Picture this, a spotless, one side open, wooden barn. Expand that thought with marquees that encompass an appreciative audience. Include a raised stage, lighting and a sound system that can only be the envy of many permanent establishments and you have "The Little Rabbit Barn" a pop up music space on the borders of Essex and Suffolk.
It's a perfect setting which fully does justice to a night of incredible intimate music that follows.
Top of the bill is Sean Taylor, a master craftsman of acoustic blues and roots music. He starts with the familiar. "Heartbreak Hotel", just him and his guitar, a shouting whisper of a voice that demands attention, a bluesy feel, it's seductive and expressive.
"A Good Place To Die", is next, both songs are from his current album "Flood & Burn" here it is stripped bare, less is more, the lyrics clear and concise, atmosphere you can slice. It's a derelict scene of brokenness, of relationship meltdown. "On my J45 I'll make the whole world come alive, better than any poison in your blood". The words drip emotion you feel the hurt.
On "Troubadour" and for the rest of the set, Taylor is joined by Mike Seal on Double Bass and Emanuele Marchetti on percussion. Together the Sean Taylor Trio play out beautiful melodies telling terrible tales as the man himself describes it.
Yet is more less?
Combined the three artists share the load, no egos, a common understanding and respect. Seamless shared symphonic sound. "Bad Light" continues, here it has a wonderful funky feel that wouldn't quite come across on just solo guitar and vocal.
The set continues with familiar favourites, "Cruelty Of Man" with jazz chords that are more suited to an octopus, you couldn't tell as spellbound you listen, the double bass sublime.
Along the way we revisit Sean's back catalogue, eight albums in twelve years, we have songs from "Walk With Me", the sensuous love song "Perfect Candlelight" - "I lay by your side….. Curled around you like a vine, in perfect Candlelight" and"Hold On" with its nod to Davey Graham and a DADGAD tuning.
We are treated to Skip James "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" before the set ends with Tom Waits "Way Down In The Hole" and the encore of "You'll Never Walk Alone" which has a quiet power and persuasion, concentrating on feeling, it is a million miles removed from the Anfield Anthem and to my mind much better for it.
One question remains to be answered. "Do you miss the intensity of Sean as a solo performer when he appears as a trio?" It's a fair question, it was asked to me after the gig. Reflecting, It's one that has to be down to personal taste. Certainly the message still gets through on songs such as "Life Goes On - Be Strong - Hold On". It is though very different but having seen Sean on many occasions from sell out tours to free festival appearances in small intimate pubs it's impossible not to be lifted by his music, to be carried along on a wave of his passionate performances. Quite simply the man is that rare phenomenon of a star talent who is firmly rooted on the ground.
For me I'll catch the star as often as I can in whatever constellations he appears.
Setting the scene earlier in the night was support from two artists who deserve to billing in their own right. First up was Angel Snow, a singer songwriter from Nashville with her mournful songs of relationships that failed or were never meant to be. Tales of longings and love stripped bare, just voice and guitar, a minimalistic approach that focuses attention. It makes you concentrate on the words, it helps you relate to the emotions expressed. Snow first burst onto the scene by writing three tracks on Alison Kraus's 2011 release "Paper Airplane".
The Nashville link was continued as "Wildfire", Elles Bailey's debut album was recorded there. A set of impressive energetic electric blues from the four piece band ensured. Highlights for me were "What If I", an autobiographical song about a time when Elles almost quit the music business and "Perfect Storm" which had a delightful comfy blues, Muscle Shoals feel.
The night was that Perfect Storm, many thanks to the team at the LittleRabbit Barn for hosting the event and finally my apologies for the regrettable tardiness of this review due to personal health issues.
Ian Cripps - words, Chris Kyan - pics
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