Emma Stevens & Blair Dunlop

Venue: the Chapel Sessions
Town: Southampton
Date: 15/4/15
Website: www.blairdunlop.com

On the hottest day of the year so far, the scene was set, the Chapel, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley transformed into a beach bar and surf shack and the musicians for this double headliner rolled into town for the opening night of their 10 night UK tour. Another Chapel Sessions full house greeted the bands proving a Wednesday night is a popular night to take in some music in an atmospheric setting.

Support from Hampshire based 4 piece Simon Kent band (also this week supporting Toyah Wilcox at Talking Heads), got the evening off to a rousing start with drum infused rhythm, self-penned emotional, atmospheric and melodic contemporary songs.

Next up Blair Dunlop critically acclaimed singer songwriter guitarist (and actor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) still elated from winning 'best singer' in Spiral Earth Awards that very day, delighted the audience with self- penned songs warmly executed with composer Jacob Stoney, keyboards and vocals. Dunlop (son of founder member Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Ashley Hutchings), packed in twelve songs selected from his latest album 'House of Jacks' plus a taste of his first album including the title track 'Blight and Blossom'.

An 18th Century instrumental originally written for Irish harp 'Si Beagh Si Mhor' left the attentive audience spellbound and the latest single much heralded on social media, 'Fifty shades of blue' was well received. The encore 'She won't cry for me' left the audience with no tears but total admiration of this accomplished musician with an impressive pedigree at a mere 22 years.

Co-headlining with Blair Dunlop, saw a return visit from Guildford based multi-instrumentalist Emma Stevens and her fine four piece band. Previously at the Chapel in 2013 touring with Nashville based Jenn Bostic, Emma vowed to return and the Chapel Sessions Beach Party was the perfect setting to co-headline for this lover of all things surfing and the sea.

Her catchy upbeat songs, much played on BBC TV and Radio, combined with a sparkling personality, brought the sunshine inside the Chapel. Multi layers with Spud Smith, bass guitar, vocals and keys, plus lead guitar Sam Whiting gave a depth and guts to the songs many of which were personally heartfelt. 'Sunflower' a breathtaking signature song with a subject close to the heart reflecting sadness but happy times too, was very moving. A surprise acapella cover of Elvis Presley 'Can't help falling in love' from the evocative summer film 'Blue Hawaii' proved a hit with the audience singing along. Further forays into upbeat, bouncy songs with the popular 'Riptide', 'Once' and 'A Place called you' had them dancing in the aisles and showing their appreciation with great applause. The encore, none other than the fittingly titled than 'Underwater' was the perfect choice to end the evening. As the sun set over another successful Chapel Sessions, a personal meet and greet with all the artists, kept the fans old and new, very happy indeed. After the gig Blair Dunlop's many fans and new ones too, shared their appreciation and an impromptu guitar lesson for some young fans finished a great gig in the Chapel Sessions beach bar.

Chapel Sessions is a community led not for profit occasional music series.

Sonja Davison

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