Danni Nicholls Rob Corcoran - St Pancras Old Church
Sitting like an oasis in the urban sprawl of a desert that is the middle of Kings Cross lies St Pancras Old Church, standing proud on its own little mount surrounded by estate housing. It’s a proper working church much like the Union Chapel, only much smaller, and the faint odour of recent services hangs in the air as you enter. Tonight, we have gathered for the launch of the new album from Danni Nicholls, “The Vintage TV Recordings”. The launch is in conjunction with the music charity Nordoff Robbins and Vintage TV themselves and hosted by Time Out’s Ray Jones.
Support duties fell to Rob Corcoran, hailing from Ireland, with a hat, a harmonica and a trusty guitar he kicked things off with “Sake Of A Song”, his accent clearly audible while singing. Joking about being “back in mass” he then went on to the faster paced “Downtime Waltz”, complete with a neat harmonica break. The stage was then filled with two thirds of Rob’s normal backing band the “Necessary Evils”, Hjordis Moon Badford on cajon and backing vocals and Basia Bartz on fiddle. The trio then set about a delightfully dark ballad, “Black Hearted Man”. The evening was a mixture of new songs and some from his EP “The Heart The Head and The Long Since Dead”. The next song was one that had its origins, playing to an empty bar on Barnet, “You Believed In Me” had a very nice turn of phrase. Rob was a most genial host and managed to strike just the right balance between humour and sadness.
The next pair of songs were both excellent, “Closed Door and The Handle Is Gone”, and the break up song “Hurt Me To”, the latter, coming with with the harmonica setting the scene and a great fiddle solo from Basia. Never was the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy better exemplified than with the next song, trailed as being about the perils of falling for a Brazilian barmaid, who for lyrical expediency had her nationality changed to Mexican, with lines like “it was love at first pint” the room was smiling. Gradually the tale took a darker turn, as drink ruined the relationship, “It Tore Us Apart” was an excellent slow burner of a song.
Closing with “Trainsongs” written in the wake of the deaths of Johnny Cash & June Carter, it was a most pleasing set. Some support artists can overestimate their appeal but Rob seemingly underestimated his, he could easily have sold double the numbers of cd’s he brought with him such was the impact he made.
The reason we were gathered, was for the launch of “The Vintage TV Sessions” by Danni Nicholls. Her last record, the excellent “Mockingbird Lane” rightfully garnered a nomination as “Album of the Year” at the recent Americana awards. Normally seen playing either solo or with her trusted sidekick Max Milligan, tonights’ show saw additional support in the shape of drums, keyboards and stand up bass guitar. They certainly provided some oomph for the opening “Long Road Home”. Dressed in a suitably country looking shirt and boots she was clearly enjoying every second, and the next song “Let Somebody Love You” immediately gave us a chance to savour Danni’s excellent trademark vocals.
“Beautifully Gone” had all the swagger of a jazz standard, once again showcasing Danni’s vocal abilities, while “Hey There Sunshine” was suitably upbeat, with some excellent work from Max on guitar. Basia Bartz returned to the stage to provide additional fiddle for my personal favourite, “Feel Again”, although the next song “Beautifully Broken” was not far behind. The full band really came to the fore on songs like “Between Forever and Goodbye” however another highlight of the evening was when Danni just played solo on “Leaving Tennessee”.
There was one cover on the night, a Randy Newman song, “Guilty” which had a real bluesy gospel feel to it, ideally suited to the surroundings. Audience participation came into play on “Where The Blue Train Goes” with the assembled mass taking their part on the call and response section. The inconvenience of a broken string came at just the right moment as a guitar was not needed for “Looking Up At The Moon” and gave Rob Corcoran a chance to retrieve his guitar to help the show continue. The main set closed with another pair of communal songs, “Back To Memphis”, and excellent audience humming for “A Little Redemption”.
The encores saw the rousing country song, “Travelling Man” and the traditional set closer “Goodnight Moon”. An excellent album launch, will be followed by a UK tour with Shaking Stevens whose new Americana record Is also well worth investigating, it is a million miles from “Green Door”. One hopes it will raise Danni’s profile higher, she certainly deserves it.