Very nice Club Uncut last night, headlined by Kurt Wagner. Allan will be blogging about Wagner’s lovely set later, I think, though I have to mention that: a) the “OH (Ohio)” songs that made up virtually the entire set stood up great to solo treatment; b) his guitar playing, all languid southern soul licks, seems much improved than I can recall from long-ago solo shows; and c) in the event that modesty prevents Allan from reporting this, he gave thanks and provoked applause for our editor. So he can come back.
Good. Anyway, my beat last night concerned the two support acts, James Blackshaw and Cate Le Bon. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m concerned that my love of Blackshaw’s music might look a bit stalkerish from a distance. Still, it was great to have him play the club, and his brief set was terrific: just hunched over his 12-string acoustic, meticulously drawing affinities between folk, raga, classical composition and so on. As he burrowed deep into what I think may have been “Echo And Abyss” from “Litany Of Echoes”, it’s fascinating how such intricate and discreet music can hold a room.
Watching and listening to Blackshaw, I’m conscious of a critical shortfall on my part, in that after a certain point, the impressionistic hyperbole runs out and my complete lack of technical knowledge means that I can’t really explain what it is about Blackshaw that makes his combination of virtuosity and compositional skill so graceful.
Afterwards, our Production Ed was talking a lot about open tunings, which I didn’t entirely understand. Maybe next time, I should try and get him to pin down Blackshaw’s slippery excellence into more concrete terms. In the meantime, apologies for the plug, but you can hear James play on this month’s free Uncut CD.
Cate Le Bon might be a new name to many of you, since her solo career thus far consists to my knowledge of just one rare EP, “Edrych Yn Ilygaid Ceffyl Benthyg”. Le Bon, though, is part of Gruff Rhys’ team, and consequently spent the other night at the Mercury Prize shindig performing as part of Neon Neon.
I don’t want to make Laura Marling-bashing a constant part of this blog; as we’re constantly, slightly creepily reminded by her admirers, she’s VERY YOUNG. But God, how mediocre does Marling’s schtick look in comparison to Le Bon’s performance here? She only sings one song in Welsh tonight, and a good few of her songs seem to be about dead animals, but there’s a warmth and quiet potency throughout, which never slips into anything so banal as melodrama.
Comparisons? Someone suggested she sounded like an owl, which isn’t bad. We were reminded a little of Sandy Denny, but the tunes weren’t quite like that – more in the vein of “After The Goldrush” maybe, or (though making comparisons to another Welsh act is a bit invidious) Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, perhaps what they were up to around the time of “The Blue Trees” in particular. That post-Gorky’s Richard James album, “The Seven Sleepers Den” (one that’s been neglected and is well worth checking out, by the way) might be another reference, to Le Bon’s solo live show at least. Let’s hear more.