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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Country In The Afternoon Day 2 - Morganway, Gasoline & Matches, Sandy McLelland & Chris Mossop

Day 2 of Country In The Afternoon was to kick off in Gaelic style with a couple of acts who originally hail from Scotland. Opening proceedings was Sandy McClelland who we last saw performing as a duo in Bracknell at The Acoustic Couch. He was very entertaining that night but with a full band including his wife on backing vocals and tambourine duties, this took things to another level entirely.

A fantastic band consisting of acoustic bass, mandolin, and the aforementioned tambourine proved to be the absolute perfect backing for Sandy. It all opened with "River Of Tears" with the mandolin delightfully high in the mix and a tune that so beautifully meandered along it was almost hypnotic. Sandy's vocal had a gruff soulful quality to them that was an instant delight. It came in at over six minutes but was an absolutely masterful opening.

Sandy admitted to having throat issues for over a year fortunately the remedy to his ails proved to be pineapple juice though he sounded in fine form and perhaps just a little less gravelly than we remembered. Gently rocking things up with "To Prove A Love To You" once again saw a lovely prominent mandolin while the chorus with a trio of backing vocals was a delightful backing for Sandy's bluesy vocal.

Rolling out his happy song "I Believe In You" saw Denise shimmying as she played her tambourine more prominently. The tune engagingly rolled along again and by the end it had turned into a duet with Sandy and Denise's vocals nicely interweaving.

Denise was then afforded centre stage for the song "Poor Excuse", a slow ballad, with Sandy providing backing vocals on the chorus. The music was played with such poise and grace that it almost washed over you in a calming relaxing way that you could have listened to it endlessly. The mandolin was switched for a fiddle for "The Best Drug I've Ever Known" which was a definite change of style and saw Sandy moving into Lyle Lovett territory on the chorus in the most overtly country song of his set. Time truly flew while Sandy was on stage and his "Cross The Line" cd from which the set is drawn is a little gem well worth investigating.

The set closed with "We Always Will", beautifully descriptive with Sandy almost like a Gaelic Bruce Springsteen as he recalled his younger days.

Chris Mossop was the second Scottish artist of the day, he came armed with a bunch of lockdown songs as well as some from his "Thinking Out Loud" EP. It immediately became apparent that todays sound was a lot less harsh than Day 1 and Chris's drummer was very much more sympathetic to the venue he was playing in. Opening with "Rise With Me" which had a rousing gaelic feel in its guitar playing, with Chris's voice also suitably stirring.

Another new song came in the shape of "Tonight" which came a relaxed country feel. To confuse matters slightly "You're All I Need" was announced as being the sequel to a song he was to play later in the set, it came with some lovely supporting electric guitar flourishes that made the song shine.

At this point an unfortunate "E" string break was to derail proceedings. Rather than deflate Chris, he came back more invigorated and the set moved up a gear. "Dreams Are Made Of" was a little rocker complete with a great guitar solo.

One of the stand out songs of the set was "Candle In You Still Burns", a song of hope in dark times, which has perhaps taken on additional meaning. Announced as a foot tapper "Sister Mary & Sister Josephine" lived up to its billing. Closing with "Get Along" something of a riposte to Donald Trump and his views, the lyrics were to prove an uplifting way to close out his set.

After a fabulous Main Stage, full band appearance at Buckle & Boots 2021, it was back to more reduced circumstances for Gasoline & Matches as they took to the stage at The Half Moon as a duo. There is a definite trade off for this, while you loose the sheer oomph and theatricality of the full band show, you do get a chance to more fully appreciate some of the lyrical content within their songs.

The set began with "Fools Gold" and the twin acoustic guitar approach certainly had the country vibe going. Being reduced to two was not going to stop all of the G&M theatrics, Stephen still managed to throw the old shape and as they faced each other for acoustic solo their showmanship could not help but shine through.

Stephen was revving up the crowd during the opening of "Not Into Country", while Sally provided some additional percussion by tapping her guitar. Their voices naturally blending together make them a formidable duo, as does their ear for a great melody.

Stephen took the lead for the as yet unreleased "Patient Wolves" with something of the prairie in their playing on this song about men and their intentions. It closed with them singing off microphone face to face in another piece of stage craft that brought the assembled crowd to a hush. The recent single "Smiling Viper" co written with Jenn Bostic was stripped back to its bare bones, however they still gave an acoustic thrash on the chorus and with their twin vocal attack they generated a great sound.

The next song came from the origins of Gasoline & Matches and dates back over 10 years. There are an incredible amount of words in "The Artist" that Sally did well to deliver. It was full of lots of cheeky lyrics and surely deserves a recorded version

For a special moment - Terri jLeavey joined the team for a version of "Girl Crush" before Sally's party piece another tricky bit of wordsmithery with their recent single "Never Have I Ever", always guaranteed to raise a smile and an appreciative nod of appreciation as Sally navigates the lyrics. With every last bit of energy poured into a rousing chorus this was definitely not "time wasted!"

If you could go back and see The Beatles at The Cavern, or The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, to be a witness of something special being born then surely you would - well that same sense of excitement hangs around Morganway at every gig they play and the joy is there is no need for time travel! For today's performance they fill every inch of the Half Moon stage, keyboard player Matt, just squeezed in next to Ed on the drums while the front four wait for the all clear to start an hour of near perpetual motion - that signal comes pretty soon into the opening song "Devil's Canyon"

It remains almost impossible to monitor what each member is doing, as you are likely to be distracted by Nicole Terry's bow with its broken strings flaying in the breeze as you are by Kieran launching the power chord intro onto "Coming Home" now reborn in a slightly heavier incarnation and sounding better than ever, ending with the Morganway team closing out as a beautiful choir. Matt Brocklehursts piano intro was joined by Nicole's violin on what seemed to be a gentle piece of music but normality was restored as this was just the introduction to one of the new songs "Back To Zero", which is bedding itself nicely into the new live set, with SJ producing some great sustained notes while the rest of the band provide backing vocals.

The new songs continued with "Come Over", Kieran's REM style intro leading into slow brooding bluesy verses eventually giving way to a group chant chorus with all six members singing at the same time. With enough hooks to fill about 3 songs this is another song destined to soon be a fan favourite. Such is the bond between band and audience, that barely had the opening few notes been played for "My Love Ain't Gonna Save You" then a resounding "Yes!" came from a member of the audience unable to contain their excitement at their favourite tune starting - it was easy to see why.

Morganway cover's are always a thing of beauty and today's is no exception, Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know" may be slightly quiet and wordy in the verses but it explodes in the chorus and Kieran could not help but grin as he saw SJ prepare to go atomic each time it came round. Enhanced by a Nicole fiddle solo and then matched by one from Kieran this was awesomely powerful.

"Frozen In Our Time" provides a temporary chance to get breath back, excellent work on lighting setting the mood and sound with some extra echo making this even more of a spectacle than normal.

New songs can sometimes take a while to bed in however the chant that comes with "When The World Stopped Running" is such an infectious expression of joy that the whole of the Half Moon was soon joining in without the need for the band to ask.

A long heavy metal style guitar solo was a cunning wheeze hiding the fact that the band were about to launch into "Let Me Go". The closing section of a Morganway show, takes everything you have seen so far and then ramps up it to another lever entirely. It is simply blistering in both its energy and intensity,

A barnstorming "London Life" may have closed the main set but no-one was going anywhere, least of all MC and "Country In the Afternoon" supremo Gavin, without hearing "Hurricane" with its multitude of farewell solos, this was to provide a breathtaking climax to a truly fantastic weekend

Morganway will return to London to bring their own brand of fireworks to the Slaughtered Lamb on 5th November

Come and see what the fuss is about before it is too late.




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