C2C 2019 Bluebird Cafe - Jeff Cohen, Sarah Darling & Catherine McGrath
Another year for the Bluebird Cafe at C2C, and another new home, this time in the O2 Blue Room. Somewhere along the line there had been a bit of a miscalculation of how many people would be attending this event or at least quite what would happen if they all turned up early. As the queue snaked ever further out into main entrance the bizarre answer reached was to have parallel queues which turned into a bit of a shambles to be honest. When passing the next day for a similar event it did seem that they had learnt from their mistakes and the organisation looked a lot more slick.
Once inside the stage was set for an in the round setup, with four stools on the stage, one for each of the singer and an additional one for the guitarist supporting Catherine McGrath. I would imagine that the real Bluebird Cafe is considerably smaller but at least this audience unlike the one from the Songwriters Evening all managed to be respectful in terms of not talking and being able to sit still without repeatedly needing to use the facilities for refilling or emptying!
This was our second glimpse of Sarah Darling of the weekend and put the bar that she had already set pretty high just a few notches higher. Opening with a song from the forthcoming album "Wonderland", one written with Jenn Bostic and Michael Logen with whom she toured the UK with in 2017. It was a song premiered to UK fans during Country Music Week, "A Little Bit Of Rain" and is a classic country heartbreak tale that is sure to be a firm favourite from the new record. Gently tapping her her right foot as she sang. In this deathly silence her voice sounded even better than the previous day with a wonderful timbre and clarity. For Jeff it was to be an afternoon of being a thorn between two roses, and even he will admit that he's not the worlds greatest singer, What he does have is the ability to write a song and to tell a great story and hearing how "Crazy For This Girl" came to be recorded by Evan & Jaron is always a great listen. in the end we got two songs for the price of one as he kept a promise to an audience member and also played "Giddy On Up" with Sarah and Catherine providing backing vocals. Catherine closed out Round One with "Just In Case", in this setting, there was almost a definite lilt in her singing which was almost slightly folky on this lively piece of Country pop. Things were off to a cracking start.
For the second round, things got even better, Sarah Darling chose to play "Montemartre", her gentle guitar playing perfect for the afternoon and in years of watching her I'm not sure i've ever heard it sung better. Jeff chose to play "In Her Eyes" which is always a brave move as it is normally sung by Josh Groban, though Jeff chooses to play more in the style of a singer songwriter. It comes with a story that never fails to make the spine tingle no matter how many times you may have heard it and it is also a testament to the power of a good song. For Catherine it was a chance to reflect over the last few years, she is still only a tender 21 and has spent the last few years on something of a roller coaster. With her guitarist chipping in with some backing vocals this was again a perfect piece of pop country music.
The only shame of the afternoon was that it was limited to only 3 songs each, there was an extensive "Meet and Greet" afterwards but it felt as though just as things were getting started it was time to finish. Sarah showed some of her best guitar playing, delicately picking out the tune to "Wasted" the tale of addiction which comes from experiences close to home and once again sung like an absolute angel - her forthcoming tour should really be something special.
Jeff has worked with many UK country artists, check the credits from Jess & The Bandits, to Liv Austen or even Lucy May and his name will be there. For his final song he gave us a choice of 2 songs from his most successful UK collaboration which has been with the Shires. The audience were given the choice of "Daddy's Little Girl" which we've seen Jeff do previously in a really touching version however there must have been a celebratory crowd in as they opted for "1000 Hallelujah's" where a few Shires fans possibly hoping for a guest appearance from Ben Earle outed themselves by performing the accompanying hand gestures - great stuff. Catherine McGrath's last song was perhaps her most overtly country song, the excellent "Lost In The Middle", it was great to marvel at how far she has come since we saw her playing Taylor Swift covers just a few years ago at Cadogan Hall, now looking an absolute picture of confidence.
All in all great entertainment - just left wishing it had been slightly longer.