Saturday, May 11, 2013

Live in Frome - Chantel McGregor

It is now much tidier and no longer weed-overgrown as it appears in this picture, which is obviously a good thing, but would you have suspected that it is as well as a Grade 1 listed building and after 251 years in use as a non-conformist chapel, and subsequently the better part of fifty years quietly decaying, now an arts venue, including live music whilst also home to a thriving architectural practice?

It is a bit much to ask, I know, but it is true. Maybe it was meant to be slightly forbidding.
Whether that is true I can't say but it is still formidable, not least because it is a very intimate venue indeed. There are no corners in which to hide and that applies as much to the audience as to the artists. I still wonder, however what the founders and subscribers for the building, when Frome was a town very rich indeed on the wool trade, would make of it all now. I'd like to think, as in their time they were forward-looking and sometimes almost to the point of revolution, they could see the positive side of it all. It might have been a challenge...

Rock four-piece Albany Down kicked things off with a solid set only marginally disrupted by some issues with the lead vocalist's mike and associated lead that were soon sorted out. Two albums, 'South of The City' and 'Not Over Yet' notwithstanding, these things can happen to anyone at any time and so here is Albany Down, live at Rook Lane Chapel Frome.

A great deal of stuff on one of the shallowest stages, which is why the monitors are actually placed on chairs in front of the stage and barely out of the way of the legs of those in the front row of the audience. Sometimes the publicity says "intimate gig" and this was that and then some.  There were a number of memorable tracks, all their own, and some fine guitar moments too.
On another day they could have been headlining and almost everyone, myself included, would have gone home happy but it was not to be one of those days.
This is where I started to wonder really what those wealthy subscribers, who paid for the building of this edifice over three centuries ago, might be thinking.
Not only is it being used for wicked enjoyment. This happened: Chantel McGregor...
"Tis a Wednesday evening; you should be a-busy weaving."
It only got better after that: this is after all an artist who only the previous day (and the first day of this tour) had not only been nominated in the short-list for 'Best Female Vocalist' by The British Blues Awards 2013 (an award she won in 2012) but also in the short-list for 'Best Guitarist' and the first time a female artist has ever been nominated in the category.
You might even have got the impression that she was thoroughly enjoying herself and, with music and the faultless backing of Richard Ritchie (bass) and Keith McPartlin (percussion), who can blame her.
Towards the middle of the set she played and sang three songs, all cover versions, solo:
  • Rhiannon ( Stevie Nicks)
  • I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt)
  • Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)
That is not to say that the many tracks from the album 'Like No Other' were not equally noteworthy, the album opener 'Fabulous' particularly so, or indeed the new track 'Disco Lover Suicide', for they were. I think, however, that the final straw for the luminaries behind the founding of Rook Lane Chapel came with the sudden revelation. They had been changing the playlist throughout and she had to tell her band-mates, there and then, that the penultimate track of the main set would be a cover and here they are playing it:
Jimi Hendrix' 'Voodoo Child'.

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