The fourteenth outing for Two Ways Home's ever popular Round Up, providing a chance to see top quality UK and US country acts in intimate surroundings while at the same time finding out a little bit behind the songs or seeing a one off collaboration, or some new material being tried out for the very first and possibly only time in such a stripped back format. The line ups for these shows are always impressive and tonight's show is no exception as joining our hosts are Penny Riviera joined tonight by the ever impressive Tom Wright on guitar, a welcome return for Lost Hollow after their great showing at this years C2C and last but by no means least Danni Nicholls now working on delivering the results of a successful Pledge campaign for her next album.
With effectively three duos and a solo artist playing, the stage of the Colonel Fawcett was awash with stools and guitars. Round 1 was to start with Penny Riviera, nursing the results of laryngitis giving her voice a somewhat huskier tone than normal. Her opener "City Lights", dealt with moving to a big city and she managed to put some great emotion into the lines "Standing at the payphone, crying as she calls home".
Lost Hollow were unable to play perched on stools and so stood for their traditional opener "When I Get Home", an uptempo song that saw Tommy Harden play guitar and take vocals for the first verse with wife Lorrie taking vocal duties for the second and the real joy being when they sing together, quite often gazing at each other as they performed. With Tom Wright adding some additional guitar and Lewis providing some percussion by tapping on his guitar, the joy of Round Up cross pollenation had already started.
Danni Nicholl's set herself a target of matching a song to the round, and with home being the predominant feature it was time to open with the first track from her last album of new material "Mockingbird Lane", the tale of returning home to Bedford, "Long Road Home", capturing the audiences hearts from the opening riff. It's great to see see Danni appearing on more Americana bills as this is a talent that deserves to be seen by as many folk as possible. For Two Ways Home the job of closing out the round fell to their Demi Marriner co write "Closest Stranger", as with Lost Hollow their twin vocal approach never fails to impress.
Penny Riviera was to start Round 2 with a ballad "Sunshine Morning" and filled us in on the plight of her disappearing voice. Choosing to stand as well, and really selling the lyrics while singing barefoot there was some real determination shown when making sure she held on to the final extended notes. It is often said that the best songs are written quickly and Tommy was to confirm that the next songs melody just came to him in an instant. The song itself "10,000 Ways" on the night had an almost 60's Beatlesque Indian vibe to it for this epic protestation of love.Danni's contribution to Round 2 was the bluesy "Time" from one of her early EP's and there was much to admire especially the way the word "Defence" was delivered, as she tilted her head back and let her vocal fill the room - a marvelous moment.
Two Ways Home also dug out one of their earlier and now lesser played tunes, "Time Lasts Forever" which came with a touching story from Isy about writing a letter to her dying Grandfather.
With Isy picking out notes on mandolin, her explanation of the story behind the song really brought every line to life in a great performance
To save her vocals for the second half of the evening, and to show off the talents of her co star, Penny let her Round Three slot be taken by Tom Wright. Perennially known as a sideman Tom has been somewhat hiding his talents away. His song "I Hate Missing You" showed that he is someone we should see more of in his own right, perhaps even at a future Round Up. TeamW21 have always been admirers of Tom's singing even making "When You Can Write a Song" our song of the week so it came as no surprise to us just how good he was even if perched behind a speaker to the side of the stage he was a little hard to see!
Lost Hollow kept up their strike rate with "Heart" which took the concept of talking to your heart as if it was a person which made for a very entertaining song.
Danni's performance of "Beautifully Broken" showed some delicately picked guitar playing an was a performance that saw her really get into the song, perhaps a little too much at one point!
For Two Ways Home it was the rousing "Push & Pull" that was to take us into the interval, an unrelenting tow tapper that provided a singalong on the "My heart my beating heart" section.
With the aid of skipping the last round and taking the vapours from what looked like a teapot during the break Penny Riviera was ready to resume vocal duties for Round 4. She filled us in on a lot of her back story from knee breaks to giving up singing altogether for 4 years and also her operatic past. Her next song, her latest single was a put down to an ex, with a song extolling the virtues of her new "Real Man". Penny's writing is real heart on the sleeve stuff and this was heartfelt stuff.
Round 4 saw the already high bar raised just a little bit more, and Lost Hollow were ready for the challenge with "Water & Oil". Beneath the sweetest of vocals and tunes comes the most hard hitting of songs of a couple in a relationship that should really have ended. It is quite powerful stuff and most excellently delivered. Danni gave us a peak of a new song "Ancient Embers" and it only whetted the appetite for the new album to come. Not to be outdone Two Ways Home also previewed a new song, "Out On The Road" with the UK contingent agreeing that US place names sound much better and this song sought to get quite a few in.
As ever with these evenings the end seems to come around far to soon, Penny concluded with a song co written with the one of the guests at the next Round Up Jake Morrell. With an immediately infectious poppy tune "The Girl From Instagram" was possibly her best song of the night. Lost Hollow's final contribution emerged from a challenge to write a fast song, and "Runaway" was the result, a fast paced stomp with a singalong chorus about eloping - who could ask for more?. Danni was to take a brave step asking for a communal singalong on the whole chorus of "Back To Memphis" and the Round Up crowd proved themselves up for the challenge making it a quite special version. Our last song of the evening was to see not one but 2 solos as first Tommy and then Tom added contributions to the Two Ways Home prison song "2 Short Years".
The Round Up once again delivered on it's promise to provide an excellent evening of songwriting talent
Penny Riviera will be working throughout the summer with Tom Wright so keep your eyes peeled for more details
Lost Hollow are in the UK for a short tour - don't miss out = tour dates are here https://losthollowband.com/tour
Danni Nicholls is working on completing her her latest album and will be appearing at Midwinterfest 2019
Two Ways Home and Round Up 15 will return next at The Bedford - to give those South of the river a chance to get in on the fun!