Only Child launched their new album From Muddy Water To Higher Ground to a fairly busy crowd at The Zanzibar. The brainchild of Liverpool singer songwriter Alan O’Hare (formerly of The Trestles), he was joined by Scottish violin player Laura McKinlay as well as producer Jon Lawton on electric guitar and singer songwriter Vanessa Murray on bass. Incidentally both Jon and Vanessa played support slots, as well the group Silens.
Only Child were backed by the Liva String Quartet, who’s embellishments added to the overall sound. The on stage chemistry between O’Hare and McKinlay is particularly worth pointing out as they make a formidable team. The masterful playing of McKinlay on violin was the perfect foil for O’Hare’s passionate vocals. The accomplished keyboard playing from Lee Stone also added to proceedings, as did the playing of John Gibbons on trumpet.
Their set featured songs from the CD including the brooding Green Eyes Singing and the lively Dexys influenced Gypsy Boy. Both songs making a powerful impact on the audience. Other highlights included Higher Ground and Only Child, which gave the group its name. The haunting Dirty Work from their previous EP also stood out. Alan is a passionate story teller, not only conveying the politics of the community he grew up with during the 1980s/90s but also in his own words the politics of love. He articulated this to great effect in the song St. Saviour’s Square.
The thing that surprised me most about the performance was the dynamics. With such a large group of musicians it would have been tempting to play a heavier set at full volume. However, Alan and the group showed considerable restraint on certain numbers that proved they were not prepared to take the easy way out. This restraint allowed Alan to convey his message more effectively to the audience. My overall impression was that the set had been carefully thought out and was all the more rewarding for it.
Only Child take their cue from the likes of Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Mike Scott & The Waterboys and Christy Moore. The celtic folk soul elements present in their music, helped to make their set reflective and cohesive.
Stuart Todd runs and hosts the award-winning Liverpool Acoustic Live music events with Graham Holland. Stuart was formally in the group Triad before leaving to do solo work. In recent years he has had a successful partnership with local classical guitarist and composer Neil Campbell with whom he formed the duo Campbell Todd. He has also been in the band The Freebies and involved with a number of creative writing projects. His current band is called Three Minute Hero.