I’m writing this having just returned from the latest Live at the Cottage gig and I’m still buzzing. Something unusual is happening in the heart of Suffolk and it’s something good. Those of us lucky enough to attend tonight’s gig had the privilege to see three very different acts in the most intimate of venues, and this intimacy seems to bring the very best out of those performing.
The night started with Roisin O’Hagan, a 15 year old singer songwriter playing a set full of tight, bright songs. For many in the audience it was a trip back to the worries and concerns that devilled us at that age, and in some cases continue to do so. There was real maturity in Roisin’s performance, whether it’s through her use of soft / loud dynamics in ‘Looking back at you’, or the subtle pace changes during ‘Danger’, it was clear she was happy to use more than key change and melody to add texture to her songs. The last song of her set, ‘Alive’, was brand new and all the more exciting for it, because it showed that Roisin is only going to get better and better. A talent to watch out for.
It took only a few chords of ‘My Little Hurricane’ for Bob Collum to let us know we were about to experience something very different. Suddenly we were transported away from Suffolk to the wide vistas of the southern US. I imagine that if Steve Earl and Elvis Costello had a love child, that child would produce music like this; smooth americana mixed with a little rattlesnake venom. There is an edge to Bob’s music and a intensity to his performance that was at odds with his laid back personality exposed between tracks, but it was this extra bite that made everything so interesting. ‘Famous Last Words’ and ‘Murder in Arkansas’ were for me, standout songs of his set, but it was with ‘Primer Grey’ that we got to hear the influence of living in Billericay on his songwriting, a perfect southern-fried kitchen sink drama. Great stuff.
When the guys at Wet Feet Records started ‘Live at the Cottage’, they promised to bring top quality grass roots musicians to our village, and you can’t get much better than Kal Lavelle. She opened with her latest single, ‘The Ocean,’ and within moments the audience knew that they were in the presence of a special talent.
When Kal Lavelle sings, she has the ability to draw you into her world; to get you to live and breathe every moment through the sheer emotional strength of her performance. During ‘Disaster“, you could have heard a pin drop as she sang a capella the words “It’s you, it’s you, I want to run home to, it’s you, it’s you I want to climb into bed with”; the anguish not just apparent in her voice and lyrics, but etched on her face and in her whole being. Kal is one of those special performers that allows you a glimpse into her soul as she plays, and whether she is singing of love, loss or the sex in between, her soul looks a beautiful place.
If you go to a Kal Lavelle gig, be prepared to join in. Kal doesn’t like to stand aloof at the front, but loves to engage and involve the audience. We were asked twice to provide backing vocals, on the stunning ‘Gypsy Blood‘ and the wonderful ‘Sing‘, cleverly drawing the audience and performer that much closer. We also got to hear a brand new song, ‘Get out of my Head’, which will be on Kal’s next EP. While Kal may not want to go back to collaboration projects with London’s up and coming rap artists, she seems to have absorbed some of their funkier rhythms which she has blended with real skill in this latest song.
At the end of the gig an encore was asked for and granted, with Kal playing her famous cover of ‘Crazy.’ It was the perfect end to a fantastic performance. I feel sorry for whoever is playing in September, because they have some night to follow.
Previous reviews: The Floe, Al Lindsay, Lucy Sampson