Pete Molinari – Borders Bookshop, Oxford Street, London

This was in a way like returning to the scene of the crime, or something like it.

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This was in a way like returning to the scene of the crime, or something like it.

By which I mean, that when Uncut was still in its robust infancy, we regularly ran live shows here at Borders, memorable showcases that about a year featured great performances by mostly noble singer-songwriter types, among them Richard Hawley, Thea Gilmore, Tom McCrae, Glenn Tilbrook, Ben Christophers and Ed Harcourt.

We are back here tonight for a special appearance by Pete Molinari, as part of Uncut’s association with Borders during the PPA’s annual Magazine Week. Molinari, of course, reaches us from the Medway Delta, via Nashville’s Music Row, Greenwich Village in its boho 60s pomp and Sam Phillips’ Memphis, a Chatham kid eerily possessed of the kind of musical chops you’d most likely associate with something that came out on Sun records in its glorious heyday.

His new album, A Virtual Landslide, has had critics fairly drooling over its unforced authenticity, his effortless assimilation of vintage influences, and he counts among his fans Paul Weller and the aforementioned Richard Hawley, as well as flag-waving supporters like Bob Harris, Radcliff and Maconie, Robert Elms and Mark Lamarr.

Listening to him here at Borders, just him on guitar with Matt, the stand-up bass player from his touring band, an incongruous rockabilly spectre in Borders harshly-lit music department, you would not be surprised if static was part of the sound, so redolent is the music he plays of something reaching us from a bygone time, crackling down history’s wires.

What he calls “the hallelujah blues” of songs of heartbreak and anguished redemption like “Love Lies Bleeding”, “I Don’t Like The Man I Am” and “One Stolen Moment” are the kinds of things you might expect to hear on the jukebox of some beat-up roadhouse way off some highway in Mississippi, Texas or Tennessee, the kind of bar where you have to check your guns in at the door, an Arkansas hard-ass like the teenage Levon Helm is playing drums with the house band, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins are arm-wrestling over open pits of scorpions in a corner and Hank Williams is passed out under the neon beer sign.

Molinari clearly has an ear for the classic verities of soulful country music as sharp as practised aficionados of the craft as Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello – it’s not hard to imagine a couple of the tracks from A Virtual Landslide on King Of America – while the new “’63 Chevrolet” sounds even in this sparse musical setting like something from Dave Edmunds’ back catalogue, a rockabilly classic plucked from a piece of scratched vinyl in a dog-eared sleeve. “Dear Angelina”, meanwhile, dissolves into a flashback to the Village, smoky rooms, drinks flowing, the young Dylan at a microphone and people asking each other who this kid is, because they don’t yet know his name.

He ends by reminding us that he’ll be playing Camden Dingwalls on October 9 and he’d like to see us all there, although I am not sure this constitutes an opportunity for everyone to get their names on the guest list.

Pete’s still chatting to fans when I leave, only 15 minutes to go before tonight’s Club Uncut kicks off around the corner at the Borderline.

I’ll see you there shortly.


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