You know that ticket sales have been brisk when this room above the pub has been cleared of furniture and the show is standing only. And so it was for the songstress from Seattle on the penultimate night of her UK tour. Backed by a four-piece band (Greg Nies – drums, Mike McDermott – bass, Ethan Lawton – mandolin and Dave Harmonson – electric guitar and pedal steel) Zoe Muth opened up the proceedings with the title track from her sophomore album STARLIGHT HOTEL.
The album has been garnering great accolades, appearing in many ‘best of 2011’ lists as well as getting good airplay on radio stations across the States. That is now happening here in the UK with a guest appearance on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Loose Ends’ this past weekend and a session recorded for the legendary Bob Harris, which will be broadcast in March. I always think it a shame that the sessions recorded for Harris’ BBC Radio 2 shows can’t always be aired whilst the musician is still touring the country because, as will be apparent when it is broadcast, those who missed Muth and her ‘Rollers’ will be kicking themselves.
A shy personality who only gave up her ‘day job’ last May, Muth has surrounded herself with an excellent band and the combination of her toe tapping country tinged songs with the musicianship evident tonight made for a memorable evening which stretched over two long sets. Harmonson who traded between electric guitar and pedal steel deserves special mention for the sympathetic accompaniment he offered to Muth’s clear and thoughtful vocals. That said, maybe I’m being unfair in singling him out because the quintet complimented each other so well throughout.
The first set featured songs from both the self-titled debut and its follow up but the second set also included a few cover songs, notably Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Heart Like A Wheel and Charlie Feathers’ I’ve Been Deceived. Muth paying tribute, I guess, to the music she grew up listening to and being inspired by. Anyone who acknowledges the McGarrigles in this way is all right in my book!
As the night unfolded, Muth and her band seemed to relax a little more and there was some nice between song banter not only amongst those on stage but those down front too. When she asked what she could find to do in Brighton to fill time before driving on to the next show in the morning, someone shouted out ‘go for a swim!’ I hope she didn’t take that advice, as the sea would have been more than enough to chill even the hardiest of swimmers!
She endeared herself to the predominantly male audience; the biggest cheer of the night was for If I Can’t Trust You With A Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart?) the song that ‘if we ever have a hit, this would be it’. A refreshing new face on the tour circuit, it was clear that Muth and her band are cultivating a following that grows with every show they play.
Returning solo for the first encore, Muth prefaced what she was about to sing with a warning that it would be a long song - Never Be Fooled Again – just in case anyone needed ...the delicate version … ‘to use the facilities’.
The band rejoined her for the final offerings, a new song - Mama Needs A Margarita and the Carter Family’s Dixie Darlin’ by which time, had there been more room, quite a few in the audience would have literally danced away the night. Jela Webb
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