Danni Nicholls, Hannah White - The Green Note
In an extraordinary bit of gigging symmetry we end the year where we started it, watching Danni Nicholls. We started at Midwinterfest where she previewed some of the material that would feature on her then forthcoming album "The Melted Morning", an album that would continue to reward the listener throughout the year and that would yield an AMA Song Of The Year nomination for Danni. We're finishing at The Green Note having caught up with quite a few times in between as well notably at The Long Road Festival where she excelled in an early morning slot.
First up on the night was Hannah White, who for reasons that we can't quite fathom has never crossed our path before. She combined an authentic country sound and used it as a conduit to say things about the world we currently live in, also slightly bemusing was the fact that she rarely plays solo and is normally to be found with her band from Norway, bemusing because she was highly effective and absorbing as a solo performer that you can't imagine that she would not do it more often,
Her short but powerful set was something to really admire, starting with her current single "Never Get Along" which came with a powerful introduction as to what the song was about. It was intense with powerful personal lyrics, a thing of beauty yet tinged with sadness, highlighting the things that could make you a great couple but coming with the harsh reality of the title.
The second song "Take Me Back" again matched a classic country sounding tune to lyrics that could come straight out of Nashville, with Hannah putting a perfect country inflectin into her delivery.
If there's one obsevation that can be levelled at the UK Americana scene, it would that most artists shy away from anything approaching political, but that's not something you could say about Hannah - her song "Courage" had the power of a Ken Loach film wrapped up in a 4 minute tune, this was visceral and real about being "homeless with a child" and failed by the institutions supposedly designed to help, but done so to an absorbing tune that kept you hanging on each line. From weighty matters to personal ones on "Your Losing Game", with the tale of being at a dinner party in your own home and finding your guest "more and more unpalatable". It was both funny and sad at the time, with Hannah observing the forced etiquette of dinner "the silver is laid and everyone is smiling" while her guest is oblivious to the issues of the outside world.
A strident guitar intro led us into "With The One I Want", an altogether different style, tempo and vocal delivery, but equally effective and captivating. The end of a short six song set came with "Fire To Your Flame", with a delicately picked guitar intro leading into a gentle ballad, it came with deeply personal observations, was sung beautifully and was attached to a marvelous tune - a perfect ending to a great set - Hannah you really need to do this more often!!
Danni would take to the stage in something of a sparkly top that would pepper the walls with an occasional snowflake effect, even sometimes taking herself by surprise as she caught something glistening out of the corner of her eye, As stated earlier "The Melted Morning" at first seems so empty compared to its predecessor, however with repeated plays it simply gets better and better, it is sequenced superbly and has a wonderful flow, it is not an album to dip in and out of but one to sit back and luxuriate with. As Danni takes to the stage with a very bashful "Hello", it is her latest opus that forms the opening section of the show, her "last show of the decade" as she will observe.
Thing commence with "Frozen", matching her expressive guitar playing style with her rich vocal delivery, noticeably stepping back at one point to generate some additional volume from her acoustic guitar while singing out the word "Frozen" as an almost howling cry. The following song "Losing It" equally matched bold guitar strokes with a big chorus with the line "I have so much love to give" delivered with real passion. A change of style followed in the next few tunes, the character song "Texas", saw some delicately picked guitar, while "Wild Is The Water" was something of a mastery of performance stagecraft, with the variations in playing and singing, at one point Danni dropping to almost a whisper while at other times powering out her vocals into Green Note.
A trio of songs from "Mockingbird Lane" started with the magnificent opening riff of "Long Road Home" followed by "Beautifully Broken" possibly sounding better than ever and the first singalong of the evening with the gospel feel of "Back To Memphis" which revealed the Green Note crowd to be surprisingly harmonic, to the point that Danni would drop her vocals to soak in the sound of the room.
A couple of covers followed, the slow blues of Randy Newmans' "Guilty", followed by a somewhat sheepish Christmas contribution. Donning a Christmas cracker party hat, and abandoning her guitar for a finger clicking driven version of the Elvis Presley classic "Blue Christmas". It had the potential to be an absolute car crash and Danni's cheeks may have taken on a slight reddish hue as she performed it but in the end it turned into a mini triumph although on completing it, she swiftly removed her party hat!
It would be "The Melted Morning" that would provide the majority of the remainder of the evening and would go to show why the record is so special. First the gentle hope and heartbreak of "Hopeless Romantic", while the self love song of "Ancient Embers", with the wonderfully held sustained note of the chorus being simply spellbinding. The final song from the album would be that AMA nominated song mentioned earlier ,"Hear Your Voice", co written with the wonderful Kyshona Armstrong, it would prove to be a building smouldering piece of soul displaying a stunning vocal effort on the part of both Danni and the assembled crowd to make it something almost spiritual.
One final message of love to send us on our way came with "A Little Redemption" with the Green Note crowd providing the requisite humming so well that we circled the final chorus a few times with Danni once again taking it all in. Once again it was a masterful performance gradually building up in pace and volume as it developed.
Danni Nicholls will be hitting the road in 2020 during April & May - do not miss it !!