the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, aka Cincy Pops, sounded incredible. I’m afraid I can’t remember the names of all the soloists, only the conductor, John Morris Russell, who did a fine job, not only of conducting the orchestra, but also of hosting the event. One thing’s for sure, this won’t be my last visit to Cincinnati Music Hall and I definitely want to see the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra again!

One last comment, and this will do my “street cred” no good whatsoever, there were buses outside waiting to take people back to their old folks home! That never happens at the Southgate House Revival!


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All the Girls are Complicated!

I came across a great video on my Facebook feed on Friday. It’s the first ever video by one my favorite female singers, Laura Cantrell. The video is of Laura’s All the Girls are Complicated song from her No Way There From Here album. It features Laura herself and her daughter, Isabella. Check this out, it’s great!

I’ve got two of Laura Cantrell‘s albums in my collection. I downloaded the No Way There From Here album last year. It’s a great album which opens with the All the Girls are Complicated, but it’s the second song, Starry Skies which is my favorite. Having said that, all the songs are great! It’s one of those albums which I play in it’s entirety from start to finish, which in these days of the iTunes shuffle is a bit of a rarity! I’m just listening to the album as I type this, and another favorite as just come on, Can’t Wait. Now that’s an ideal song to type to, I’m sure my typing speed tripled as that song was playing!

Laura Cantrell - No Way There From Here










The other Laura Cantrell album I have is Kitty Wells Dresses – Songs of the Queen of Country Music, which I have on CD.

Laura Cantrell - Kitty Wells Dresses










This holds a cherished place in my collection, as I purchased it after seeing Laura Cantrell and her band live at the legendary Ernest Tubbs Record Shop in Nashville, Tennessee.









My wife, Tara, and I, were in Nashville for the Americana Music Festival and came across this gig by accident. I’m so glad we did, as it was one of the highlights of the festival, which is saying something, as there were so many great performances that week.










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American Originals at Cincinnati Music Hall

Okay, I have to confess, I’m just a tad excited. Yesterday I got tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance of American Originals at Cincinnati Music Hall.

American Originals


So why so excited? I hear you say

Well, how about this for a line-up:

Rosanne Cash – One of my favorite artists, who’s album The River and the Thread was one of my top ten albums of 2014. I briefly saw her on stage at the end of the Americana Awards show at the Ryman Auditorium  in September 2013 and have been wanting to see her ever since.


Americana Awards 2013

Dom Flemons – Formerly with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who I saw when he was still a member, at the City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds, England in October 2012.  I also saw Dom Flemons late last year when he compered Pokey Lafarge‘s Central Time Tour, which was one of my top ten gigs of last year.

Pokey Lafarge Central Time poster

Over The Rhine – I’ve not yet seen Over The Rhine, but I understand they’re a Cincinnati institution, so it’ll be cool to catch one of my new home town bands.

Aoife O’Donovan – I’ve heard her a few times on Bob Harris‘s Radio 2 show and I’ve been wanting to see her live for quite a while now.

The other two acts on the bill are the Comet Bluegrass Allstars and Joe Henry. I’ve not heard of either of these, so a bit of research is required.

All these acts are going to be performing with the world-famous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

The show will be based around the songs of Stephen Foster, who reputedly was America’s first great songwriter. Being a Brit, who’s only been living in the States for just over a year, and in Cincinnati for four months, I’m not fully au fait with Stephen Foster, but being a music fan, I’m obviously aware of the Great American Songbook. I’m also aware of the black face minstrel tradition for which Stephen Foster is known for, as during my childhood back in the UK, there used to be a light entertainment program, on the BBC, called the Black and White Minstrel Show. The show was very popular and ran for 20 year and won a Golden Rose at Montreux for Best Light Entertainment program. However, after numerous complaints it finally was pulled in 1978.

This show introduced me to many of Stephen Foster‘s songs, including Oh Susanna!,Camptown Races,Swanee River & My Old Kentucky Home amongst others. So whilst the manner used, on the Black and White Minstrel Show, of showcasing the songs was abhorrent, it did contribute greatly to my love of music, and Americana in particular.

One added bonus of going on Sunday is that I get to see Hickory Robot again, as they’re providing the pre-concert entertainment. I saw them at the CincyGroove Music Festival last year, where they were excellent, so it will be good to see them again.

Another reason for the excitement is that this will be my first visit to the Cincinnati Music Hall. I’ve been in Cincinnati for four months and have been waiting for the right concert before making my first visit, and the American Originals fits the bill perfectly!



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Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo – From Nashville to Oxford

Since I’ve moved to Georgia from the UK, one of the few habits I’ve retained has been my weekly listen to the Bob Harris Sunday show on BBC Radio 2, courtesy of the BBC iPlayer. It was while listening to last Sunday’s show (April 27th 2014) that I heard him play Aretha Franklin‘s Do Right Woman performed by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo.

Hearing this brought back memories of them performing a brilliant version of this at St John the Evangelist Church in Oxford, back in October 2013.  This was the closing number to what had been an excellent evening’s entertainment. The evening hadn’t started too well as I’d got drenched walking to the church (walking to the church, now there’s a sentence I didn’t expect to be writing on my blog!). My mood was soon brightened by the support act Chris T-T, who if I recall sang a couple of songs about Winnie the Pooh. Anyone who sings about Winnie the Pooh is alright with me!

As to Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, the acoustics in the church, enhanced the songs they performed, with occasional lightening flashes through the stained glass windows adding to the atmosphere. They played a few songs from their latest album Dear River, the highlights for me being the title track, which they opened with, and Letters. They also performed a couple of soundtracks, my favorite being the theme from Wallander,Nostalgia

For an the encore, Chris T-T, took the Frank Turner role, in Fields of June
and a damn fine job he did too! The evening finished with the aforementioned Do Right Woman, and Emily Barker more than did justice to this classic.

I was lucky enough to meet Emily and the members of the Red Clay Halo after the gig, and they kindly signed a copy of the setlist!

Emily Barker - Setlist 22 Oct.2013

So I’ve mentioned Oxford, where does Nashville fit in? Well during the previous month, I was lucky enough to attend the Americana Music Festival, with my then fiance, and now wife, Tara. During the festival, the BBC hosted a BBC Introducing Stage at the Hard Rock Cafe, and one of the acts was Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo. With all due respect to the other two acts who performed that evening, Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, were by far and away the best act.



And here’s a YouTube video of Disappear from that very set

However, as good as they were, the highlight of the evening was getting to meet the compere for the evening,Whispering” Bob Harris himself. It was on his show that I first heard Emily Barker, and she is the latest of so many artists that I’ve been introduced to as a result of listening to Bob Harris‘s radio shows. For more years than I care to remember I’ve been listening to his shows and to meet him in person was great, and what was even better was that he was such a nice person, taking time out at the end of the evening to pose for photographs and sign autographs.




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