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The Bros. Landreth + Elliot Morris + Buffalo Riot

Thursday 3rd March 2016

The Garage, Highbury, London

The Bros. Landreth headlined at The Garage in Highbury, supported by folk/country singer Elliot Morris and Scouse rockers Buffalo Riot. It was hard to imagine a more diverse trio of acts - I was intrigued to see (and hear) how well they would gel.

The evening opened with Elliott Morris, a young singer/songwriter who has become a regular on the folk festival scene, playing and singing a mixture of folk and country material. Half English and half Scottish, Elliot is currently based in Lincolnshire, but was born in Swindon and grew up in Wales. These varied backgrounds help explain the variety in his music, as does the number of well known names he has already supported or worked with: Frank Turner, Big Country, Alan Thompson (John Martyn’s bass guitarist for the 20 years before his death), Ed Sheeran and Dave Swarbrick, to name but a few.

Elliott is an energetic and enthusiastic young man, who loves and believes in the quality of his music and is well known for his unorthodox style of percussive guitar. At The Garage he again demonstrated the full range of his fearsome guitar skills. These include tapping, slamming, strumming and fretting his instrument, as well as playing it in the more traditional manner. Elliott is a vocalist and entertainer as well as a wizard guitarist. His vocals are heartfelt and honest, with clever wordplay. His songs embrace the traditional and contemporary, combining folk, roots, and country. He entertains and amuses his audience with observant and wry lyrics, and some fun anecdotes. His main (only?) problem seems to be finding him on Google or YouTube. Initial searches invariably take you to 'one-L' Eliott Morris, a singer / songwriter from Memphis, or Elliott Morris, Glentoran’s goalkeeper! But keep trying; you’ll eventually be rewarded with some intricate guitar and compelling vocals.

Next up was a blistering burst of psychedelic rock from Buffalo Riot, five Scousers who have been together since 2014. The band describe their music as “Uplifting Americana 90’s Indie Rock”. There’s also an unmistakable dash of country which all leads to a fresh, uplifting sound more associated with the Mississippi delta than the Mersey! The initial eruption of sound from Buffalo Riot was in sharp contrast to the quieter songs from Elliott Morris; it certainly livened up The Garage. However, this was not just raw and raucous rock; it was also mature and accomplished. The lyrics, though occasionally lost in the pulsating guitars, were thoughtful and optimistic; the songs wild yet controlled.

Frontman Ben Singleton’s passionate vocals were vibrant and varied; with Iain Morley’s support, they generated something new in each song. With four guitars in play, the sonics were inevitably barnstorming: the bounding resonance uninhibited yet tasteful, keeping the audience totally attentive. The applause at the end of Buffalo Riot’s set was loud and long. The band seemed genuinely appreciative, as though they were not used to such admiration. If they really don’t receive a similar reception in their native Liverpool, it can only be because the audiences there have seen them so often, they’re taken for granted!

Time for the Bros. Landreth, the headlining roots-rockers from Canada. Their current tour, with 24 dates in five countries, is partly to promote their debut album 'Let it Lie', already a success back home in Canada. The band’s fan base in the UK is growing steadily, in part due to several plays on Bob Harris’s Radio 2 show. Would Bob’s praise be justified? The most noticeable feature of the Bros. Landreth’s set is its variety. The contrasting styles between their different songs don’t quite match the gap between Elliott Morris and the Buffalo Riot - but it’s not far short! On most songs vocalist and lead guitarist Joey Landreth is supported by elder brother David on bass, with additional support from drums and keyboard. When required, this support provides a swirling organ, funky bass rhythms and pounding drums but, at one point, the other musicians left Joey alone on stage to sing 'Lost in Snow', a quiet, poignant song dedicated to David’s seriously ill fiancee. When they returned, it wasn’t to pick up their instruments, but to provide a chorus for Joey’s romantic and emotional 'Greenhouse'.

The Bros. Landreth had started their set with a well known cover that immediately captured the audience’s attention, but their version of Wings 'Let 'Em In' was far from a simple copy of the original - it was steeped in a heavy swampy blues sound that Paul McCartney would never have imagined. The band moved into quieter mode, with their polished close harmonies, excellent musicianship and strong catchy melodies reminiscent of the Eagles. My favourite song of this stretch was 'Let it Lie', the title track of their album. But I much preferred the later part of the set, when the band turned the heat up a notch for the rollicking 'Runaway Train', John Hiatt's 'Alone In The Dark' and 'I am The Fool' written and originally recorded by their father Wally Landreth. This section was Country Rock at its best, enhanced by the Bluesy wail of electric guitars, the swirling organ and the blood harmonies of the brothers. The Bros. Landreth returned for a gospel influenced encore. They finished with the classic Southern anthem 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down', which had the enthusiastic audience singing, clapping and cheering along.

Overall, it made for a highly enjoyable evening with something for everybody. Even the styles I wouldn’t normally be that fond of were played with such verve, enthusiasm and originality it was impossible not to relish the atmosphere. Highly recommended.

Ian Cawthron

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