Of all the artists appearing at Midwinterfest 2018 only one act has so far not come under the glimpse of TEAMw21's eagle eyed reviewers and that is the Hayley Sisters. Yorkshire siblings Jo-Ann & Becky have won scores of BCMA awards as best duo and best band and were funding their own albums being made in the 1990's long before Pledge and Kickstarter. They've been played by Bob Harris, championed by the likes of Alan Cackett and as far as I can tell their last London show was at the Palladium supporting Nathan Carter so clearly they are performers of some repute it's just that they seem to play on a different circuit to many of the artists we normally cover. They also have a gigging schedule that would shame many a younger performer setting off to play in such outposts as Carlisle, Rhyl and Yeovil.
They have at least 4 albums worth of material and a compilation album so will have plenty of material to choose from to make up their set. Their latest album is "Always By My Side" released earlier in the year displays their skills across a number of different styles.
Things start off exceptionally well with "Always By My Side", a classic bit of country with Becky paying tribute to husband Brian who also plays lead guitar on the album. There are some nice lines that acknowledge that life is not always easy " I know just how hard I can be" " but for the most part it is a lovely tribute and one that will resonate with many couples. There are hints of Nanci Griffith and Patty Griffin in Becky's voice which will surely find an appreciative audience in Torquay.
"Somewhere Along The Road" shuffles along at a nice pace and sees the real power of when the sisters vocals join together. After starting with the line "I went from good to bad to worse!, the road becomes a metaphor for the life ahead and reflections on the past "I never done what I wanted always done what I was told" and although the man who has shown interest currently has someone that may change given time."somewhere along the road".
One of my favourites on the record is "I'm Looking For Someone" ( just like you ) which has some lovely guitar work ( electric and pedal steel ) as the song details the perils of meeting the right person only to find they are attached to someone else, The song spells out his good points "easy going" before facing up to reality "Go home to your lover I wish that was me".
There is one song that immediately catches the ear and that concerns the passing of Brian's father.. "Hello Dad" is one of those songs that could only be a country song, as it touches on a subject that most of us would rather not contemplate - dying!, Once you open the door on the subject in a song it does have the potential to become cloying in sentimentality, but this has an almost childlike innocence to it as the question that we've all pondered on at some point is asked - "What's it like up there?. If there's a dry eye the in the house after this i'll be amazed .It is made all the more touching with a beautiful mandolin playing throughout.
Almost a companion piece to the opener is the feel good "Luckiest Girl Alive" - "The day that he said I do was the day I said goodbye to the blues". In sharp contrast comes "Can't Walk Away From The Blues" which races along at a fair old pace and once again showcases some great guitar and banjo work.
There is a lovely song "Letter To My Heart" written by Jim Alderman which highlights everything that is great about this record, beautiful understated playing, including a great piano, letting the wonderful vocals shine through. There's even time for a bit of cajun / Tex Mex with Nathan Carter on accordion for "Song For Jim" while the album ends on a wistful note with "If I Had My Time Over Again" detailing how they'd have handled a relationship differently if given their time again..
In many ways the 2 covers are possibly the least interesting elements of the album, not that there is anything wrong with them. It is a very passable "Travellin' Soldier" in fact and a version of "Would You Lay With Me In A Field Of Stone"as performed by the likes of Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker & Johnny Cash they just lack a little something when compared against their own material.
All in all they promise to bring a little Yorkshire glamour to the Devon Riviera!
MidwinterFest runs January 12th - 14th 2018
For Booking Details https://www.neo-music.net/mwf-2017-bf
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