- Kyle Lee
The candles are flickering on the tables and it’s good to see that Leaf is pretty much full to capacity from the off. There is an atmosphere of quiet expectation in the air for another Mellowtone promotion that promises much, featuring as it does label high flyers SEAFOAM GREEN – fresh from their recent barnstorming evocation of the Last Waltz – the just-under-the-radar LIMERANCE, and opening act KYLE LEE.
Two refrains from the opening songs, “I’ll never be lonely on my own” and “I’d rather drink alone”, set the tone for Lee’s set. Crisp, clean guitar lines are abetted by a mournful harmonica and Lee’s rich, sonorous tones are perfect for a song entitled Waiting For Death. His between-song persona lightens the load; the next song is actually (relatively) jaunty, before a slow ballad with a beautiful melody proves that Lee is equally adept in a higher register. The wry Drugs (“Drugs to make you win, drugs to make you thin..”) closes the set. An upliftingly, downbeat start to the night.
Jenny Coyle and Callum Gilligan met at a Leaf open mic night only last summer but to hear them sing together (and I’m trying hard not to go overboard here) puts you in mind of the type of harmonies usually associated with the family groups and duos of the Appalachians. Limerance, as they are known, seem to take a collective ‘here we go’ deep breath as they step up to a shared mic and float into Slow Down Baby which immediately showcases the aforementioned heavenly harmonies. Hellbound sees the perfect juxtaposition of angelic vocal delivery and narrative desperation – “down the river straight to hell, oh my darling fare thee well”.
The duo share songwriting duties but it’s the heather-clad hills of Gilligan’s Scottish homeland that they are pining for in the lovely My Old Sky. Along For The Ride features some nimble finger-picking from Gilligan, and their strong sense of storytelling, feel for melody and those beautiful voices should ensure that Limerance take a lot of people with them on that ride. Tonight’s crowd are definitely right on board.
There’s a good buzz in the room as people mingle before the headline act, abetted as always by a fine DJ set from Beaten Tracks, whose melting pot of soul, gospel, funk and blues sets the scene perfectly.
Dave O’Grady is no stranger to Bido or to this venue, whether as a solo performer or with Seafoam Green, and he looks right at home as the band launch into ‘Merica. This is an unreleased song but immediately we get an idea of the mixers that will go into the making of tonight’s musical cocktail, as Seafoam Green’s own classic blend of Americana swirls around the room.
Home is the first song from the recently released and well received album Topanga Mansions and it’s already apparent that tonight’s four piece setting – featuring Adrian Gautby’s lap steel accompaniments, Martin Byrne’s percussive double bass lines and Muirreann McDermott Long’s soulful vocals – will add plenty of texture to the strong melodies and tales of love lost on the road.
For the second time tonight, we are being treated to great two-part vocal harmonies as Long and O’Grady weave stirring, exultant patterns, in which they are sometimes joined by Gautby and Byrne who provide a rich, resonant palette totally in keeping with the traditions of the genre.
“Can we turn these interrogation lights down? They make me nervous,” quips O’Grady and an even more intimate atmosphere descends on a Leaf crowd who are already totally focused on proceedings.
The highlights are many: a superbly played and evocative Gautby lap steel solo enriches Sister, building in intensity throughout; Byrne whips a bow from its quiver and adds layers of rich sound to the haunting Celtic Wanderings; Long’s soulful, gospel infused vocals a constant delight; the gritty, dirty blues riff and funky bassline of Runaway; the elegiac Whisky.
The classic, rolling Lowly Lou brings to a close a memorable evening amidst sustained applause.