Underhill Rose – Live Theatre Newcastle – 19-11-16


Having seen Edwina Hayes perform a few times over a number of years, it was a pleasure to see her back in the North East. She opened her set with the melancholy ‘Leave A Light On For You’, followed quickly by ‘Won Me Over’. Next up was a new song currently titled ‘Aunty Brenda’s Song’, preceded by a long and discursive account of its creation involving Guernsey, Rod Stewart, her aunt and uncle and the fact that at one point she was 40, living alone with a cat and a cardboard cut-out of Bob Dylan. This was the template for the night, Edwina style; a long intro to a song, followed by the song itself. ‘Pour Me A Drink’, which was included by Nanci Griffith on her fabulous album, ‘Loving Kind’, followed the background of the song and her obvious thrill at Nanci covering her song. Next up was ‘Tell Me So’, ending with a heartfelt version of the stunning ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ by Leonard Cohen, very fitting, considering his recent passing. I’m fairly sure he was smiling down.

All in all, it was an excellent set, we could have had a few more songs if she had not talked quite so much, but then that would have robbed the evening of much of her genuine warmth and charm. Somehow, I find, Edwina’s long chat between songs is as much a part of her show as the songs themselves. Edwina does need (and this was mentioned many times) to get more music out – here’s hoping! She certainly won me over tonight.

Having heard good things about Underhill Rose, I was looking forward to their performance. They played a very pleasant set, although I’m unsure how much of a connection they made with the audience. At times they appeared nervous and even slightly distant. They had to head off straight after the show to Gatwick for a flight home and maybe that was preying on their minds. Eleanor Underhill on banjo, Molly Rose Reed on guitar and Salley Williamson on upright bass, make a very pleasant sound, which is very easy on the ear- early Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss, and Red Molly came to mind. They harmonise very well indeed, with echoes of Applewood Road and Madison Violet. They didn’t always divulge which song they were playing – I worked out that the opening number was called ‘Not Gonna Worry’ by the repetition of the line. This happened a few times, including the John Prine encore. ‘Whispering Pines’, ‘When I Die’, ‘Learn’, ‘Helpless Wanderer’ and ‘Montana’, comprised the bulk of the set; interesting themes and topics but at times they felt a little bit repetitive, slipping by without much of a wow factor. To be fair to them, my relative unfamiliarity, having only recently gotten the album, probably played a part in that.

Salley took the lead vocal on a great version of ‘These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ and maybe if they had broken up the set with the covers better placed, then their set may have worked better. ‘One Time A Year’ is a very enjoyable holiday song and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the song go to Women for Women International, which they said was a cause dear to their hearts, but I had to find the information somewhere other than their website. Another five songs slipped easily by, preceded by an impressive cover of ‘Trouble In Mind’, which has been covered by many, including both Nina Simone and Johnny Cash. The encore was the afore-mentioned John Prine cover and a bit of detective work revealed it to be ‘Long Monday’ (a new one to me,) which now makes sense of the jokes they made regarding the flight home!

They return to England in June 2017 – sadly too early for SummerTyne – where I think they would have gone down well. They have a lovely bluegrass sound, great voices, harmonies and so forth, but for some reason did not fully connect with the crowd – which is a shame, because there is, without a doubt, great potential in their music and live performance. I will look forward to seeing them next time they are up this way as I am sure it will be even better.

Helen Mitchell

Helen Mitchell

My Dad introduced me to country music at a very early age; the first songs I ever knew the words to were by Wille Nelson and John Denver. My first live concert was Neil Sedaka when I was 8.At 10, I saw John Denver and fell in love with live music. I love reviewing and have done so for several outlets. Eclectic in my taste, I especially love Americana, singer songwriters, country and roots music.
Helen Mitchell

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