With a break in the monthly scheduling due to the New Year Holiday, the return of “Are We Strangers Now?” following a two month gap is as welcome as any date on the musical calendar and as the weeks have passed the artists for tonight’s gig have been lovingly selected to create another night of the finest quality to be found anywhere in the city.
Seamus McLoughlin: Sometimes to open a night can be a daunting task and it takes a performer of some considerable quality to capture and hold the attention of an audience often unfamiliar to the songs that they are about to hear. Thankfully tonight that role falls to Preston based vocalist Seamus McLoughlin. Having first met Seamus almost a year ago it was still to be some time before I had the pleasure to experience for myself the music of a performer whose recorded material had deeply impressed me. Each successive performance since then has increasingly established that quality further. Away from the stage Seamus is hugely charismatic with a rather wicked sense of humour but when he takes to the stage another side is revealed as his rich powerful voice delivers a wonderful set of heartfelt songs in a style as welcoming as a roaring log fire on a cold winter’s night. From the soulful heartache expressed through the beautiful “Could I be Your Lover” and “Worst Case Scenario” to the powerful full on vocal of “Water” Seamus delivers with honesty and style and the fact that he is playing an increasing amount of gigs in and around Manchester is welcome news indeed. www.myspace.com/seamusmcloughlin / www.facebook.com/seamus.mcloughlin
With no previous knowledge of her work it’s that satisfying feeling that you experience as a new voice reaches out to you with a collection of songs rich in meaningful lyrics, poetically styled and delivered with emotion. As a hugely enjoyable set draws to a close I find out from Rachael that her acoustic performance tonight is in addition to the work that she is currently doing with her band as ‘Rachael Wright & The Good Sons’ which after checking them out I have found to provide an equally enjoyable and more aggressive energy to her sound. One thing is for sure is that whether it should be performing solo or with full band Rachael Wright can’t return soon enough for me.www.myspace.com/rachaelwrightmusic / www.facebook.com/rachaelwrightmusic
CD Baby link for Rachael’s album (“Just Like He Said”) www.cdbaby.com/cd/rachaelwright/from/itsafrogslife
Jenny Lindfors: I am not ashamed to admit that having the opportunity to watch tonight’s headliner for only the second time has become not so much a desire but more of a mission! A visit to Manchester’s Ruby Lounge to watch Australian brother and sister Angus & Julia Stone offered me another of those ‘surprise gifts’ that I mentioned by providing the opportunity to witness a support set from a girl totally unknown to me prior to that night but etched into my musical consciousness thereafter. So much so that despite a quality display from Angus & Julia they probably failed to get my complete attention due to the jaw dropping vocal performance that had preceded them.
With my signed CD in hand I left the venue promising myself that the ink would barely have dried on the ticket by the time I would purchase it next time Jenny Lindfors returned to Manchester. As it happens I probably achieved my ambition but frustratingly it was not to take place for a further four years! During that period her debut album “When The Night Time Comes” became and has remained an absolute favourite and one of the most regularly played pieces of music in my collection consisting as it does of twelve wonderfully crafted songs produced by Jenny herself in a deliberately minimalistic style that creates an intimacy that engages the listener and allows for full appreciation of her stunning vocals. Time certainly hasn’t played tricks with my memory as tonight’s opener - “Free As I’m Gonna Be” instantly confirms that what I remembered as a beautiful live voice has, if anything, become even better with her song-writing abilities continuing to develop, adding new work that continues to chart her journeys both physical and emotional alongside songs that chronicle the highs and lows of relationships that have and will continue to shape her life as in “The Boy Who Loved The Sea” with it’s sun drenched story recounted in an infectious bluesy style. The unpredictability of life was never more in evidence than last year when the prestigious opportunity to support Rumer on her nationwide tour was cut short when her partner Pepe Belmonte – himself a talented musician – was seriously injured in a road traffic accident. Thankfully, he is now on the mend and Jenny has been able to turn her thoughts back to performing and completing her long awaited second album the material for which forms much of tonight’s set.
Musical influences as diverse as the classic sounds of the American West Coast and blues come together with her love for the hypnotic nature of African beats and also naturally the folk influences of her native Ireland. In fact the poignant lyrics of “Bridge Of Tears” relate, as she explains, to the Donegal bridge over which in decades gone by countless numbers of people crossed before leaving their homes and country in search of employment and a means of survival – many never to return.
Her own recent departure from her homeland to relocate in London draws modern parallels as in conversation she is honest, focused and determined in the belief that this is what is required to fulfill her dreams. Jenny has sought to maintain an intimacy in both her live and recorded work and bonding all of this together is a truly stunning voice the purity of which has to be experienced live to be fully appreciated. It is from the darkest most vulnerable times however that she has used the negatives to create something special by producing her finest work with the stripped bare simplicity of the self explanatory “I Don’t Really Want You Here” and the serenely beautiful “Fearful Things” – which with its words of longing and regret – has become one of my favourite songs of recent years. She promises me that it will not be quite so long until she returns to play for us again and I truly hope that is the case as I firmly believe that music as special as this should be heard and enjoyed far and wide and that the combination of exceptional talent and self belief that Jenny Lindfors possesses will help her to realise her dreams. www.facebook.com/jennylindforsofficial
Purchase “When The Night Time Comes” from: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/when-the-night-time-comes/id285306692
Review/photos from Shay Rowan