The ongoing quest to complete our reviewing of anyone that has appeared at C2C has brought us out on a Sunday night to the Green Note Basement, to see a solo set from Pete Gow frontman for the band that has performed for two separate years - Case Hardin. Although we had caught a glimpse of them on the Town Square stage in impressive form it was towards the back end of their set.
The Green Note Basement as has been detailed previously is a snug space holding no more than thirty people, performers play against a backdrop of a vivid red curtain, old fashioned light bulbs with exotic filaments in strange geometric shapes, hang down and seem to flicker each time someone upstairs orders a coffee, The only other light comes from tealights giving the room a certain gloomy ambience.
Tonight's support comes in the shape of Lorraine Wood who has a habit of generally neglecting to give us hint as to the title to many of her songs so apologies if i've guessed wrong. Her preparations include pouring a gentle soothing liquid from a silver flask before announcing "Let's get this party started". before opening with "A Watchful Place". Lorraine sings this as she will much of her set with her eyes closed, the words tumble out in no particular hurry while the guitar that she plays extremely gently hints at a tune, the effect is absorbing. The next song "London" dates back to 2012 and suggests that although it is where she has lived, she has also spent some time away as evidenced by the opening lines "London, take me back I have learnt my lesson well nicer towns and warmer climes could not quell this loneliness"
Things grew positively jaunty in comparison for the fourth song of the set, which although quite funny was also bitter and may have been called "I'm going to hate you anyway", it was billed as a love song! As she starts her epic of doomed love between working class people, the guitar is barely played under a torrent of falling words, she briefly evokes other singers like Janis Ian or maybe even Joan Baez, though she is clearly a one off original! The lyrics to "Clover" seem enough to fill a small paperback, she has you hooked though from the stark opening line " How d'you look a dying friend in the eye and say goodbye? ". She had one last trick up her sleeve by making the audience take a deep breath, during her "Prayer" which was a love song of sorts - which has the following in the first few lines " Keep him safe, make him happy I know he's a c**t and he'll never do right by me"! Strangely it was quite an endearing tale if an unconventional way to end her set - I suspect Lorraine does not do conventional!
Pete Gow's preparations.by comparison were lining up a row of harmonicas which would be used throughout the set. Things commence with "Fiction Writer". While Case Hardin at times can be a kick ass Americana band. in a solo format these songs are more like pictures, gradually built up with each verse of lyrics. In common with Lorraine there is no editing on the "brutal honesty" front and that can make for the occasional odd moment as the evening progresses. The next songs "Ladyhill" and "Another Toytown Morning" are perhaps as upbeat as we'll get all evening, each packed with quotable lines however it is the epic "Three Beautiful Daughters" that is the first stunning song of the evening. Who can resist a song with a mournful harmonica intro and lines like "she said she had three beautiful daughters she said she named them after hurricanes!", it was simply beautiful while simultaneously being heartbreaking at the scene painted.
It was the same album "PM" that provided another of the high points in "His God Damn Eyes" a deeply another starkly personal honest lyric attached to a lovely melody. There was a new song in the shape of "Jacobite", while "Mara" was affecting as Pete asks "If she's ok?" or when he says "Is it cold in here?". I don't think there is anyone who introduces songs quite like Pete, take forinstance "These Three Cities" which is about 4 prostitutes in a bar and the merits of Phil Spectors production, with some bits real and some made up - it was quite simply engrossing and the highlight of the night.
Sadly with time against us a couple of songs had to be jettisoned from the setlist, including the emotional trauma of "This Ring" but we did get "Roll Damnation Roll" and "A Thousand Sides Of Vinyl" which brought things to a close in a mixture of music, prose and poetry. As an evening it was pretty intense and at times a little edgy but at the heart of everything through both sets was a level of mature highly literate songwriting you'll rarely come across elsewhere, it certainly has set the scene to see what a full Case Hardin show would be like.