Walton Hesse, Blind Atlas, Dirge is Dead and the Yellhounds. Chorlton Irish C (Blowout) Manchester 5/09/08

Americana is fast becoming a popular vehicle for songwriters and inventive musicians across the UK to express themselves as fully as they may. It is within this genre that three of tonight’s acts comfortably find a creative and spiritual home.

Walton Hesse are the last act tonight but it is not the structure of the evening that dominates the agenda because all of the musicians here tonight appear to demonstrate how centralised and far-reaching Americana can be within the musical spectrum and they do it extremely well indeed!

Act two this evening is the Yellhounds. Their brand of Americana is totally accessible. It is fast, catchy, bouncy and joyously expressive. Forty Days and Forty Nights explores a language that is evocative of a culture that has a definite geographical identity and historical roots, that is, the USA. However, this music does not take itself too seriously, (not that all American music does, far from it) Yellhounds produce music that is quirky, appealingly British and fresh. It does not proclaim, rather it invites us to join in and have some fun and this is exactly what the audience do.

The other musicians in the house glance at each other; they nod enthusiastically and raise eyebrows as if to commend the onstage performers in secret code. During changeover, the next act merges with the last and handshakes are plenty. Compliments are offered and friendships are almost certainly forged.

Blind Atlas clamber onto the dusty stage, they soon become it and it becomes them. Singers and main vocalists Ross and Maurice stand in line with their men ready to march steadily into musical battle with flags held high. This band mean business, they have downbeat stories to tell, emotions to express and questions to answer. ‘How do we Know’ exists in the wind and the sand of a lost place but ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ and I for one believe them. High And Low broods, it laments something that is unknown to us but I sort of get the picture though I am not sure why. My emotions have dipped slightly but I accept that this can be a good thing for it is when we are in that place that we become reflective and Blind Atlas have guided me safely there and brought me back a little wiser.

Dirge Is Dead’s vocalist and songwriter Phil Poole is now chatting passionately about bass lines, hooks and song writing. There is something dark bubbling under his surface that makes me take notice and listen intently. Take a listen to Hilo Repete and you will see what I mean.

Walton Hesse produces a sound that makes it impossible to feel like you are anywhere else but the here and now. Their rhythms are not obvious and so it takes the listener and the dancer a little time to adjust but this I feel is a good thing because it ensures that their individuality is unique, distinct and instantly recognisable. Their live sound is rich in texture, it is mature, thoughtful and the audience appear acutely aware of its value within the context of the evening. ‘To Be Happy is a gift that none can compare’ they sing and we agree in as much that happiness is a state of mind and when it happens we are blessed. Walton Hesse produce music out of this place and we are happy that they have shared it with us. Thanks guys and thank you Blowout for a well planned evening of quality entertainment.

Jim Sutherland 2008

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