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When Rivers Meet + Dusk Brothers

Saturday 11th May 2024

The Garage, London

English Blues/Rock duo When Rivers Meet completed their eight dates ‘Aces Are High’ UK tour, culminating tonight in a gig at The Garage, Islington. Joining guitarist Aaron Bond and vocalist Grace Bond was multi-instrumentalist and record producer Adam Bowers on bass and James Fox on drums.

The husband-and-wife duo, met at a pub in Downham Market in 2004, initially performing as Holmes and Bond before going on to form When Rivers Meet in 2016 after moving to Brightlingsea in Essex. When the couple first met, Grace had been touring festivals with a Meat Loaf tribute act, and Aaron had been playing in local Rock bands.

Their 2017 debut album ‘Liberty’ was more of a mainstream Country Rock album that failed to make much impact. Dissatisfied with this direction they decided to concentrate more on Roots Blues for their next project. Two years on the first of two under the radar EPs would appear ‘The Uprising’ in 2019 followed by ‘Innocence of Youth’ in 2020. By their second full-length album, 2020s ‘We Fly Free’, they were starting to get noticed and lauded on the Blues scene. The album was listed ninth in the Top 20 Albums of 2020 by Blues Rock Review and reached number one in the Blues Album Charts on iTunes.

Now on a roll, their third studio album ‘Saving Grace’, released in 2021, reached number eighty-four in the UK Albums Chart, number two in the UK Official Jazz & Blues Albums Chart, number five in the UK Official Album Downloads Chart, and number six in the UK Official Independent Albums Chart Top 50. In May 2021, they won four UK Blues Awards, for: Emerging Blues Artist of the Year; Blues Band of the Year; Blues Album of the Year; and Most Inspirational Online Performance of the Year, and in May 2022 they won four more UK Blues Awards for the same categories. Also, in 2021 they were voted Best New Band at Planet Rock’s The Rocks Awards, and then in 2022 won the Blues Power Award and Album of the Year for the ‘Saving Grace’ album. Their fourth studio album ‘Aces Are High’ came out in October 2023 and reached number nine in the UK Albums Chart, number one in the UK Official Jazz & Blues Album Charts and number one in Classic Rock Magazine’s Blues Album 2023.

The Garage was well rammed with eager punters from the off to witness the support band Dusk Brothers foot-stomping Swamp Blues set. Essentially a duo consisting of Bristol based brothers Gray and Iain Moncrief who play their own style of Nlues using homemade instruments to great effect. The duo started out performing together in 2015 and released their debut EP ‘Storms, Rum, Liars and Guns’ in 2019 with their debut album ‘Roses in the Bonecart’ due out in August this year. The lads played a well-received set, and I am certain that these guys are destined for great things!

This was a relatively early gig for a Saturday night as the venue turns into a nightclub shortly after 10 pm. So, wasting no time and to get the evening’s proceedings off to an infectious start the headliners got straight down to business with a trio of electrifying tracks from their new ‘Aces Are High’ album in the form of the oozing ‘Infected’, the snarling ‘Seen It All Before’ and the menacing ‘Play My Game’. Without further ado the band headed straight into the slinky ‘I Can’t Fight This Feeling’ from the 2021 ‘Saving Grace’ album. Grace donned her trusty fiddle for a vivacious solo before juxtaposing into the heavy throb of ‘Bound for Nowhere’ from the 2020 ‘We Fly Free’ album.

A jump back in time came for the sassy ‘My Babe Says That He Loves Me’ from ‘The EP Collection’, with some tasty mandolin slide action and seductively velvety vocals from Grace. The time was right for a trio of bangers from the 2020 ‘We Fly Free’ album in the form of the jubilant ‘Battleground’, the slow burn of ‘I'd Have Fallen’ and the intense riffing of ‘Kissing the Sky’. Without missing a beat, it was back to the ‘Aces Are High’ album for the thrilling ‘Trail to Avalon’. Aaron handled most of the lead vocal and played some superb slide on his homemade tin box guitar.

Slowing proceedings down, both Adam and James swapped their instruments for electric guitar and acoustic guitars respectively and joined Aaron and Grace at the front of the stage for the atmospheric ‘Eye of a Hurricane (Friend of Mine Pt2)’ from the 2021 ‘Saving Grace’ album. The softer mellow nature of the track allowed the close harmonies from Aaron and Grace to shine through. You just can’t fake that kind of chemistry. Without doubt we were witness to an enticingly enthralling performance. Remaining seated the quartet continued the chilled-out vibe with ‘By Your Side’ from the ‘Aces Are High’ album before Adam and James returned to bass and drums respectively, shifting up the momentum for another three scrumptious selections from said album, including the hard-hitting title track ‘Aces Are High’, the brooding ‘Perfect Stranger’ and surreptitiously confessional ‘The Secret’. Adam’s dexterously gritty bass playing on this one was ebulliently exhilarating!

The sassy ‘Walking on the Wire’ was another tasty number from the 2020 ‘We Fly Free’ album. This slide guitar drenched number is another fan favourite and didn’t disappoint. The penultimate song of the main set was the chuggingly spirited ‘5 Minutes to Midnight’ from the 2023 ‘Aces Are High’ album. The band was tightly locked into a satisfyingly irrepressible groove on this one. Onto the final track of the main set with the anthemically gratifying ‘Free Man’ from the 2022 ‘The EP Collection’. Unquestionably a euphorically exhilarating performance.

Since 2020, When Rivers Meet have gained a sizable following of dedicated and devoted fans from all over the UK and Europe, affectionately known as ‘Rapids’. It was quite clear that a good few of them were present as this gig as their loud ovation and screams for more were quite deafening! The band were not going to disappoint any of them and, despite the strict curfew, delivered a two-song encore starting with one of their best songs from the new album, the yearningly fragile ‘Golden’, an elegantly graceful piano ballad that encapsulated the jaw dropping harmonies between Aaron and Grace perfectly. “Like a blue flame supernova, You came passing through the sky, As I looked away, I knew that it was over, And it was time for us to say goodbye, It was always meant to be this way, Nothing ever stays the same, Now the time shared has passed away, Those times I knew, they were golden.” Aaron and Grace have categorically stated that this song is not about their relationship and that theirs is a solid bond that will be forever un-broken! The last song of the evening was the popular crowd pleaser ‘Did I Break the Law’ from the 2020 ‘We Fly Free’ album, which had everyone singing along with gleeful gusto! A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable gig by one of Britain’s best loved Blues bands of the moment.

Steven C. Gilbert

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