A good time was all but guaranteed before a note was even played at tonights latest Talentbanq production, with The Green Note filled with an audience full of movers and shakers within the Americana scene and general connoisseurs of high quality up and coming talent, who all knew something special was about to take place. The stage was set in a somewhat unlikely manner for the arrival of Joe Slater, with just one old wooden cushioned stool - we had not seen Joe played seated before and perhaps this was to be a new career move. In the event Joe was as much on the stool as an Olympic gymnast is on the parallel bars - permanently moving trying to find the correct position to extract every decibel of sound from his guitar.
The old black and white film star Lon Chaney was known as "The Man Of A Thousand Faces", it's a title Joe may well inherit - the opening of "Find My Way Back Home" saw Joe seemingly produce a different face for each note played, With just a little cough before starting to sing, Joe unleashed his unique mixture of Liverpool rasp and sixties soul on this song that beautifully reflected his thoughts on moving back to his home town
"Everythings different, though it feels like not much has changed"
With the last verse initially delivered a capella, this was a stunning way to kick things off.
Things moved uptempo with "Every Time It Storms" which came with a relaxed soulful groove, while "My Lady" saw Joe look ill at ease on his stool seemingly unable to find the right position. Initially starting using his guitar for percussion, it developed into a bluesy number that kept you hanging on every line, with Joe occasionally upping the volume of his vocal, adding additional drama. Admitting that he never uses a set list, Joe did confess that he had commmitted to playing a Ray Charles cover, "You Don't Know Me" commenting that he hoped he would "Do it justice", The original is very much of its time production wise, lush with strings, probably not extracting the most from the pathos of the words, Joe's solo version gave us the impression he was living every line as he sang it.
The set was to continue in fine form with "To The Creator", with it's highly addictive chorus, it also saw at one point Joe match each guitar note with a Wilko Johnson style sideways glance. Joe gently finished on the words "Shine on me" before segueing into "I'll Be The Light" once again performing a section with no guitar backing. There was time for an encore in the shape of a rejoicing hymn in "Don't Hold Me Down", and within a few moments The Green Note transformed into a spiritualist church, with clapping and an audience all but shouting "Hallelujah" as they celebrated the bond between artist and audience.
Isabella Coulstock is in the position of probably having played to more people than many artists on the Americana scene via support slots with the likes of the Jools Holland Big Band, yet she remains one of the best kept secrets within her own genre - a tag she seems destined to shake, with an EP due early next year to be followed later by an album. She'd been on our watch list for some time when we finally got to see her do a short set at 229 earlier in the year and we were determined to be at her first solo headline show. All those support slots have given her a great stage presence, she looked completely at ease throughout the evening with a stage craft many would kill for. Looking magnificent with a bright smile which would not leave her face the whole evening - it was hard to believe that she has barely entered her twenties. Adept at both guitar and piano and with a voice as sweet as it is powerful, this was to prove to be a set of high quality with a little surprise or two.
Taking to the stage she immediately launched "Nice Ain't a Good Colour For Me", with some strident guitar playing and a tale of a bad girl on the run to "old time Mexico". It's a narrative created around a captured quote from the character Juliet Barnes in the series "Nashville". As the evening progressed, Isabella's furtive creations would show her to be able create songs with a wide range of topics. there was a mention of passing her driving test however the next song "Fast" was another example of forcefully played guitar on what seemed to be a song with a ready built pop country chorus, more of an illicit getaway with no hint of a mention of a three point turn!
The inspiration behind "Borderline" was revealed to be the impending demise of her family dog - the song created from such a downbeat introduction was actually a thing of beauty, quite affecting with Isabella's phrasing at times sounding like someone who has grown listening to a Carpenters record or two. The delicately played guitar was matched by an equally exquisite vocal performance.
A move to the piano showed another side of Isabella - "Getaways" her piano playing was to be as strong as her guitar work, bold and confident. A tale of a potential illilcit fling, wrapped up in a beaufiful ballad. Followed by "Better Than That" about following your dreams, Isabella once again showed her talents with wonderful melodies and phrasing, delivered with a maturity far beyond her years.
It was back to the guitar for "Outlaw", showing Isabella to have a slight fixation with the wrong side of the law, but by using just a few well chosen lines she was quickly able to establish quite a dark narrative as to what had transformed her into a troubled lawbreaker. It was to prove to be quite a compelling tale. A new song "Your Kiss" once again showed Isabella to be able to produce a pure pop country chorus seemingly at will.