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Brandy Clark / Jim Lauderdale The Stables MK

As Jim Lauderdale took to the stage i'm not sure the audience were totally aware of how much he has achieved over his career, over 27 albums released and his songs have been covered by the likes of his George Strait, Elvis Costello, Blake Shelton, the Dixie Chicks & Vince Gill to name but a few. It probably didn't help his cause opening by introducing himself as "Mr Sunshine" and providing his own electric guitar solo via an impression as no-one else was there to provide it, the song however "Let's Have A Good Thing Together" was a sure sign that we were safe in the hands of a master craftsman. His new album "London Southern" has been recorded with Nick Lowe's band and as Jim launched into "This Is A Door" his phrasing and wordplay had quite a lot in common with our very own Bard of Brentford.

Jim proved to be a very amiable self deprecating host who immediately had the audience at ease and in the palm of his hand. This was his first night on the Brandy Clark tour and his set was to mainly be culled from his "London Southern" and it's 2014 predecessor "I'm A Song". It was the latter that provided "King Of Broken Hearts'" which was a tribute to the sound of George Jones and Gram Parsons. With his long flowing locks he was quite a striking sight and when you've worked with as many people he has why not also be a shameless name dropper! We got to hear how John Oates of Hall & Oates has helped co-write a number of songs on "London Southern" and also helped name the album. One of those songs "If I Can't Resist", was next and has an almost Spanish feel to it while another song "We've Only Got So Much Time Here" was an excellent soulful tribute to Bobby Irwin, Nick Lowes drummer. There was a lot of attention paid to "London Southern" and why not, it is an absolutely masterful record, "Sweet Time" another song from it was another that could easily have stepped out of the George Jones songbook. The final song of his all too brief set was "I Love You More" which was delicate strummed and almost dreamy, hopefully we'll get to see him with a full band later in the new year as this was an excellent taster and certainly left us wanting more.

If there is one artist who shines the light on middle America it is Brandy Clark. Her lyrics occasionally laced with dark humour but the songs have so much to say about life outside of the big cities. This was to be her first UK tour after an outstanding performance at Cadogan Hall last year. As she strode on stage alone, dressed in black with little flecks that sparkled as they caught the light she opened with "Hold My Hand" and immediately the roar of applause let her know she was among a very supportive audience who were so pleased she had chosen to stop off at Milton Keynes. She was to be joined by guitarist Miles Aubery, and upright bass guitar player Vanessa McGowan for a run through her two studio albums. Looking quite diminutive she rattled through "Love Can Go To Hell" and "Favourite Lie" before she said her first words "Thank you" and then somehow immediately looked more comfortable. From there on on it was just classic after classic "The Day She Got Divorced" sung quite impeccably, while the intro to "Girl Next Door" immediate got the audience clapping in support with "Get High" equally receiving a rousing round of applause. Her confidence grew immeasurably throughout the set, there was even time to tell us about her trip to the Milton Keynes casino!

This was just one part of what Brandy referred to as the substance abuse element of the show, as "Drinkin' Smokin' Cheatin'" was followed by "When I Get To Drinking" with the line "I tend to get drunk when I get drinking". Playing in this stripped back format allows Brandy to really be able to bring these songs to life, adding a little vulnerability and pathos to her voice as she delivered the lines. She even suggested that she'd like to do a one theme album of drinking songs much like kd lang's smoking themed album "Drag"The main set closed far too soon inevitably with "Stripes" after just over an hour, and for the encore she returned on her own to play a special audience request "What'll Keep Me Out Of Heaven". There was time for an extremely strong new song called "Apologies" before the evening came to a close with "Pray To Jesus".

All in all an exceptional night from Brandy which will hopefully confirm to her how deeply respected and loved she is in the UK,



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