SaraBeth & Glen Mitchell Culpeppers
Always a pleasure to return for a live show at Culpeppers, with a warm welcome and a parking space guaranteed! The walls as ever plastered with pictures and posters of country stars from all eras as well as the odd shelf or two of authentic country boots. With fairly lights hanging from the ceiling it already looked like a party was going to kick off for the homecoming King and the adopted Queen. With the last rays of a relatively hot late summers day fading away, Culpeppers had the feel of hot sweaty club about it.
Normally when you start off as a writer they say “write about what you know”, but for opener Jodie McKay I’d say the opposite was true. By all means, write them as a catharsis but some of the songs in her set tonight seemed so personal and intense that it seemed to take its toll to actually perform them. She was on much safer ground and sang with greater confidence with songs that were not personal “Keep It A Fantasy” being the best of the night although a new song “Let’s Start Living” her relatively upbeat closing song ran it a close second.
For SaraBeth and Glen it was a second jaunt back to the UK this year playing at venues that were missed out last time round including a first trip to Butlins! The format as earlier in the year was a sort of "Songwriters round with each alternating two songs in a setlist free environment making each show unique as the next song was as likely to be suggested by the audience as it was by either of the performers.
The opening batch of tunes were a statement of intent as to how the evening would unfold, SaraBeth’s two included the big sounding “You Rock My Rodeo” even with Glen only on acoustic guitar and a version of the new single “Something About It”, typically upbeat about a kiss with SaraBeth breaking out the shakers early. For Glen, there was an impressive new song “She Kind Of Got Away”, as well as the more familiar “Amazing Again” with SaraBeth adding the additional backing vocals to superb effect. Throughout the night each would add additional harmonies that would give each chorus a lift where required.
Each song comes with a bit of background, forinstance “Running Out Of Lipstick” was a Gwen Sebastian ( Miranda Lambert backing singer recently seen touring the UK ) co write that SaraBeth wisely kept back for herself. “Live Forever”, previously only played once or twice was an interesting new diversion sounding less immediately poppy and hinting at a possible new direction. Glen’s second batch of tunes included a cover of Blackhawks “I Sure Can Smell The Rain” which suited his voice perfectly and his own song “Broken”.
I’m not sure there is anything that can prepare you for SaraBeth's “Girl Scout Cookie Monster”, it gets the audience singing is all I can say, however top marks to SaraBeth and Glen for an excellent Dixie Chicks cover of “Earl”. This was an evening where no subject was out of bounds, which is surely the strength of the genre, so after covering off a song about the murder of an albeit abusive husband some of SaraBeth’s next choices included “Right The First Time” a slower song about coming from a split family, the uplifting “Possible” about having no regrets and the wonderful chart country of “Nowhere With You”. Glen’s choices were equally all over the spectrum, “Therapy”, the lighter side of marriage counseling at one end and a quite breathtaking “You Remembered My Name” at the other. The latter, quite possibly one of the best yet most heartachingly sad songs to listen to, as it describes the moment a dementia patient, in this case his Mum, fleetingly tunes in with reality before disappearing again into her own world. For anyone who has ever had to go through this, the details of the song will strike a chord, it may not go on to be a Billboard number One but this was song writing and performing of the highest standard that you will see anywhere.
To lift the mood a little, Glen was able to sing How Babies Are Made” leaving SaraBeth to close the main set with an excellent version of “First Cut Is The Deepest” before launching into the angry break up song “I’m So Sick Of It” to end on a high. One final encore on what was a quite outstanding evening saw Jodie McKay come back to the stage to join Glen and SaraBeth for “Country Roads” with the whole of Culpeppers providing backing vocals.
A splendid evening all round if something of an emotional roller coaster, with everyone leaving with a broad smile on their face, you cannot ask for more than that.