The Star Inn Guildford is a new venue to us and it must be said quite a good one for up and coming bands – after walking through the pub, down some steps to the smoking area and then up some more to the corridor that eventually leads to the venue, we enter into a nice sized room with a large PA and a wide stage. There is a mural on the wall of Spitfires both the flying versions and handpumps depicting the liquid version. The venue is nicely filling up and there are a preponderance of younger people, which is nice to see.
Katie Fells opens the evening, with her own song “Invisible”, she has a voice sitting nicely within the folk / country boundaries. Before starting the second song a cover of Brandy Clark’s “Stripes” there is an incident with a mislaid capo and although a substitute one is found the event seems to leave her a little flustered and things temporarily go a little awry. It’s one of 3 covers that she’ll do in a six song set, the others being Taylor Swifts “Speak Now” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, which in itself is not odd apart from the fact that she has an excellent 5 track ep of her own songs on the merchandise table. It is one of the songs on the EP, “God’s Grace” that closes her set, beautifully introduced and based around some delicately played guitar, it was one of the songs of the evening.
No-one can accuse Backwoods Creek of not giving value for money, they manage to appear to be three different bands in one evening. For the opening couple of numbers “Memory Lane” and “Keep Off The Grass” they were a high powered alt country band, full of power chords and multiple backing vocals. The fact that the drumming for the start of the second song commenced the second the first had finished marked them as a band who had a lot to get through and could not afford to waste a second. It’s been a while since I last saw Backwoods Creek and apart from the vocals being slightly inaudible against the volume of the band, this version of the band I absolutely loved.
They then morphed into version 2, the Country band with a pretty authentic version of Zak Brown’s “Chicken Fried”, before then moving to their third incarnation as a sort of hillbilly band, and while they were good at playing in each of the versions, it did make for a slightly disjointed set for the viewer. Never was this better exemplified than in “Don’t Take Much” which seemed to take a wonderful bluesy country verse and then attached it to a hillybilly romp of a chorus – two great halves joined together and seemed to make one song that was not as good as the sum of the parts, the bluesy element had all the making of a classic in my humble view.
The softer country of “When I Grow Up” was another great song with the band in country mode, while “Jack Daniels” was as pure country as it comes with a chorus of “Jack Daniels kicked my ass last night”, whereas the high octane approach of “Miles & Miles” was a return to where we originally came in. Things finished with the good time country of “Drunk” and I did wonder if the Tom Browne Band had made a mistake in inviting Backwoods Creek, as this was a well polished set that would be tricky to surpass.
The Tom Browne Band are a four piece band based out of Guildford, and have something of a raw energy about them that is hugely enjoyable. things kicked off with “Butterflies” from the new EP “Unspoken Words”, driven by a furious drum beat and Kiera Brownes vocals. This was followed by the excellent “Regardless” the song on their EP that possibly comes closest to capturing the essence of their live performance. This was emphasised by the single “Grey” which tonight is far superior to the recorded version, brimming with energy, by now their hardcore of fans were well and truly dancing at the front of the stage. I’m struggling to think of any other band that has had a crack at a Chris Young song and the TBB’s version of “AM” was simply superb. It was then on to a new song, though one Kiera wrote aged 13 which seems remarkable, the acoustic intro went on to provide a perfect showcase for Kiera’s best vocal performance of the night in my book. I love hearing bands eager to share their new work as soon as possible and the next songs were a great example of that. “Down To Earth” already seemed to be a promising song when suddenly half way through it seemed to up in volume and became even more attention grabbing, while “This Town” written in the last 10 days or so managed to harness a harder rocking sound without overpowering the vocals which is a difficult act to balance.
Things continued apace with “Mr Oklahoma” which again far exceeded the recorded version by being better balanced by having the guitar more restrained in the mix. It was again driven along at at breakneck pace by Josh Brown’s drumming and I’ll even forgive Tom Wells his almost prog rock , effect pedal driven solo near the end as he had put in such a sterling job during the set. The TBB can certainly rock out with the best, and the closing material “Red Dress” and their new single for 2018 “Drunk With Love” were full out rockers, with volume. Hugely deserving of a wider audience and only destined to get better, definitely ones to watch out for in 2018.