I first saw Danni Nicholls supporting Luke Tuchscherer, both are Bedfordshire based musicians, several years ago and was immediately impressed by her gutsy blues style and was very pleased to come home with her début album "A Little Redemption", first released in 2013 Then came the second album "Mockingbird Lane" in 2015 which confirmed Danni as one to watch So, as soon as "The Vintage TV Recordings" album release was announced I knew I wanted to be there. What also helped make my mind up was the venue; St Pancras Old Church is gaining a growing reputation for good music, helped by its excellent acoustics. As an added bonus the evening was curated by Gary Smith of Laurel Canyon Music, with Graham Jackson helping on the night, whose efforts at encouraging music in an innovative way were recognised with a nomination in the 2016 FATEA awards.
The evening was a good example of where independent music could be going in the future. It wasn't just about an artist and promoter getting together to put on a show. It became a multi-media event and then reached out into the wider community. St Pancras Church, still an active Parish church, were obviously key players and and Brendan Collins, who deals with the the music for SPOC was running the bar. Vintage TV helped pull the whole album together, with Time Out's Ray Jones doing a great job as MC and Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy will benefit with £1 donated from each album sold.
Opening the evening the very good support set from Rob Corcoran, a Dubliner now London based, was worth the entry fee on it's own. Rob is difficult to pin down to genre, there's certainly some Blues and Americana in the mix but also influences of Irish tradition. Whatever the label the results are rather beautiful songs about the human condition where the narrator knows he has flaws and doesn't pretend it's anyone's fault but his own.
Just picking a few examples of his work "Black Hearted Man" sets the scene as a lament warning the girl that loving him will do her no good. "Hurts Me Too" also stood out. This is a break-up song but written from the point of view of the perpetrator who points out, quite rightly, that splitting up is never easy for anyone. "The Boozer's Lament" is another example of a flawed man who meets a barmaid, but his drinking is the problem in the relationship. Drink both brought them together and drove them apart, he knows that but can do nothing about it.
Rob was joined on stage by Barbara Bartz on violin and Hjordis Moon Badford on cahon and backing vocals. Together they produced a beautiful set, one that I can hopefully catch again in the future. Rob also has an EP, 'The Heart, The Head and the Long Since Dead' another another studio album on the way.
The interval gave everyone a chance to catch up with friends, visit the well attended merch table and sample some rather delicious cupcakes. My last two gigs have involved home baking and certainly adds a glow to the evening.
So to the main event and the launch of the album. This was recorded at various London shows and features songs from both studio albums. The entire album was played on the night along with a few other songs. It was also my first chance to see Danni play with a full band of the excellent Max Milligan (guitar), Flow Toulman (drums), Stewart Noakes (keys) and Robbie Stewart-Mathews (bass), with Barbara Bartz returning for a couple of numbers.
The full band certainly added to the night, filling the auditorium with sound yet doing exactly what a band should do and complimenting the lyrics. Simon the Soundman did an excellent job balancing it all out.
The set opened with "Long Road Home", followed by "Let Somebody Love You", the opening two tracks on Mockingbird Lane. They're different songs but show Danni's vocal range well and are guaranteed to get the audience coming along with the show. We were then given the up-beat, almost happy, "Hey There, Sunshine" from the first album which is a real toe-tapper. They all demonstrate Danni's core interest which is the bluesy Americana she does so well.
That was enough cheerfulness to going on with so the middle section of the set was a series of break-up songs to tug at the heartstrings, ending with what I think is her best song to date; the beautiful "Leaving Tennessee ". Written on a coach journey between Tennessee and Georgia it's a pure Country song telling the story of a girl saying goodbye to her past and broken heart as she tries a start a new life.
One of the things I love about live music is that an artist can rehearse as much as they want but that doesn't guarantee everything will go right. A broken string could have caused problems, but didn't and it demonstrates what a nice bunch musicians are. Rob Corcoran stepped forward to lend his guitar and, with a little bit of tuning and some swapping around, we were off again. There was no ego, no "I'm the star", just lovely people helping and looking out for each other. Of course, they're real musicians, too, who've learnt their trade from the ground up over the years so they take this kind of thing in their stride and just carry on. It was wonderful to see.
As always the set went by far too quickly but we had a double encore of "Travelling Man" and the ideal parting song of "Goodnight Moon". The final slow Country ballad allowed the audience to slowly return to the real world after several hours of escape.
"Goodnight moon, goodnight stars,
Goodnight all broke down cars
I'm going away
I'm leaving soon
Goodnight darling, goodnight moon."
Danni is touring extensively in the near future, on many dates supporting Shakin' Stevens, so do get the chance to see her if you can.
Words & Pictures Tony Birch
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