Seth Ennis, Catherine McGrath, Wildwood Kin, Robert Vincent - Bush Hall
Introduced by Bob Harris in front of, it must be said one of the most fervent crowds of the whole of Country Music Week it was time for another "Under the Apple Tree" show. These shows are nearly always a blend of something you do know, and something you may like but that you will probably not hear anywhere else otherwise.
Robert Vincent has been on the #TeamW21 watch list for some time so it was a pleasure to finally get to see him if only for a scandalously brief set. Looking surprisingly younger than some of his publicity shots had previously painted him he had been part of C2C 2016 when the UTAT sessions were held in Building 6. With an "all star band" of Jim Kimberley on drums who would provide an effortless backbeat the whole set, Etienne Girard on double bass familiar from his work with the Parr Street team and the ever brilliant CJ Hillman on slide and electric guitar he proceeded to get the party started, It was CJ's slide guitar that came to the fore during "November" with its "Don't Blame Me" chorus, Robert with an almost tight lipped delivery style that was highly effective and impressive continued to win over a number of new converts where I was sitting.If the opener was a rocker then "Burns Like Cotton In the Fields" was more classic country with Robert becoming a country crooner.
To give a real cross section of his material the next song was the faster paced "The Passage". The audience were really appreciating what they were hearing so it was with some dismay that we heard that the next song would be his last. Having only just found him it seemed criminally early to whisk him away again! This week has shown the high regard with which Tom Petty was held by musicians, for the final song, it saw CJ move to electric guitar for a faithful and indeed excellent rendition of "Free Falling". It's taken a long time to find Robert we will be back very soon.
Wildwood Kin come off the back of an exciting year, releasing a debut album "Turning Tides", a tour supporting Ward Thomas and slots supporting and playing with Seth Lakeman. They are lovely people who sing with beautiful harmonies and who went down an absolute storm on the night. Their early songs like "Warrior Daughter" were driven by woolly hatted Meghann's rhythmic drumming and are in many way soundscapes rather than your conventional verse chorus structure. It was only when they went toward a more common format for "Steady Your Heart" that their true charms became were revealed. Something of a reviewers nightmare as at any moment any member may take lead vocals or become the focus of the song instrumentally. Once attuned to their sound though it does become a joy, the swathes of instrumentation and vocals that made "On and On", which dealt with eternity, were a high spot. They were to close with their latest single "Taking A Hold" which was another aural assault of rhythm and harmony, the best though was yet to come!
Catherine McGrath first came to our attention at the first Under The Apple Tree show at Cadogan Hall, seemingly a raw talent with some Taylor Swift covers to bulk out her set she seems to have progressed immeasurably since then. she's nabbed a number of key London support slots with major artists and now exudes confidence. So sad to say that a lot of her efforts were drowned out tonight an overly loud drummer, or a sound man who did not see the need to up her vocal in the mix. The set opened with some familiar tunes "Hell Would Have To Freeze Over" and "Last Time" and then with the start of "Cinderella" performed a capella we finally got to hear the joy of Catherines voice. Things seemed to clear up a little bit for the excellent single "Talk Of This Town" about her chasing the dream, and then "Just In Case" opened with a thundering drum.beat once again. With a new album next year to look forward to next year, she unveiled a very strong new song "Though It Was Going To Be Me" which had some nice lyrical touches to it and was the best song of her set tonight. She closed with "Wild" and was charming company with her sometimes bewilderingly long song introductions but like Wildwood Kin for her best performance of the night we would have to wait a little longer.
Seth Ennis is from Georgia via Nashville and tonight he arrived via the Royal Albert Hall where he was doing his day job providing support for the Little Big Town tour. His arrival on stage lifted the roof as his guitarist beckoned everyone to stand. With a band all dressed in black they got things rocking immediately.
Things slowed a little with "Fast Girl" and immediately the audience were providing the "oh Oh"'s. This was a set that was super paced as there was still a lot to squeeze in, the band were temporarily dispensed with while Seth took to the piano for the song covered by Tyler Moore "Our Town". He apologised for having run out of copies of his EP Maybelle and promised to come back soon with more copies. His guitarist returned to the stage for a song that got a huge reception "Think and Drive". There was time for a new song "Look At You", and time for a drink while singing it! The set closed with the song that changed his life "Woke Up In Nashville", when it got to the chorus he was almost superfluous as the audience were doing all the work! The set and indeed the UK tour ended with Seth taking to the drum kit for a final bash.
The evening ended in a slightly bizarre attempt to create a Bluebird style atmosphere but which in reality was lining six chairs in a row and getting everyone back to do one more song acoustically, there was not really time to get any of the cross pollenation that a real Bluebird experience would bring. That aside it was a lovely finish to the the evening, Robert Vincent started things off with an extremely powerful song called "Demons", Seth Ennis sat by the side of the stage was nodding his head in appreciation as Rob's voice tore through Bush Hall. Catherine McGrath was up second and freed from her noisy drummer proceeded to put in quite possibly the best 3 minutes, I've ever seen her do and having seen her about 8 times this year, feel qualified to pass judgement!, An absolutely stunning cover of a Rascal Flatts song "Ellsworth" was delivered with real care and tenderness that the song requires, amazingly she's loved it since hearing it as a 12 year old.
Seth Ennis's final contribution of the night came in a brand new song called "Call Your Mum", it came with a story about how it was written and in a nice touch was played to his Mum as a surprise at one of the Little Big Town shows. It could have drifted into mawkishness but kept just the right side and was a great way to sign off. Wildwood Kin had the responsibility to close out the show and they did so in style for a song they played while on their Ward Thomas support slot, a cover of the CSNY song "Helplessly Hoping", their harmonies within a straight verse chorus structure were absolutely divine as they all gathered around one microphone to deliver a vocal tour de force.