Acoustic or electric? What’s your preference when listening to live music? Well, last Thursday as far as seeing Twilight Hotel was concerned it wasn’t a case of either/or but both! Let me explain…..
The duo, Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury, performed a short ‘in-store’ at the small yet perfectly formed Union Music Store in Lewes, where they played acoustically and by that I mean completely unplugged, in the afternoon, and a full, electric show in the evening at Brighton’s Prince Albert pub.
The afternoon was just a taster; the first song When The Wolves Go Blind with just voices, ukulele and accordion was a rare treat and really showed off the haunting harmonies the pair are so well known for. Together they create a sound which has been variously described as alt-folk, folk-noir, folk-roots, folk-blues but what does it matter what genre they slot into when they are as engaging as this duo? Mahogany Veneer, Communist Daughter and a new unrecorded song about how life on the road as a travelling musician is tough on relationships, completed this insight into… and I was going to write ‘what was to come later’ but that wouldn’t be true because the songs were presented very differently from the way they were played again later in the evening.
Twilight Hotel know the ‘Albert’ well having played there previously and attracted a very respectably sized crowd for their ticketed show. Initially concentrating on their latest album WHEN THE WOLVES GO BLIND they focused on songs from that using trumpet, electric guitars, accordion, bass drum and lap steel. About half way through the set they invited Jamie Freeman (Jamie Freeman Agreement) to join them for Mahogany Veneer so we had three electric guitars and three voices combining on this song, which starts off so romantically but ends darkly with a suicide and subsequent funeral.
Approximately two and a half years ago, Zdan and Quanbury relocated from their native Canada to the US and specifically to Austin, Texas, partly in a desire to get their music heard by a wider constituency and partly to take advantage of the creativity seeping through the ‘live music capital of the world’. The pairing found themselves in a not unfamiliar place - critically acclaimed (Juno nominees) but not able to see a commercially successful future if they remained in Winnipeg. The song The Ballad of Salvador and Isabelle was introduced as one whose subject matter refers to people moving away from their homeland and whilst it was written years before Zdan and Quanbury moved away from Canada, it is eerily prescient to their own situation.
In addition to running through some of their current album, a few earlier compositions were included as well as a cover of My Daddy Rocks Me (recorded by Trixie Smith in the 1920’s). Concluding with the lively lead track from 2008’s HIGHWAY PRAYER Viva la Vinyl they finished on a high so much so that they remained on stage for two encore songs closing proceedings with Sand In Your Eyes.
Yes, much of their material is dark but when they perform in front of a live audience they exude fun, smile a great deal and generally have a wonderful time. The UK tour continues until April 22nd and I am already eagerly anticipating a return visit to these shores. Jela Webb
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