Hot weather and world cup football on the telly aren’t particularly conducive to promoting gig attendance. So a big hurrah to those who turned out to see some local musicians in the intimate surroundings of Shawlands’ Glad Cafe.
John Hinshelwood has just released his excellent third album, Lowering The Tone and tonight (accompanied by guitarist Tim Black and bassist Ed McGlone) was a welcome opportunity to hear many of the songs from the album live albeit in a stripped down fashion along with a few selections from his previous albums. The opening Dangerous Journey (from Shattered Pleasures) immediately introduced us to the care free relaxed seventies LA vibe that Hinshelwod captures so well with the acoustic guitars strumming us along a desert highway, a feeling that was maintained on Radio Angel and A Few Shallow Moments. The band took a side step into Western Swing, no mean feat for a three piece (with Hinshelwood lamenting the lack of a fiddler here) on Tell Me Something with Black delivering a blistering solo (despite Hinshelwood’s “not too fast” aside to him as they launched into the song). American Lifestyle is one of Lowering The Tone’s highlights and tonight it proved to be one of the highlights of the set. With Black on mandolin it recalled Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road in its stompalong country delivery with an edge and had the requisite clapping and foot stomping from the audience.
While guitarist Black had the opportunity to shine on several of the songs with his Ry Cooder like slippery tone excelling on the JJ Cale groove of No Hiding Place (mixing too many musical metaphors here I know) bassist McGlone was a rock, anchoring the band and perplexing the audience when he strapped on his Chapman Stick, a wondrous looking contraption that offered depth and a woody warmth to the bass playing on several of the songs.
They had great fun duelling each other on the crowd-pleasing cover of Junior Brown’s My Wife Thinks You’re Dead whith Hinshelwood giving a fine deadpan delivery while the closing song, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s Tracks Of My Tears featured some very fine harmony vocals and a fine performance from Hinshelwood.
Support act Jack Law is a new name to Blabber’Smoke but it turns out he’s something of a veteran having been in a band called Greenmantle back in the seventies who appeared on a couple of occasions at the legendary Apollo. Now silver haired (and resembling Charlie Rich at times) Law has revived Greenmantle but tonight he was performing under his own name accompanied by Dougie Harrison on guitar and J.C. Dante on bass and mouth harp with the pair introduced by Law as “The No Spring Chickens.” Law’s roots in the past were evident from the opening when he offered a song written some years ago as a protest against the Iraq war. Powerful and polemic Law delivered it with gusto, veins a popping. He also railed against the Beeching cuts on Railroad Man, a bit late one might think but as he explained the railroad network has never recovered from this sixties butchery and the song itself was a fine railroad ballad with some neat slide guitar work from Harrison. There was more protest on As Any Fool Would Know which targeted the late and unlamented Maggie Thatcher recalling Lindisfarne in their heyday while the melody borrowed from Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere. Away from protest Law proved to be a fine writer with his paean to middle age romance, Heartache Ain’t For The Young a tremendous song with lyrics worthy of Loudon Wainwright III. With another country stomper delivered again on mandolin with some fine harp playing from J.C. on Old Glass Jar Law proved he still has plenty to deliver.
I think that Southside Americana is taking a summer break but Blabber’n’Smoke will post any news of forthcoming shows as they come in on the wire.