LAWM #50: Diane Cluck, Alasdair Roberts. Mary Hampton, & Dan Haywood’s New Hawks

Reviewed by Kev McVeigh

LAWM rarely took the easy route in my experience.  So having the biggest sounding band of the night open for three solo acoustic acts was a gamble.  In many ways Dan Haywood’s New Hawks set a standard that the others didn’t always meet.  Dan is amiable, seemingly nonchalant as though he’s playing in his living room, yet his rambling asides hide a serious approach.  His confidence in the 8 piece band is manifested in a warmth of delivery and a relaxed freedom that suits him.  I honestly think this was as good as I have ever seen the New Hawks play.

From Dan’s rich mix of thoughtful songs and post-folk instrumental passages to what at first seemed a polar opposite.  Mary Hampton sat alone on stage and sang the traditional ‘Twa Ravens’ unaccompanied.  It’s a long piece and a bold move, but as she sang in that high, whispery voice she seemed to physically grow on the stage.  And what a voice, subtly enhanced on subsequent songs by the unusual choice of a tenor guitar.  Her self-composed lyrics were laid bare, disturbing and haunting.  ‘Lullabye’ had me wanting someone’s hand to hold. ‘History’s what you feel like in the morning’ she sang.in the superb closer ‘Hoax & Benison’ a future classic of wordplay and naked emotion reminiscent of  the early Handsome Family maybe…  

 

Mary Hampton photo (c) Richard Davis

Mary Hampton photo (c) Richard Davis

So for Alasdair Roberts to follow that should have been a good thing.  His more conventional folk stylings offer respite to Mary’s vocal experiments.  Roberts’ songs are rooted in tradition, as he acknowledges in referencing older songs and singers, but equally are reaching out to the modern world.  His muscular songwriting matches his lyrical examination of masculinity, carried with clear diction.  On another night it might have been enough, on this night, not quite.  He just didn’t command the stage and the room the way Mary Hampton had done.

 

Nor, in the end, did Diane Cluck, for some a slight anti-climax.  On CD she reminds me of a folk-experimentalist midway between Joni Mitchell and Jane Siberry in approach and voice,  Live with just a guitar this experimental nature was inevitably muted.  She began quietly, her understated lyrics only hinting at something more expressive.  Only on ‘1/2 a million miles from home’ was I really struck by how good she can be.  Until the last couple of songs where she seemed to move away from the microphone and actually let her voice take over the room.  Then she became as good as she is on CD at last.

So unfortunately whether it was the too uniform nature of the bill, or the heat or something undefined, but the final LAWM fell ever so slightly flat at the end.  It was a very good night overall, but in the sequence of fabulous LAWM nights maybe not the very best.  Diane Cluck and Alasdair Roberts both played well and were good, but perhaps if the bill had been reversed, if Dan Haywood or Mary Hampton had closed proceedings changing the dynamic around then the night might just have had a more fitting climax.

 

Minor quibbles aside, Richard Twine has put on a long and regular series of fantastic gigs.  He deserves praise and thanks for all of his efforts.

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11 Responses

  1. I knew beforehand that quite a few people wouldn’t get Diane Cluck. She’s too much of a maverick for widespread appeal. But if you understand her music, her integrity, her attitude you will know why she was the best person to close LAWM and also something of what LAWM was all about. We’re very lucky to have had her play in Lancaster, and it was one of the nights highlights (I’m very lucky that there were loads of these< i will get round to listing these on the web-site some time). Also for the record it worked out that of the 50 nights, 25 were headlined by women, and 25 by men (vocalists that is). Puts to bed any latent malicious misogyny about me putting on lots of female singers. The joke's on them.

  2. Richard: I wasn’t aware of any comments about you and female singers, but for the record from this side: Lots of female singers get gigs, not all get to headline so well done in that regard.
    And I did enjoy Diane Cluck, but integrity and attitude mean nothing without delivery on the night. She delivered but Mary Hampton delivered more for me.

  3. I strongly disagree with your comments. Diane Cluck was the perfect way to end the night! Clucks performance ensured that by the end of the night I was pining for more. I was totally capitivated by her! Well done LAWM

  4. Put simply, Lancaster has been extremely lucky to have had a run of gigs of such quality. We will miss them. I think we began to take for granted the brilliance of the acts LAWM delivered. Its impossible to overstate the work involved in bringing home these acts, and we, as a small northern city WILL begin to realise that we’ve been spoiled somewhat, and that by being overly critical of the likes of Diane Cluck and Alisdair Roberts we begin to sound ridiculous……..LAWM has gone, in a very short space of time we will look back at friday and think ‘fuck, did these people really play here ?, and we slagged ’em off’ what a pityful show of appreciation.
    I have explained to Richard personally my view on friday. With a bit of luck he’ll be back, can’t stay away for too long, surely, not with what LAWM has achieved

  5. ha, thanks Natalie for your kind words there. happy that i’ve got you into her music. Yeah Kevin, remember the Transition night? They put on a few good nights, but didn’t feature a single female vocalist which was bizarre and strangely went unnoticed.

    i don’t really get any criticism of alasdair’s set at all – he was going for it, and they (with his fiddler) delivered. diane i understand will freak a few normals out, but i thought she was sublime, and i was transfixed. i also kinda liked they way she just sauntered off stage. perfect i thought, no fanfare. it’s easy for different people to see the same gig and have completely different impressions. that’s fine and be expected. i just don’t like the pretension of authority a review inevitably strives for.

  6. i found diane cluck’s performance both heart wrenching and beautiful. i, and my companions, left gushing about her talents and about a perfect night of musical creativity! thanks LAWM!

  7. Alasdair was ace.

    Loadsa charisma.

    Ice cool.

    All of the acts was bostin’.

    Twine is a handsome gambler.

    Let’s have many more last ever LAWMs.

    My axillaries is the pits!

  8. Speaking as a ‘normal’ my view of the evening happens to coincide with Kev’s. Mary Hampton was wonderful, Diane Cluck didn’t do it for me. I don’t have a problem with that.

    When you start up again Richard, let me know if I’m not ‘scene’ enough to buy a ticket!

  9. At the end of the day, a review is just one man’s opinion. I think Kev’s review was fair, he just wasn’t as keen on one of the artists performances. What’s wrong with that? No-one’s attacking anyone here or being personal. It’s great that these events are being covered full-stop and having an opinion about an artist is better than indifference and being ignored. Despite the fact that Kev was slightly underwhelmed by Diane Cluck’s performance on the night, the fact that he wrote about her would imply that she still managed to have an effect on him one way or another – whether that be positive or negative. We’re all a part of Lancaster’s artistic scene in one way or another, let’s pull together and respect one another’s opinions and stop bickering about he said/she said.

    Keep up the good work everyone!

  10. Personally, I found that the previous Mary Hampton LAWM gig was much better – the intimacy (and no stifling heat) made it a real good treat, ya? It was one of the highlights of last year. For some reason, this time it didn’t work for me. I’ve got her CDs though and they’re worth checking out.

    I’ve seen Alasdair Roberts 3 times, and this time was my favourite. Despite the heat, I found him TOTALLY engaging. Yes, TOTALLY. I needed air, I needed a piss, but I wouldn’t yeald to those pathetic needs when a performer of such magnitude was playing. For some reason, his records don’t do it for me, but I’m going to try his latest.

    Diane Cluck – I found her vocal techniques got on my nerves after a couple of songs, and she didn’t seem to engage very well with the audience. When a performer starts moaning at the sound engineer – but off-mic so the engineer can’t actually know what the demand is, it’s generally a sign of their insecurity. (Marissa Nadler did the same a couple of years back). I’m not sure if she wasn’t in the mood, or whether I wasn’t. I was really looking forward to her performance too.

    So, I kind of see what Kev means by the anti-climax, but of course, Richard Twine has brought us these people who are all excellent really, (as Wes points out, it’s a little churlish to slag ’em off) but y’know this is the place for sharing honest opinions, right?

    But, as I’ve said elsewhere and many times, 3 cheers for the TwineLord for putting so many great gigs on.

    I’m looking forward to his return, post-book.

    (I was playing in Dan Haywood’s New Hawks, so I can’t really comment on that part, but thanks Kev!)

  11. Well done and thanks for the diversity, Richard. LAWM will be a loss for the whole town. Come back soon.

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