Acoustic rock n roll the way it was meant to be 

Birmingham based singer/songwriter Danielle Cawdell does not even have a record out yet, but what she lacks in product she makes up for in talent. Singing at her piano, accompanied by a backing vocalist adding sweet harmony and Dan Whitehouse (who is also working with her on her forthcoming debut EP), Cawdell deals in achingly beautiful – and largely sad – music. Beginning with the fragile “Affection” and taking in “Pinch”, a poem written by one of her friends, she visibly grows in confidence during her 40 minutes. A heart wrenching (and you guess, true) tale of the death of a close family member is one extreme, the lust filled tune (“it’s embarrassing to play this in front of my parents”, she jokes) is quite another, and somewhere in between is the bluesy “Shake” which is another side of her work altogether. It all works though, and “Steam Train” and its catchy chorus ends a fine set by a talent to keep an eye on.

Annie Keating and her band need a pick me up. “We love being here in the UK” she smiles, “but last night’s gig was crap…..”

The fact that the Kitchen Garden Café is packed might provide the clue to the point that tonight was never going to be, and from the moment she plays “Lucky” it is immediately obvious that this is going to be a joyous affair.

There is a simplicity about these songs that is just perfect. “Coney Island” is written about a day out with her kids, but there also beats a rock n roll heart to this gig that rather renders the fact that she is joined not by drums, but by Englishman Scott Warman on upright bass and the wonderfully talented Steve Mayone on just about everything else. The latter’s guitar work on “Storm Warning” in particular is superb.

The recent single “Trouble” is fun, but “On The Loose” boasts an acoustic sound so primal that you’d swear you’d just walked into Sun Studios the moment that Elvis cut “It’s Alright Mama.” Keating ends the song  on her knees – on a stone floor no less.

But there is a depth here too, because for all the bar room rocking, there’s a “Valentine” or a “Sunny Dirt Road” to change the vibe altogether.

Add to this Keating’s easy charm, Mayone’s deadpan humour, as well as the atmosphere in the room generally, and it becomes a fine brew.

The set was supposed to end with a couple from her latest “Trick Star” album, the title track – an ode to her first love, the bike she got when she was 12 – and the singalong, “You Bring The Sun,” but it just couldn’t. If the first encore, Mayone’s “Deeper From The Well” was planned, then the second, their version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” appeared to be as spontaneous as it was excellent.

It brought an uplifting hour or so to a suitable conclusion, and proved that if you have bags of talent and great songs, you don’t need drums to make great rock n roll.  To paraphrase the album title, it is a neat trick if you can pull it off and tonight Annie Keating proved she was a star.