Live review: Anglicana – An evening of UK Roots, Country, Blues and Folk
Artists: The Grande, Paul Dunbar, Tony Steele and the Massacre, Reid Anderson.
Date: Saturday 4th June 2016
Venue: Studio 2, Parr Street, Liverpool
Reviewer: Denis Parkinson
Tonight saw the relaunch of Anglicana; a showcase for UK roots, country, blues and folk music. The night was hosted and headlined by Liverpool alt-country band The Grande at the excellent venue that is Studio 2 in Parr Street. The show stands as a wonderful testimony to the thriving local music scene.
First was Reid Anderson, a solo performance on acoustic guitar with the exception of opening song “We Would Have Noticed the Moon” which was atmospherically delivered on piano. An engaging, characterful start, full of sadness and resignation. Delivered in a style reminiscent of the mythical parts of America that it might not be quite safe to visit when there’s a full moon in the sky.
Reid’s music is Americana with a gothic influence. Traditional but with a modern twist; confidently and skilfully delivered. Memorable tunes and thoughtful lyrics. Standout songs “Your Lullaby” and “23 Skidoo” were highlights of this short but powerful set. Reid’s voice is rich and resonant. Imagine a waltz being played by a lone musician under a big top in a well-travelled circus that’s seen much better days. A true pleasure.
Next up were Tony Steele and the Massacre, a four piece band with a powerful sound. A perfect choice for a night celebrating Anglicana as their music is a seamless blend of Americana and the sound of the Mersey. This band is Liverpool twinned with Nashville delivered with punch and class. Think The Coral with tight country harmonies or The Beatles with Hank Williams whistling along. Songs such as “Your Fake Love” have lovely harmonies that really complement the sound. Tony’s voice adds gravelly class to a slow building “Bound to Collide” which was a highlight of the set.
Paul Dunbar, solo with an electric guitar, silenced the busy room. To rapt attention he delivered a well-rounded set that featured stripped down versions of songs from his bands Midnight Ramble and Paul Dunbar and the Black Winter Band. The playing was sublime, both on electric and acoustic songs and the songs are wonderful. Songs such as “Hands Down”, “Barely Holding On” and “The Ballad of Four Eyes” are delivered with power and control with one of the richest and most soulful voices you will hear. Finale “Earth, Sky and the Raging Sea” was a perfect end to a stunning performance. Seeing Paul Dunbar play at a small venue may not be possible for much longer. It’s an experience you should have before he’s everybody’s favourite artist and you can’t get a ticket.
The final set of the evening was from excellent Liverpool band The Grande, hosts and headliners of the night. A six-piece band playing with skill, passion and above all enjoyment. Calling this music Americana or alt-country can bring to mind an immediate impression of what to expect, and that would be right, but sometimes using a genre as a descriptor is too easy and sometimes only tells half a story.
This band plays well-crafted songs with an impressive level of expertise. The musicians complement each other well and build something that is greater than the sum of the parts. They move from one great song to the next with minimal chat and fuss. The music is the story here. “Love Me til Your Heart Stops” and “Old Coins” are standout songs. Multiple harmonies, steel guitar expertise and a shared vision combine to deliver country rock class. These songs sound classic on first hearing and that can only be a good thing; for the audience and for grassroots music. This was a Grande night indeed.
Denis Parkinson is a singer songwriter based in Liverpool. He performed at Liverpool Acoustic Festival 2016 and Threshold Festival 2016. He performed at the Liverpool Acoustic Kazimier Garden afternoon as part of LIMF 2015 and played at the Lantern Theatre, Liverpool, for We Shall Overcome 2015. He was a finalist in the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge 2014 and 2015. He plays regularly in and around Liverpool and has a longstanding enthusiasm for music of all kinds. In 2015 he released an album titled "Liverpool Skyline". In real life he works as a lecturer at University of Liverpool.