Under The Apple Tree: Brooke Law, Demi Marriner, Laura Oakes, Robert Vincent & Savannah Gardner
A chance to catch up with friends old and new with a suitably eclectic bill at Bush Hall as Country Music Week gathered 5 artists for an Under The Apple Tree Songwriters Round. Tonight's sizeable crowd were fully seated and would be treated to a selection of songs both old, new and unreleased as well as a storming finale.
Round 1 would see Demi Marriner open proceedings, sightings in London of Demi are rare, and this was to be the first of 2 in quick succession. She has a wonderful debut album "The Things We Didn't Say" recently released and dressed in a smart cream suit, it would be the opening track from that album "Sins" with which she would start. Choosing to stand as all the acts would in the first half of the show, this had a deep Americana feel. In powerful voice she would even even sing off mic as one of the choruses came to a close. Savannah Gardner was the one act of the night #TEAMw21 had not seen previously - brought up in America by English parents she had a somewhat deeper voice than you might expect. In a black dress with blonde hair her opening tune "Heaven Is A Feeling" was more "classic" country, a slow strum of a tune and with her deep American twang that increased in volume as the song developed, she truly put the Country into Country Music Week. The closing section would see her change to a breathy whisper to close out the song.
With his microphone a good foot higher than anyone else on the stage, Robert Vincent, a veteran of a previous Bush Hall UTAT Songwriters Round looked positively gigantic. His opening song from his 2020 album "In This Town You're Owned" was "Conundrum". He came with a much more strident style of guitar playing, and a chorus choc full of hooks which really seemed to bring out the lyrics on the night with a voice that swirled around Bush Hall
"'Cause there's no turning back, you take love from this world Try to leave some when you go There's no secret plan You're born this world alone, try to leave it better off when you go"
Next to appear was the welcome return of Laura Oakes to a London stage, although she's been busy writing, she's been absent from the general UK Americana live scene for a while - #TEAMw21 last saw her somewhat underutilised as a mandolin / backing singer at the same venue backing Ben Earle. Within a few seconds of starting "Better In Blue Jeans" it was evident just how sorely she has been missed - certainly no one else to our knowledge has slipped the phrase "Highfalutin" into a song In impeccably fine voice it was a pleasure to see her once more. The final tune of the round would come from Brooke Law, hot from a successful summer of ripping festival performances. Her version of "Millionaires" would see her display her multiple talents, with her vocals, able to go from being rocky, to long sustained notes through to being delicately high pitched all within the confines of one song.
If Round One was a chance to settle in, then Round Two saw each artist move into their stride. Demi Marriner would play "Stay" from her "Tales" EP. This time round she had a much more considered picking style, and even in this stripped back format there seemed more of a full band pop country song to be realised from this tune than even the current recorded version - Demi's vocal on the chorus again highly impressed. Savannah would continue with the most purest form of country on the night with "City Of Cowboys" again reeling us in with classic chorus
"I’m a lonely cowgirl in a city of cowboys
And my heart’s been broken and used
But my dreams are made up of sycamore branches
And my dreams came long before you"
The sign of a good song is one that makes you almost catch your breath as you listen to each line. Robert Vincent's "Keeper Of My Heart" was such a song. For this song he had a slower more gently picked guitar, and a lovely soulful delivery. For much of the song he would play eyes closed, as if transported while he sang, there was a brief harmonica solo and all went to make a perfect song. Not to be outdone Laura Oakes would play "How Big Is Your World" her gentle guitar intro would be the lead in for a classic piece of singer songwriting, the chorus saw her vocals rise with an effortless ease. Closing out the round would be Brooke Law with her forthcoming single "Help Me" - her pained soulful cries of "How does it feel?" would lead into the big power chorus "Help me to help you" - always a joy to watch with her flowing locks flicking from one side to another as she plays. It would mark the end of the first half.
Demi would welcome us to Round Three in comedy mode with the air of an air hostess and all but told where the emergency exits were. She would then follow up with her most overtly country song of the night, from her new album ."Don't You Worry" was inspired by her Mum after Demi moved out leaving each worrying about the other. Savannah would follow next with a clever song "Wildfires" about how they rejuvenate the ground and then applying that same principle to herself. Delivered at times with high drama veering from a whisper to a full throated twang complete with an irresistible chorus - this was her best tune of the night. Robert for the second half would remain seated for "The Insider" the lead track from his new album due next year. Another highly engaging tune and another bravura performance generating tons of drama as the volume increased throughout.
Laura Oakes would use round 3 to play a new song and it only again highlighted just what a gap she has left. Neatly playing on the words "Career Girl" to give it two meanings - this was exemplary and to give an idea how good it was we could hear people singing along to the chorus even though this was surely the first time they could have heard it. Beautifully conceived and movingly performed, undoubtedly the best of her four excellent contributions. Somehow the third round seemed to bring excellence from everybody, it was closed by Brooke Law with her song released during Mental Health Week - "We All Need Saving" - which saw her swing from the lead into the chorus being at times almost a whisper before unleashing the swelling burst of rock vocal energy that is the chorus.
The final round would see Demi dip into her new record one last time for "Little Boy" - her song for her cousin who remains indifferent to it. With a super soaring chorus this probably just edged it to be her best song of her four fine contributions on the night.
Savannah revealed herself to be an outlaw country fan and "High Desert Memory" came with rapid fire lyrics, Complete with its own a capella section towards the end and sudden ending, this was a rousing final contribution.
Robert Vincent's version of "Demons" was arguably his best song of another high quality batch, gently picked and delivered with an intensity that made you barely want to breathe for fear of spoiling someones enjoyment - simply stunning.
Laura would also stay sitting for her final song "Learn To Be Lonely Again", reminding us as she did each round what a quality performer she is. Awesomely delivered with a wonderful melody - a sheer joy to see her back! It wold fall to Brooke to close the final round with "Boomerang", the lyrics about her young school charges although it it can easily equally double up as a bad relationship song. With the audience joining in on the increasing in volume "Whoa's" of the chorus it was a great way to finish things off.
The evening would close with a quick rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Savannah and an ensemble performance of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", wonderful harmonies all round with Savannah channelling her inner Stevie Nicks to great effect - the stuff dreams are indeed made of and an excellent night all round.
Demi Marriner's album is available now She will be playing around the country Late Oct/ Early Nov Details at https://www.demimarriner.co.uk/live-shows
Robert Vincent's new single "The Insider" is available next week as well as show at St Matthias Church on London on the same day as well as a clutch of other dates available at https://robertvincentmusic.com/shows
Brooke Law has her new single "Help Me" will be available in November and will be supporting Sinead Burgess at The Slaughtered Lamb on Monday 23rd Oct - https://www.eventim.co.uk/event/sinead-burgess-the-slaughtered-lamb-17472732/?affiliate=LA1
All pictures courtesy of John Gillespie