Shantell Ogden / Sandy McLelland - The Acoustic Couch - Bracknell
The Acoustic Couch in Bracknell is something of an eccentric and eclectic venue, it is situated underneath a mullti story car park and once inside, the venue opens out into quite a large space with somewhat brutal architecture. The air conditioning tubes circle round the venues ceiling like metallic silver snakes, the name of the venue is graffitied onto one of the beams, while the seating has brown leather couches against the back wall and almost school dinner tables and chairs in the main performance area. There are huge empty cable reels that are turned on their sides to make huge tables that are strewn with magazines, fliers of forthcoming acts and business cards, while at the same time a projector displays the punny names of forthcoming tribute acts - anyone for Bon Giovi?. The walls at the back of the venue are covered in sketches of bands who have graced the venue previously, it does have the feel of a venue you might have walked into from the set of Blade Runner.
The stage area is large but low, the lighting a little basic and harsh but importantly the sound is crystal clear. One other oddity to note is that there is a 12ft gap between the stage and the audience, presumably to act a dance floor but with tonights acts i'd have thought moving the seats closer might have made for a cosier atmosphere.
Sandy McLelland is playing support with the assistance of additional guitarist Alan Phillips and good company he proved to be although i'm not altogether sure that the audience were completely attuned to his Glaswegian wit. However on his singing there was no confusion, in a set that started well and got progressively better as it developed. The opener "River Of Tears" had a deep Americana almost tribal feel to it, with Sandy also providing percussion via his foot. With Alan chipping in with a guitar solo this was an intriguing start.
With a voice best described as gravelly, he went on to play a number of songs from his excellent recently released album "Cross The Line", "To Prove a Love For You" had a slightly rockier feel to it anchored to a great chorus. Normally to be found with his band, as well his wife on backing vocals he provided his most upbeat song of the evening "I Believe In You". A somewhat heartfelt intro followed prior to "Because It's You", a ballad which saw his guitar gently picked and delicately sung with Sandy almost crooning in his unique raspy style, during which he was also sketched in readiness for joining the wall later.The mood turned positively jolly for the bouncy "I've Ever Known" which came with a somewhat unusual chorus, in that the first half was sung very quietly while the second was louder in a more blues rock style. When he announced his final song was to be a cover, there seemed a natural artist to whom I thought he might have an affiliation and sure enough it was to Chris Stapleton that Sandy went, but fair play he eschewed the more obvious choices to pick The Steeldrivers, "Blue Side Of The Mountain" in a spirited enjoyable version that saw Alan thrown in another solo.
Shantell Ogden first appeared on our radar at the inaugural Buckle & Boots Festival. She has four available cd's all packed with high quality tunes and a fifth due later this month. as she took to the stage preparing to entertain us for an hour or so with a career spanning set, who would have thought that this lady from Utah now out of Nashville would challenge the whole idea of what can be done by a solo performer in terms of showmanship
As she plugged in her guitar and started playing with a little projector, I thought it was just going to provide a little backdrop, but no, Shantell has a selection of little videos that accompany each song, it's possibly a small thing and the lighting possibly did not help show the little vignettes to their best but outside of an arena show i'm not sure i've ever seen anyone try something similar and certainly not playing as a solo artist.
As mentioned earlier she has a great set of tunes and wasted no time in immediately launching into one with "Truth About Trains" from "The Road That Drives Me", a great uptempo opener. The new material was to prove as good if not better than the already recorded ones, "Love On The Fast Track" was a great introduction, with a lovely lilting chorus that immediately caught the ear. Totally relaxed Shantell would prove to be great company on a wet Tuesday evening.
The video that accompanied "The Road That Drives Me" from the album of the same name, really showed just what her multi media performance was able to achieve, when matched with a great performance. Shantell has been a regular visitor to these shores and has certainly been amassing fans on those trips, as she launched into "Till My John Wayne Comes Along", the area around me was awash with prospective John Waynes" singing along. Shantell's face, a picture of smiles as she sung, perhaps able to hear her little male choir accompaniment
There was a swift return to her new release for "Heroes & Villains", another strong song that saw Shantell step away from the microphone and generate some noise, it was something just a little different in an extremely positive way. The new material kept coming, "On A Haystack" told of her childhood in Utah, and was filled with little intricate details, it was wonderfully evocative and beautifully sung. Keeping the home theme going, the next song started on a picture of her Grandpa on the screen, as she explained her Bolton roots where the Ogdens originated from! As a voice counted her in and with a little computer provided percussion, Shantell sang "When You're Not" while playing a Tom Pettyish riff to great effect,
The new material took a gloriously optimistic diversion with "Heart That Breaks Me" with it's uplifting chorus. The whole evening was a delight, "Ghost In The Field" was another captivating performance, while "Blossom In The Dust" contains a message she loves to share. It was a song which she could have ruined by over emoting however if anything she put in a lovely understated performance that let the song shine.
The closing numbers saw a lovely "Love Knew Better" and an absolute piece of classic country with "What Matters The Most", during which Shantell just let us relish the little details in the writing.
The encore when it came saw all of the performers from the evening come back on stage for an unrehearsed and seemingly never ending version of "Stand By Me". It was both endearing , while at the same time a little shambolic as unrehearsed things tend to be but a fitting way with which to close out the evening.
Shantell Ogden's Songs Sampler Vol 1 is available from her website from Oct 22nd.
Further shows at
Friday, 4 Oct. Welshpool Songwriter Sessions -
Saturday, 5 Oct. With Alan West- The White Hart, Colyford, Devon -