As Morrissey famously sang "There's Panic on the streets of London", but the brave souls who persevered through the rain, and gathered in a crowd at the Colonel Fawcett were richly rewarded for their efforts. Two Ways Home continue to curate and host this event that never fails to entertain and occasionally like tonight throws up an occasional special guest or two and to top it all - it was all happening on Lewis from Two Ways Home's birthday.
First off the block were "The Jackson Line" appearing as a three piece, but who can increase in size to be a full band. They hail from Chelmsford however the biggest compliment we can probably pay these guys is to say is that if they had been introduced as arriving freshly from Nashville ahead of C2C, we'd have probably believed it, From their opening song "You Are Mine", by their own admission "a breezy pop tune" they set a high standard that they would not deviate from throughout the evening. With just 2 acoustic guitars, and alternating lead vocalists they never wavered from a true americana sound, and when they harmonised together things got even better. Their second song "Brave" came with a hilarious introduction to a deeply moving song looking at divorce, they changed vocalists yet remained quintessentially American sounding, if anything even more so on one of the absolute highlights of the evening. Their final song of the first part of the evening was "Up In Flames", a faster song created from the fact that their existing set was a bit slow, It duly delivered on the faster tempo with those twin vocals on the chorus once again and some cracking guitar work truly anchoring the song in an americana harbour.
They kicked of second half of the evening with one of their older songs "Solutions", a superior ballad which saw both vocalists singing to great effect, Jamie with an almost Springsteen like wailing counter vocal. That line about "take your coat off and close the door" simply pure Nashville. Their final contribution "Way Down To The Bottom" described as a "silly story that gets worse and worse" is actually a country song in the vein of "A Boy Named Sue" or "One Piece At A Time" in that it works as a song despite the fact that its tongue is mostly firmly placed in its cheek with plays on the word "Faith", "Grace", and "Joy" that we won't spoil here. With a cracking guitar backing as well as a couple of solos including a guest one from Joe this was a great way for their part of the evening to finish - ones to watch undoubtedly.
Next in line was Joe Dolman making his "In The Round" debut, a singer songwriter from Leamington Spa with an unerring ear for a good tune. His first task of the evening was to bring us down a bit with his single "The Middle", reflecting on a relationship that had gone wrong. More usually pointed at the pop market i'd guess, his songs once stripped back to just guitar fitted the evening perfectly containing a somewhat superior lyrical content than average. It was a captivating opener and even saw Isy joining in on backing vocals for the chorus.
With Kaity sitting to his left, it was natural that she and Joe should do a song written together for his second outing. A 2019 single "Happy For You" about being left behind when your friend finds a new love and how that affects a relationship.
With a gently played guitar line and a vocal that occasionally went a little high, this had a nice personal touch and was grounded in a universal reality that everyone could associate with.
Joe and Kaity next time round teamed up for what was their take on trying to create a Lady Antebellum style song in 3 minutes, if anything the result, "Still Caught Up" was a song with echoes of the early Shires songs, an excellent piece of work all round.
For his opening song of the second half, Joe and Kaity switched places, to allow Joe to display his keyboard skills on "Real World" a song written only a month ago. A moving ballad occasionally at times sung in something of a falsetto, Joe Dolman closed his contributions to the evening with a happy song "Align", starting quietly but gradually building in volume into something special, almost a demo for a song that seemed destined to be a full band song
Kaity Rae joins the rare list of two time players at the Round Up. Her first appearance at the Round Up was at the old Bakery venue where she played 2 excellent and as yet we believe unrecorded songs in the shape of "Spare Room" and "Somebody Else's Problem". Live performances from Kaity in recent times have been as as rare as yeti sightings however as well as multiple co writes, and playing on other peoples records she has also become an excellent producer as exemplified by her excellent work on Vic Allens EP.
Possibly a little rusty playing live, her opening song was a co write that is currently big in Austria for Lisa Pac. Kaity's voice audibly grew in confidence as she eased into the song which was as well, as the later choruses got gradually more expressive as her vocal had to match her quite strident guitar playing on this peerless piece of pop. For the second round it was time to call on a special guest in the shape of Beth Keeping, one of the leading lights of "Write Like A Girl" Team, for a take on "San Francisco". For this song, Kaity moved from guitar to piano and backing vocals on the chorus, leaving Beth to deliver the lead vocals, which may have been a first for her not having to play guitar at the same time. Kaity of course has links with The Shires having written two tracks for their latest album, and been part of the Songwriters round with Ben Earle at Bush Hall many moons ago, and so with Joe playing a substitute Ben, they did their take on "Happy New Year" as her final contribution to part one of the evening.
A slightly surreal moment occurred for the next part Kaity's set with the arrival Betsy Gold, a bit like seeing Prince when he was "The Artist Formerly Known As". With Kaity providing keys, and backing vocals "Friday 13th" showed that whatever her name she still has the ability to impress.
Kaity's final song of the evening was a Joe Dolman, co write, that may be appear as part of a duo project at some point. With Kaity on keyboards and Joe on additional vocals "Real Love To Room Mates" was another of the absolute high spots of the night, Kaity's vocal barely recognizable from the one that had started the evening, this was confident and tenderly emotional as she quietly detailed a relationship breakdown before going on at one point to power out her vocal - top drawer songwriting even on first listen.
These are exciting times for Two Ways Home with their new album "Break The Silence" just released and a big album launch planned for later in the month. They started the evening with one of their 2019 singles "Speed Of Everything", which highlighted a couple of their greatest strengths, the first being their natural harmonies when they sing together, the second, their skill at being able to entwine their separate vocal lines to make something special. It was time for something new in Round 2, with Isy initially leading the way on "Nostalgia", from the new record which had a touch of early Shires songwriting style about it. The release of "Break The Silence" has at least allowed us to find out what some of the titles of the new songs are, so "Everything's Alright" actually turned out to be "Out On The Road", an uptempo relentlessly catchy song bolstered by a solo by Jamie from The Jackson Line, it was the ideal close for the first half of the evening.
Two Ways Home started their 2nd half with "Tattoo", and revealed the whole line up to be tattoo less! With a nice background story putting the song into context, it gave Isy a chance to break out the mandolin, and Joe this time to provide a guitar solo on an exemplary version of a song that they do not always play, a baffling decision on the basis of tonight's effort. The final song of the evening "Broken Hearts Club" ended the night on something of a uptempo high, with its punchy guitar chords, dual vocals and a guitar solo from Jackson Line's Jamie combining to great effect.
The Round Up never fails to deliver and tonight provided many moments that in future years we'll be able to start anecdotes with the well worn phrase " Well we were then when ....."!!!