Hannah wants to burn down Birmingham. Thankfully we’re safe tonight
As he starts tonight with “You Never Called Me Love”, it is immediately obvious that Will Hunt is a very British singer-songwriter. He deals in pithy, slightly bitter vignettes that recall Elvis Costello and David Ford. Clearly adept at making the offbeat perfectly accessible, as he does on “Theme Park Suicide”, he is soon joined on accordion by his father, Bill, who was once in ELO and Wizzard and he adds a flourish to the likes of “Momentary Romance” – the title track of Hunt Jr’s mini album – and the magnificently melancholy “Hearts Of Gold”. An artist who’s songs feel more personal than most, Hunt punctuates his set with the stories behind the tracks, “…Gold” we learn was written for a friend he lived with in Kentish Town (“I only went to get directions and stayed 12 years” he says) and the last one is about his experiences of London. The key line, “got pissed up and blagged a cab” seems to sum it up. Hunt is a talented proposition, with plenty of original takes on things.
With her incredible “Gold Rush” album – released last month – Hannah Aldridge has delivered one of the great Americana records of the last few years.
Watching her play tonight, minus the band and just there with her guitar, allows for discussion on two things. First her wonderful voice is by turns gorgeous and fragile, but also strident and confident. But second, these stripped-down versions of the songs really bring home the quality of the songwriting, because they become entirely different beasts than on the album.
This is, as Aldridge explains, probably because they were written in this way, but whatever the explanation, they exhibit a rare quality.
She doesn’t start with a new track. Instead, that honour falls to the title song of her debut album “Razor Wire”, one of a smattering she plays from that record. “You Ain’t Worth The Fight”, the sultry “Lie Like You Love Me” (“there’s a music video for this, which I hope my parents haven’t seen” she smiles) are both superb, but the heartbreaking “Parchman” is a thing of beauty here.
That said, most of the rest of the evening belongs to “Gold Rush” and showcasing it’s nuggets. Even here, in this intimate setting you can tell how varied a record it is. Nine of its ten tracks are aired, from the outright rock n roll bluster of “No Heart Left Behind”, the bluesy “Dark Hearted Woman” to the wanton self-destruction of “I Know Too Much”, they are all here and all, without exception, quite wonderful.
Split into two halves, part one ends with a cover of The Allman Brothers, “Whipping’ Post” and a singalong of “Burning Down Birmingham” written after the “worst day of my life”. Think she’s joking? Well, she broke up with her boyfriend and a drunken fan was sick on her. As days go……
The second half begins with “Aftermath”, the lead track on “….Rush” and actually manages to surpass the first. This is no mean feat but it is achieved largely because of the emotion-filled “Black And White” dedicated to her son, Jackson (named after Jackson Browne, who’s “These Days” she also plays), the lustful “Lace” and the new album’s title cut which crackles with a mixture of regret and hope.
That closes the set, but there had to be an encore on a night like this. A couple of surprises too. “Modern Day Bonnie And Clyde” – written by her Dad Walt and made famous by Travis Tritt – is fun, but even better is “Howlin’ Bones” a single from 2013 that made it on to the debut, is played unplugged and turns the gig into something as intimate as one in your own living room.
Promising to come back later in the year with a full band, Hannah Aldridge is an artist that you feel you know by the end of the show. She does, as she admits, lay her heart on the line every single night. It works too. And up close and personal as she is here, she is unstoppable.