Roots In The Round: Dean Owens, Robert Vincent & The Worry Dolls - The Hat Club Beaconsfield
Finding a new venue on virtually on your doorstep is always a pleasant surprise, to then find out that two of the artists playing have already provided some of the most pleasurable sets in the last few months only added to the sense of expectation. To be honest I didn't even know Beaconsfield had a Squash club let alone a regularish event known as the "The Hat Club", tonight will be event 25 and past performers ( and indeed future returnee ) have included Boo Hewerdine.
The venue itself is housed in the bar area of the squash club, the walls are oak panelled with roles of honour of those who have won past competitions, there is no stage but plenty of seating. Two other things I should note are that for the duration of the show the bar is closed to allow the audience to concentrate on the performances, and that the audience is well versed in gig etiquette - no need to even tell them to be quiet they respectfully listen to every note and absorb everything.
Roots In The Round is a 10 date tour around England, stopping for one trip north of the border to Glasgow, for the most part with tonight's line up, though for one night at least the Black Feathers will deputise. The line up tonight consists of Robert Vincent who recently wowed us with his criminally short appearance at the Under The Apple Tree show at Bush Hall during Country Music Week, the ever wonderful Worry Dolls, most recently impressing at their headline show in London at the Borderline, with the line up being completed by a first chance for us to see Dean Owens, he's been releasing songs since 2001 so how we have not crossed paths before is a bit of a mystery but one that we are happy to set straight tonight.
Round One opened with the Worry Doll's and "Someday Soon", having arrived early and caught them sound checking it was wonderful to see their attention to detail in getting the sound just right and their reward was a perfectly balanced mix, Rosies, banjo had never sounded clearer, and the twin vocals were as ever an absolute delight, Playing with the same group of musicians each night allows for that cross pollenation between that artists so it was lovely to see Robert Vincent providing backing vocals on the chorus. Robert Vincent was next up, initially looking and sounding a bit like E from the Eels, playing "Denial" from his latest album, punctuating the performance with gloriously beautiful harmonica solo's. Dean Owens hails from Scotland and has great warmth to his voice, and drew inspiration from watching a recent World War One documentary for the line that makes the chorus of ""Closer To Home". As ever with these events, Round One sets the stall out as to how the evening will unfold and this was extremely high quality.
The second round starts with the Worry Doll's singing their southern insult that is "Bless Your Heart", which is positively overloaded with hooks to grab your attention. Robert Vincent was next up with the song that had immediately captured us at Bush Hall, in this environment it was easier to pick out the words of the murder and attempted frame up that is "November" introduced with the line "write about what you know!" . With the Worry Doll's repaying the favour of supplying backing vocals and Robert able to boom out vocals with seemingly the minimum of effort this was a special moment. Dean Owens promises to follow up with "a miserable song" about being alone in America when all his fellow musicians had left him alone to go out with their partners. "Valentines Day in New York" perfectly captures that feeling of being alone though attached to a cheerful tune.
For Round Three the Worry Doll's return to their second EP, for "Long Gone", with the banjo deliciously high in the mix. Even now years down the line it is full of vitality and spirit that makes a joy to listen to. Robert Vincent contributed his closest to a love song "Lady" once again punctuating with beautiful harmonica work. Dean Owens closed out the first half of the show with a sing a long in the shape of "Lost Time" which seemed to look at regrets of time wasted, things that were left undone or unsaid.
The second half of the show started with "Don't Waste Your Heart On Me", the southern delta atmosphere being created by the banjo's haunting rhythm. Robert Vincent confessed to repositioning the focus of the song "How Do You Sleep?" to be about Donald Trump. The song of the round if not the whole evening went to Dean Owens, "The Only One", complete with whistling was so poignant, it resonated with the whole room, and even with the other artists.
Round five started with "Light Oh Light" the song born out of a session of being uninspired, which had a beautiful mix of vocals. Robert Vincent explained the thinking behind the title track of his album "I'll Make The Most Of My Sins" for which the Worry Dolls once again provide great harmonies. Dean Owens "Southern Winds" saw more Worry Doll backing vocals and also Robert Vincent on additional guitar which got quite a band vibe going.
The final round saw the Worry Doll's wheel out "Endless Road" their BAMA nominated creation that is up for Song of The Year while Robert who himself is nominated for "Album of the Year" contributes big vocals over a delicately picked tune in "Demons". The main programme comes to an end aptly with Dean playing "Last Song" his tribute to the likes of "Ronnie Lane", which saw everyone join in on backing vocals. It also answered the question that had been bugging me all evening which was why Zoe had felt the need to keep a red apple in front of her all evening, as it was picked up and revealed to be a shaker!
Things eventually had to come to an end, with Dean & Robert singing the verses, while the Worry Dolls gave the chorus a lift with backing vocals and additional apple shaped shaker on a version of Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly". A fantastic night all round excellently organised and presented by the "Hat Club".