The Live Room at Saltaire might seem like the second cousin twice removed in the shadow of the town's splendid Victoria Hall and indeed the historic environs, but a perfect illustration of small is beautiful. Small and friendly and hopefully continuing to hold its own in a competitive world; a proper homegrown folk club where even the dressing room / backstage door is emblazoned with a gold star.
As a venue which attracts some of the top folk acts on the circuit, it's also a home from home for Sam Carter, visiting as both solo artist and with False Lights (a subtle quick plug for their gig there on 28th October). Tonight sees the best of both worlds with Sam flitting between playing solo and with a small band - Matt Riley on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums making regular and cautious trips on and off the compact and instrument filled stage.
His recent new album. 'How The City Sings' is sitting in the wings to be a contender when it comes to awards time, yet it's the familiar workout on a solo 'Yellow Sign' which opens the evening and in truth not a band warm up for the old fingers; perhaps he's been having a run through in the dressing room. Either that or it's a song he's played for so long now that the hands go into auto-pilot in some kind of folk related muscle memory rehearsal. Joined by his band, a run through the lounge jazzy 'Taxi', they form the appetiser before he launches into a run of new material, both solo and with the band. The preamble explaining how the songs evolved from life in London but are equally at home and could easily be translated to anywhere really. Seems a shame really that he makes light of a set of intense and deeply personal songs as the things that happen everywhere.
A run through of an old warhorse, 'The Wife Of Ushers Well' solo - akin to the False Lights version only less loud and less weird - preceded an easing into the electric trio just before the interval. He might kid that it's his Judas moment…"Oh it's happened!"…but he's been doing it (strapping on the electric guitar) a few years now, enough at least for it to not be a shock and to give those in the front seats a chance to fish out the ear plugs. A reminder "It's still a folk gig - it's fine" comes before 'Dark Days' - which sounds vaguely reminiscent of The Specials 'Ghost Town' - and a confidence to let the trio have their head. Perfect for one of the highlights of the new record 'Counting the Cost' which builds powerfully from the three instruments without overwhelming. There's something from the Sweet Liberties which has been well documented elsewhere, leading into the 'fancy a sing' portion of the gig "I Have But One More River To Cross' stemming from his interest in the slave trade.
Although there's no Dylan instruction to the band to "play f**** loud!", 'Taunting The Dog - a song about a bloody good row and beware of the fury of a patient man - sees Matt switching to electric bass, rocking out, facial grimaces and all. And having added all sort of deft percussive decoration to the songs throughout the evening Evan Jenkins gets to lay down a solid Bonham style beat to 'Drop The Bomb' and end the set. No instruments are trashed or drums kicked over a la Keith Moon, but it's a jubilant noise which alongside the more reflective solo moments in the set could conceivably see people hailing the latest in a long line of new Dylans!
Mike Ainscoe - Words and Picture
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