Hannah Aldridge - Kingsmead House
The arrival of Hannah Aldridge at Kingsmead House really opened our eyes and got us wondering quite how many of these small venues are scattered across the country. Making the Green Note seem like the O2 in comparison this is grass roots music at its finest. This is not even Hannah's first visit to the venue as one of the posters on the wall behind where she will play today will testify. With a nice Sunday evening 18:00 start and an extremely knowledgeable audience in situ, displaying a range of t-shirts taking in everything from First Time Flyers to Charm Of Finches and a musician at the top of her game, today was always going to be a treat.
Hannah's new record "Dream Of America" is truly something, with a wide ranging sonic palette which today she will attempt to recreate with a borrowed guitar after her own was destroyed by an airline en route to the UK. The songs are therefore going to be stripped back versions, as per how they were created - a full band show will hopefully follow later in the year.
As Hannah enters the room she cuts an imposing figure, impossibly tall, a sleek jawline that would surely have made her a film star in days of old - it's a look that she has cultivated for the cover of the new record. The packed room has warmed the temperature considerably however when offered a fan to cool her, the lady from Muscle Shoals Alabama says "I don't need that - y'all can have it" and places it so that it's cooling breeze is directed at the audience.
The evening begins with "Portrait Of The Artist As A Middle Aged Man", it may lack the drums and keyboards of the recorded version however Hannah is able to turn this into a highly dramatic opener. Midway through, the guitar playing and vocals rise in volume giving a hint of how much is left in the tank in terms of volume. Hannah would immediately turn up the intensity with "Lie Like You Love Me", dedicated to it's now deceased co-writer Randall Clay. For the main part sung with her eyes closed, as if she were transported somewhere else while performing.
This was a chance to get the context in which some of the new songs exist, "Dorero" forinstance being linked to the Black Dahlia murder, finding light in the darkness. It saw Hannah give one of the most tender vocals of the evening.
Things would then go rootsy and rocking with Some Ghosts (Don't Make A Sound) about a murdering preacher. Visiting the title track of her "Goldrush" album saw Hannah suddenly start performing off mic, it made little difference in terms of overall volume - her guitar playing soft and delicate and her vocals once again delicately tender - drawing a warm round of admiration and appreciation on its completion.
Revisiting one of her Dad's songs, "Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde", after a smouldering opening verse, Hannah let a wry smile fall across her face, before upping the tempo and volume and rocking out for the rest of the song. Following her Dad's song, came Hannah's very first effort "Lonesome" which has served her well in subsequent years, it saw more gentle guitar picking and at times Hannah's vocal would drop to almost a breathy whisper. The first half of the show would end with a request and a return to singing off mic for "Howling Bones" as well as some strident guitar playing and a chorus delivered with some gusto.
After a short interlude for refreshments and merchandise purchasing, the second half started in sparkling form with "No Heart Left Behind" with Hannah generating the excitement of the original with her acoustic guitar if not the volume.A run of songs from "Dream Of America" saw "Beautiful Oblivion" followed by "Unbeliever" the latter which was both gentle and beautiful required Hannah playing with what she suspected was a fractured thumb - in case she is wondering it was worth playing through the pain for this was magnificent.
Hannah had mentioned in the first half of the show about how her songs sometime lead to unexpected feedback and consequences - well certainly if not for Hannah it is unlikely that #TEAMw21 would have sat down for a 3 hour documentary on Parchman. In truth there was more about the human condition in the 5 minutes of Hannah's song than in the whole of the documentary although it was worth watching to see quite how grim the place is.
In a swipe at the Airlines that had destroyed her guitar came a dedication ahead of "You Ain't Worth The Fight" played with some swagger. Not sure how many artists have demon possession songs in their repertoire however with the aid of Ashley McBride as co-writer "Lace" saw Hannah deliver a compelling version packed with drama. The main set was to close with the final track of the new album "The Great Divide", it was a fitting song on which to close. Hannah's introduction as to how this final song had become the centrepiece of the new record ensured that the audience would hang on every word and a collective burst of "Yeah"'s on completion of the final note testified to how involved the audience had become. The encore would be Hannah's traditional sign off, "Burning Down Birmingham" which revealed the assembled crowd to be extremely tuneful, it led to Hannah finishing a highly successful show with a broad smile,
Hannah Aldridge and her band will return in November - details tbc
Dream Of America is available now on all platforms & as a CD & lovely Gatefold Vinyl presentation
Kingsmead House will continue to deliver big venue artists in small venue splendour with the likes of the following lined up in the next few months alone
Shantell Ogden .
Ticket link below