Live review: The Toy Hearts plus The Drifting Classroom @ Liverpool Acoustic Live The View Two Gallery, Mathew Street Friday 25th January 2013
Liverpool Acoustic’s Graham Holland and Stuart Todd can be very pleased with themselves. They won the Live Music Night of the Year Award at the inaugural Liverpool Music Awards 2012 with a night that’s been running for nearly four years now. The nights are usually monthly and mainly at the View Two Gallery, an oasis of calm, up several flights of stairs from the weekend madness that is Liverpool’s Mathew Street. Liverpool Acoustic’s nights usually feature local artists and tonight local musician Marc Sunderland, formerly of Peter and the Wolf, and piano player Richard Jones, provide the support, and very good they are too. Acoustic guitar and tasteful piano accompaniment are in balance as Marc’s high vocals soar through the crowded gallery space. As The Drifting Classroom the instrumentation is sparse but effective, I’m sure we’ll hear more from them.
Although they do feature some out of town acts, tonight is something of a departure for Liverpool Acoustic, relying on an out of town act to bring in the crowd. To be fair, they’re not taking much of a risk and show impeccable taste by having The Toy Hearts. No strangers to Liverpool, having previously played in the revitalised Eric’s, just a few doors away, had two recent sold out gigs at Grateful Fred’s in Formby and having featured in Americana Ten, the Americana UK Promotions’ successful 10 year celebration festival of ten years of the Americana-UK.com website in 2011. Appearing on Radio Merseyside earlier in the day with local legend Billy Butler, who they described as the “best interviewer ever” they had stopped laughing for long enough to play a live version of Pass The Jack and that’s the song they choose to kick off the night. It features this family band’s trade mark sounds, Dad, Stewart on banjo and dobro, non family member Spike on stand up bass, elder sister Sophia on guitar and backing vocals and sibling Hannah on lead vocals and mandolin. They are a wonderful sight to behold, with spectacular shoes (if you like that sort of thing, I only mention it to be thorough) and their sound is polished yet raw and moving all at the same time.
They toy with bluegrass rather than stick to its fairly rigid format and play to their own strengths. Most soloing is Sophia’s territory, she plays flat picked runs as clean as a whistle, plays django style with ease, is never over-indulgent and still finds time for those pitch perfect backing vocals while Hannah emotes like a young Edith Piaf finding every last bit of pain and heartache in each song. They blend their own songs like The Captain and Montpellier Street with covers of Hank Thompson and Marty Robbins and their obligatory Beatles cover (well we are on Mathew Street overlooking The Cavern) shows real invention choosing the fairly obscure I’ll Cry Instead, an early skiffle-inspired John Lennon song, and don’t they do it well!?? After the interval they move into Western Swing mode and let Dad shine on the pedal steel before ending up a wonderful evening with the Hank Williams’ Your Cheating Heart.
In May 2013 they’re going back to Austin Texas, but this time they will be staying for six months. My guess is that Austin, Texas will try and keep them over there so go and see them while you still have the chance, you won’t regret it.
Liverpool born Barry Jones is singer songwriter for The Southbound Attic Band who play Celtic tinged Americana wherever and whenever they can. One time in-house photographer at Southport Arts Centre and a former deputy editor of website magazine www.americana-UK.com , his music journalism and photographs have been published in the Liverpool Daily Post, Maverick, Rock and Reel (R2), Play Music and Guitar magazines around the world. He is one half of Americana UK Promotions who ran the Americana 10 Festival in Liverpool in 2011 and who are currently running the monthly Acoustic Dustbowl events at the View Two Gallery in Mathew Street, Liverpool.
( avatar painting by spencertheartist.com )