The Wandering Hearts, Bobby Bazini and Roseanne Reid - The Little Rabbit Barn
The opening date of The Wandering Hearts "In Harmony" Intimate Tour saw them make their long awaited, much postponed, debut at The Little Rabbit Barn whose patrons had not heard a note played since Honey Ryder played their final encore in Mar 2020.
As with all venues they've had to make adjustments to ease their way back into the new reality, capacity has had to be cut by 30% but thankfully it retains all of its atmosphere. It is still the only venue we've ever visited that includes a meal mid way through the evening ( very nice Coronation chicken and a Vegetarian alternative! ).
The thing that makes the LRB such an enjoyable place to visit is undoubtedly the audience, always thankful that somehow major artists are able to be attracted to this small satellite of Colchester,. They probably have their individual favourites yet as a collective they are one of the warmest audiences one could ever to hope play before, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, asking but one thing, that you deliver on your part of the bargain and entertain! Tonight's audience is typical of those so far post Lockdown, still a little wary about singing along, with at least half a dozen or so masks in evidence which is totally understandable - for many this will have been the largest gathering they have attended in 16 months.
First up on the night was Roseanne Reid who chose not to follow up on the MC's intro and Proclaim about her lineage, and proceeded to perform her set almost entirely with her eyes closed, absorbed in the moment. Fortunately between songs we were able to snap her wide eyed!
Speaking with a Scottish accent yet singing in a pained American one, she opened with "All I Need", heartfelt lyrics written to a gently picked tune that captured the attention from the off. In truth that would set the template for much of her set but within those parameters there were to be lots of different shades
"Out In Space" from "Trails" her debut album was even slower and more spoken therefore allowing her Scottish accent to come through more. Beautifully wordy with additional syllables tumbling out just as it seemed a line was about to end. A change of pace came with "Daisy Chain" written during Lockdown which came with a positively jaunty and upbeat tune though lyrically it still seemed a little dark A return to "Trails" kept things reasonably uptempo with "It Is You" which was so pure Americana, all we needed was a campfire to gather round, as it finished Roseanne broke out into a broad smile at the reception she was receiving. Roseanne's most streamed song is "Sweet Annie" her only duet, that just so happens to have Steve Earle on it, with Mr Earle indisposed, tonight's version is solo, it sees Roseanne swaying from foot to foot as she sings, her delivery again pained as she enquires "ain't it enough?"
A trip to Roseanne's 3 track "September Tapes" EP - for "Couldn't Wish More For You" saw her once again deliver another almost spoken word heartfelt lyric that kept the listener engrossed. A judicious cover came in the shape of a Justin Townes Earle's "I Ain't Waiting", a lovely uptempo blues song that received a huge reception.
Closing with a final song "I Love Her So" from "Trails" she saved the best till last with a truly beautiful love song delivered with the true passion required to make the song an unqualified success and the perfect note on which to end her set.
Next up was Canadian Bobby Bazini whose strong singing voice was counterbalanced by his in incredibly quiet speaking voice. He was hailing from Quebec and his pronounciation of "Quaran-Tyne" suggested that perhaps English was not his native language. He was another member of the newly formed closed eye performing club.
Opening with "Never Let Go" he revealed himself to possess one of those voices super smooth yet rough around the edges - in the style Paulo Nutini. Standing to his left dressed in black was his comparitively diminutive backing singer Vanessa her had little to do for the opening minute or so apart from shuffling from side to side, before being called upon.
Bobby had a clutch of soulful Americana tunes, "The Only One", saw Vanessa play a more prominent role on the chorus as Bobby passionately poured his heart out. Things turned a bit more expressive and uptempo with "Oh Katy" with Bobby throwing in the occasional high soul vocal along with some funky guitar playing, An increase in drama came with "Blood's Thicker Than Water" with its chorus that gradually increases in intensity.
Bobby and Vanessa had a somewhat torturous journey to the venue that ended with them making the journey on foot, only to be told that they could have phoned and been picked up. Bobby's latest album "Move Away" yielded the emotional punch of "Back To The Start" packed with personal details. From past love to present love seemed to be the order of the day with "I Wanna Know What It Is?" a genuine feel good song. The soulful vibe continued with "Where The Sun Shines" once again Bobby finding the soulful high notes, with Vanessa allowed to really shine on this chorus.
Not a huge one for between song chat preferring his songs to do the stalkig, Booby reduced the LRB to absolute silence, with the moody blues intro of "Under The Weight", once again Vanessa and Bobby combining to great effect "Awesome crowd" he could not help but say on the warm reception, although attributing it the Little Rabbit Farm a mistake he hastily corrected. His set was to close with "C'est La Vie" another great combination between him and Vanessa. This live set was really a mere gateway into Bobby's work, skeletal versions of songs that are considerably more built up in their recorded versions, nonetheless he helped provide a memorable first half of the evening,
The last time we saw The Wandering Hearts, they were a band in transition adjusting to losing a member, they were supporting Ward Thomas, tonight it was if they always had been trio. The "In Harmony" tour, a 19 date visit to some of the Country's smaller venues is in many ways a brave move, choosing to play new songs, many of them for the first time in an atmosphere that left them completely exposed, the slightest misplaced note or lost word would be hard to hide in such an arena. The above picture shows in total the amount of instrumentation that they brought along and played, this was to be proper old school, back to basics performing.
As they took to the stage, their enjoyment at being back was clear to see, AJ affecting something of a Robert Plant look, Chess rarely to be separated from her mandolin the whole evening and local girl Tara all positively beaming.
If anything the new album has taken them deeper into americana territory and this was immediately apparent from the opener "Hammer Falls", where all of the things that make the Wandering Hearts were still to be foiund, such as those trademark harmonies. If the verse was deep Americana, as they burst into the chorus there was almost a sound reminiscent of the Mama's & Papa's, The burst of harmonies was simply something to marvel at - and this was just the opening song!
AJ kicked off "Over Your Body" and again the fusion of americana and group harmonies would bring those Mama's & Papa's comparisons to the fore, this was pure enjoyment, the new songs really thriving in this intimate atmosphere. The new songs slotted into the set so seamlessly they seemed more like old friends than new material, the unmistakeable presence of Marty Stuart hung over "Dreams" in the guitar lines and why not as he helped write it, enhanced with some lovely little mandolin flourishes form Chess. By now the heat was rising and AJ felt the need to strip off a bit as the opening section of the show would close with "I Feel It Too", initially just AJ on guitar and Chess on vocal, before Tara also joined to make this a gentle beautiful folk song.
The strangest of observations came with the first of the old songs " Rattle", with The Wandering Hearts admitting that the songs that they had been playing non stop for 4 years took longer to come back to them than they imagined. This was to prove to be the oldies section of the show, with "Devil" next, In this stripped back format, with a prominent mandolin and tambourine, it seemed to shoot it through a more americana prism than previously. Similarly "Wild Silence" took an a new life taken back to its roots, complete with Chess's occasion "Hey"'s. The return to the familiar material continued apace "I Wish I Could" perhaps lacked some of its full band swagger yet it gained a new acoustic existence that was equally enjoyable. Similarly "Fire and Water" saw some reinvention, with AJ's guitar playing and the harmonies doing the majority of the lifting on this version, and yes Wandering Hearts fans, the yodelling part is still there with the post yodel section turning into a bluegrass hoedown!
That was to prove to be the end of the "Wild Sllence" part of the show, though the next section was to start with "Gold" which seemed to be the most natural way to segue back in to the new album. There was to prove to be an absolute pin drop moment for the next song, "Dolores" which saw AJ take to a stool to play his part, while the vocals were just sublime on what was surely the performance of the night.
The vibe was then lifted for the final push with "Never Too Late", which got the LRB party atmosphere going with audience participation in the form of clapping along. The party was to continue with "Stardust" which joined into "On Our Way" which possibly formed their "covid" section, songs not necessarily pandemic linked but whose lyrics take on a new significance post Lockdown, Stardust referring to us "only passing through", while "On Our Own Way" has a message of hope "we've been through worse and we came back again" seem to be sending that sort of message. The main set concluded with the LRB in full voice and clapping and on finishing the audience rose as one to give a deserved standing ovation
There was time to squeeze in 2 encores, the first the traditional Wandering Hearts party piece of "Burning Bridges" while the evening was to eventually close on a high with "Build A Fire" a truly uplifting way to end the night.
It may have taken a long time to come however The Wandering Hearts at the Little Rabbit Barn was well the wait.