Alan West / Adam Sweet - The Oak - Kingston
The Oak has a reasonably wide stage with a small area in front of it presumably in anticipation of some dancing activity! There's a selection of wooden tables and chairs of different heights for the audience to gather around, above which hangs an impressive chandelier albeit filled with low voltage or non working bulbs so it gives off more of a glow than actual light. To the right of the stage is a large pile of firewood, the fire itself remains resolutely unlit. There is really only one flaw in the whole set up and that is that there is no separation between the performance area and the rest of the pub where the regulars are having their regular Sunday quaff or enjoying, if that is the word England's latest football fixture on the large telly in the other half of the pub. That lack of any sort of partition will mean that the today's artists will have to compete with something of a background wall of noise.
The reason for this gathering is a rare sighting within the M25 of Alan West and Adam Sweet, sadly the third member of the gang, Steve Black has had to pull out for personal reasons. They are supplemented with Mick Harding on drums so there is no denying that this will something of an unusual performance. Sadly it means that we won't get to hear any of Steve's latest compositions but a few previously unheard covers and some new material from Adam will more than make the journey worthwhile.
As ever it is a set of 3 halves, and things commence with "What Love Is", with Adam and Alan on twin acoustic guitars and Mick giving the song a solid back beat. With Alan noting that the venue "feels like my lounge", it was straight into the first of a number of well observed covers, a version of Ags Connolly's "Get Out Of My Mind", with another Ed Bruce's "Diane" following on close behind causing Alan to remark that he was a "musical archeologist - digging up old forgotten tunes" - he's not wrong either as this track ideally suited to Alan's timbre is hard to find online apart from YouTube.
With Adam switching to his electric guitar for "Hillbilly Woodbines" and "He Ain't Fooling Me" it was noticeable his guitar parts really started to emerge much more prominently into the overall mix
The second half of 3 allowed Adam to take the lead, showcasing some tracks from his forthcoming album due in 2020. Adam's last ep was something of a little gem and just from an initial listen to these new songs, the new record sounds as if it will be something to look forward to. Even from hearing them on an acoustic guitar they immediately sounded as if they will fit snugly into Adam's catalogue and we look forward to hearing them properly at Midwinterfest in January.
Alan then rejoined Adam onstage for their sublime reworking of "Take Me Home Country Roads", with Adam playing his guitar to effect the mandolin line from Alan's recording. It was then definitely something of a team effort with Alan adding backing vocals on Adam's "Name Your Price".
Alan asked for the audience for a moment of self indulgence while he introduced another well chosen cover - sadly the title got slightly lost in the general hubbub but with the mention of getting "my head stoved in" I'll take a chance that it was Little Feat's "Willin'" penned by the great Lowell George.
The performing half of the Oak was by now standing room only, the mellifluous sounds dragging punters away from their planned afternoon activity to catch a bit of live music, The second half closed out with "Hornet Hawkins" sounding a little bluesier with Adam's contributions and "All Things For A Reason"
The third and final half started in style with "The Big Freeze", kicking off with a bit of noise of their own. It was to be the start of an impressive run of songs. Alan has previously had a go at a couple of Nanci Griffith songs, a talent sadly missed form the live performing stage, but to my recollection this is the first time we'd heard him take on "Gulf Coast Highway", hopefully it one we'll get to hear in a few months at Torquay. It was therefore natural that the next song would by "You're On Your Own", whether having previously performed a cover of hers had some sort of subliminal effect its hard to say, but this version seemed to be additionally inspired and moving as if temporarily caught "in the moment" and transported back to the incident that inspired the song..
Some more covers followed to rouse the crowd with "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys", the latter another Ed Bruce penned tune. With "You Think You're Lonely" the full six minute version closing things this was the end of an entertaining afternoon that if nothing else whetted the appetite for the musical feast that traditionally starts the year in Torquay - Midwinterfest.
Midwinterfest 2020 runs from Fri 10th - Sun 12th January 2020 - last few rooms available on the link below