Nikki Lane (with Jonathan Tyler), Robert Chaney (with Laura Tenschert), Hope in High Water at The Owl Sanctuary, Norwich 30 April 2016
I am still amazed that this wonderful gig happened, and all for free too in this extraordinary venue that is The Owl Sanctuary. Nashville-based country outlaws Nikki Lane with Jonathan Tyler on their first visit to the UK, supported by the excellent Robert Chaney, now based in London but originally from Florida, accompanied by Laura Tenschert, and the duo Hope in High Water from Milton Keynes. Being a free one I decided to get to the Owl early not wanting to miss out on a gig I had been looking forward to for weeks. There were actually two events happening in the same venue on this occasion, a hiphop night upstairs with this gig taking place in the downstairs bar area which soon became very full and busy.
First on were Americana folk duo Hope in High Water, who are Josh and Carly from Milton Keynes. I had a nice chat with Josh and Dan before the set, he has been to Norwich several times before at the old Owl in a more punky guise. A really nice chap who as well as making music also now makes incredible jewellery. I enjoyed their set and was happy to buy their music afterwards, definitely some Townes and Tom Waits influence in their set as well as the gospel-infused dark Americana I love so much. Harmonies, guitar, occasional banjo and lovely people. I’d really like to see them again. The EP When Sorrow Calls is a delight and features some of the gems from their set which really touched me at the time; “When You’re Gone”, and “Angels in Heaven”. The songs were impressive on first hearing but sometimes after hearing the recordings at home one just wants to experience it all over again to hear songs that have already become favourites. I’ll be sure to follow this band.
Robert Chaney was next on, an artist who blew me away with his dark and compelling stories at Red Rooster last year, joined for a few numbers by Laura Tenschert, they have a super dynamic. Alas in the general hubbub of the lively bar some of the words and subtlety of his work was a bit lost unless one was right near the front paying close attention (and many were) those that did were held rapt. Sadly Robert did not think his more story-based songs would be heard and so we did not get to hear the masterful The Cyclist but we did get Patch it Up and it is always a pleasure to see him play. Nice to see in close appreciative attendance were a few of The Thinking Men, also on last year’s Red Rooster bill and new fans of Mr. Chaney. Do see him if you get a chance the songs are haunting, compelling and beautifully delivered but the set is not without humour.
There is no doubt that Nikki Lane is the real deal. The absolute sweetest badass with bucketloads of attitude and charm … I think everyone fell in love with her. In her white stetson she took to the stage with Jonathan Tyler in the by now very noisy and lively bar not sure if she could even be heard but I could tell she’d faced far more challenging gigs than this. She said there may be a need for two gigs tonight, one inside and one outside where we could all be heard but proceeded to play a blistering set of country outlaw blues and cinematic soundscapes of revenge that I found just fantastic. Certainly “outlaw” in the sense that she does what the hell she wants and has a bloody-mindedness that I adore about her. I was certainly not alone in that. The place was whooping and hollering … it almost felt this was not Norwich but the American South. I would absolutely love to see her play somewhere like the Arts Centre with a band but am so glad I was here to experience this one which could go down as one of those legendary gigs. At one point she asked for a whiskey in exchange for a CD, told a story and when it arrived downed it in one and launched into the next scorcher of a song. The audience adored her and I think she and Jonathan had a blast too and inbetween originals did a lovely cover of Waymore’s Blues. Nice to see them call Robert and Laura onstage to join them for a number as well.
After the gig she happily chatted and signed the LPs that were flying off the merch stall and true to her word, she did take the guitar outside and played one quiet song, the beautiful Out of My Mind. This slow, pained and reflective song showed another side of Nikki which I also liked very much and it was certainly one of those special “moments”.
Nikki’s second album is the one I picked up, All or Nothin’ produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys who also guests on one of the tracks. The whole thing could be a soundtrack to an amazing movie whilst her voice sometimes recalls Wanda Jackson or Loretta Lynn. It just paints pictures in the head and begs to be used in a gritty road movie. It’s Goddam cool.
Jonathan Tyler’s album Holy Smokes is well worth checking out too, it features To Love is to Fly with Nikki which they played on the night. The album has a real 70s fullness to its sound with drums and guitar to the fore and is terrific fun with his blues and rock influences showing through.
Many thanks to Nikki Lane, Jonathan Tyler, Robert Chaney, Laura Tenschert, Hope in High Water, Queen Addi for taking a couple of pics for me, and once again, The Owl Sanctuary.
all rights reserved (c) shashamane 2016