On Friday I was back once again at Norwich Arts Centre covering for Outline Craig Hill’s third recent Americana gig for his Tilting Sky, headlined by local country queen Sam Coe and her band the Long Shadows.
Immediately upon arrival I was struck by the vibe of the evening with many familiar faces, including numerous fellow photographers, catching up ahead of the music, an altogether calmer atmosphere than the previous night’s Bob Log III mayhem! I caught up with Craig himself, in the foyer and he joked that he was still not talking to Hot Raisin’s Tory as she had overtaken him in the final mile of the previous weekend’s city half marathon!
It was True Adventures who opened the music though, Sam playing a solo set of some familiar originals, beautifully delivered in an indie-folk style. I also enjoyed his conversational style during tunings and introductions. Who cannot relate to the romance of looking out of the windows on long train journeys and feeling inspired to write, however ” … now that’s too expensive so I catch the MegaBus; I tried writing songs about that but they were just … crap, so this one’s about old trains” and thanking Sam for the loan of a capo. “She had a gold one and a rhinestone one but I’m not country enough for that. ‘Rhinestone Capo’ is a classic song though!”
Hot Raisin are always a delight and this was a treat to see them in full band form, recalling drummer Daryl and with Tory playing electric guitar and diplomatically not referencing that marathon incident to Craig! My “natural anti-depressants” certainly hit the spot again and I thoroughly enjoyed their set, good to hear a new track get a showcase too.
Sam Coe and the Long Shadows seemed very comfortable on the NAC stage with a full sound that was lapped up by a decent sized audience. There’s a purity about the honest style of country music. It’s clear the band are all fans of the style of music they play, Sam herself I actually recall seeing last year in a serendipitous bumping into each other at Liverpool Street Station as we were both making our way back to the fine city after an amazing gig in London by Courtney Marie Andrews, an artist we both love, admire and appreciate so much that we travelled to the capital to see this authentic artist perform songs that hit the spot and connect with the listener. Sam Coe’s love of country music shows clearly in the spirit she and the band play with and it’s clear it connects with people as there were plenty audience members sporting the band’s album ‘Full Moon’ t-shirts.
A most enjoyable Friday evening with three varied acts and a very friendly, sociable crowd. My Outline review is below:
“Sam Coe and the Long Shadows were the headliners at the Norwich Arts Centre for legendary promoter Craig Hill’s Tilting Sky, closing his trio of Americana gigs in the city. The night had two strong and varied support acts, beginning with True Adventures. I’ve been an admirer of Sam’s work for some time but it seems like quite a while since I last saw him so this was a good reminder of what an entertaining storyteller he is, not only in the lyrics of his songs but the chats between them too. He quickly drew in those who already knew his material and also endeared himself to those first-time listeners with a warm and engaging set, delivered beautifully and with plenty of soul and gentle humour.Next on the bill was a full-band version of the superb Hot Raisin (who were fellow Battle of the Bands finalists with Sam Coe and the Long Shadows a couple of years back) and for this occasion were reunited with drummer Daryl to play in their fully electric, full band formation. They raised the tempo and volume, sounding big, warm and punchy. I love them to bits and was happy to hear a new track alongside the more established live favourites such as Captain and set-closer Whiskey Ginger. They have variety and songs which draw you in, together with a stage-presence that has such a feel-good factor about it. One can just tell that these are people who love each other’s company and click so well together, both musically and as friends.Sam Coe and the Long Shadows have been on the Norwich gig circuit for a few years and continued the whiskey theme with their own Whiskey Dreaming. They too sounded full and tight with their recently expanded line up. In fact bassist Philip was playing just his second gig with the band whilst James on guitar was actually making his Long Shadows live debut, so that tightness was all the more impressive bearing in mind how long they’d been together. Of course the two of them are also known to many of us from their days in Addison’s Uncle.With the lap steel, dobro, keys, drums, bass, electric guitar and Sam’s own acoustic guitar and vocals there is a strong feeling of depth to the sound, a warmth and fullness that harks back to a golden age of country music. A very fine cover of Margo Price’s Hurtin’ on the Bottle typifies this style and sound that Sam Coe and the Long Shadows play. There was a little onstage discussion about the name of their style which ranged from “Americana” and “East Anglicana” but to my ears on the night it seemed to be the outlaw end of what Dale Watson has dubbed Ameripolitan, which is all about authenticity and this is what we recognise in these open, honest and heartfelt songs.They perform an enjoyable set to an appreciative audience and the encore of The Comeback Queen is well-judged and selected, not only in sentiment but also in the identifying sound of what Sam Coe and the Long Shadows are about.
Congratulations too to Craig Hill for another strong and varied line-up completing a hat-trick of Americana gigs but more is on the way with The Waterfront Sessions and an East Coast Country all-dayer on the 4th August that shall again include Sam Coe & the Long Shadows and Hot Raisin, alongside Morganway, Lisa Redford, The Vagaband, Lucy Grubb, The Revelation Brothers, Rory Hill, Tom Malachowski, and Little Red Kings.”
Our wonderful ad special NAC currently has a 40/40 fundraising campaign to raise £40,000 to unlock a £499,000 grant from the Arts Council for its regeneration. You can help by donating an extra £1 when buying a ticket, or at the Arts Centre itself in one of its collection jars, or by clicking here. Or even buying a 40/40 ale at the NAC bar at a gig where £1 will go to the fundraising.