I'd been looking forward to the September Loft Live Sessions for some time, I received information on the lineup back in July and was able to make contact with two of the acts ahead of the show. For this session, we were to be treated to three acts, Michael Collings who is a Plymouth based acoustic singer songwriter who was catapulted to fame via popular UK talent show 'Britain's Got Talent', North Devon based Sam Green whom I had not seen before but had heard tremendous things about him (no pressure Sam) and finally, London based musician Sam Brookes who I had heard of but had never seen before, all in all, an interesting mix of music to look forward to.
Following tradition, the sessions took place in the medieval barn situated in the grounds of Higher Eggbeer Farm, a location consisting of rustic hay bales, quaint tea lights and oil fired wall mounter lanterns which creates an atmosphere crossed between an intimate music venue and a set from hit TV show Game of Thrones. I think that the venue really does make the event that little bit more special and to witness bands playing in the barn is an experience I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who has yet to enjoy a Loft Live Session.
Upon arrival, I was informed that there was an extra act performing, that made four in total, a first for me and a real treat for all in attendance. Adam Moran (aka Adam in the Hat) took to the stage to advise the audience of the house rules including the 'Hush' policy which I think is a great thing as it allows the people who have come to enjoy the music the chance to do just that and the artist a room of silence for them to fill with colourful and creative sound to be enjoyed by all. Adam finished off his introductions by demonstrating where the exits were in case of fire (bales of hay, tea lights, wall mounted oil lanterns, what could possibly go wrong?) in a style that even the most experienced flight attendant would have found mildly amusing, prior to the opening act taking to the stage.
Sam Jones is a Gloucestershire guitar based singer songwriter who, through the use of his loop pedal, some impressive beatbox skills and his guitar performed a set of fabulously layered tracks that kept the room engaged throughout, after initial vocal issues had calmed down, he performed a great version of 'Ocean Drive; by Duke Dumont, it had me thinking how much fuller it would have sounded had he had a band behind him.
After a short break to charge glasses and chat, Michael Collings kicked off his set which consisted of some really tight original material such as 'Its Not You' which was written about his sister who is bi-polar, the honest lyrics painting a colourful picture of how Michael and his family have adapted to it. There were a couple of covers thrown into the mix, standouts for me included a tremendous version of 'Change is Gonna Come' by Sam Cooke and a cover of a cover of 'Freefallin' originally penned and performed by Tom Petty but Michael opting to perform the version that John Mayer himself covered. His fingerpicking style and bluesy riffs really stood out and it wasn't long until the room were waiting ion his every word (even if he was taking about garlic mayonnaise repeating on him!)
Michael grew up listening to the classics, James Taylor, John Meyer, Sam Cooke to name just three artists and this exposure has clearly had a big impact on his style and sound. I'm not sure why but after hearing about the BGT appearance and the exposure this awarded him, I wasn't expecting him to be as good as he was, instead, we were treated to a tight performance, consisting of well crafted original material and carefully selected covers that were really well received, keep an eye out for him in the future.
After another brief interlude, North Devon based multi talented one man band Sam Green kicked into his set with a tremendous display of the slide guitar/lap steel (can someone please tell me the proper name?) using what I think is referred to as a 'lap steel' guitar that he placed across his knees (apologies if it's called something else!), his strong, slightly smoke tinged vocals really adding to the overall delivery. He swiftly moved from 'lap steel' to a regular acoustic guitar and soon quashed any rumours that he was a one instrument wonder, He has lived all over, London, Bristol but is currently located in North Devon and enjoys nothing more than a surf at Woolacombe which influenced him to write a catchy upbeat number called 'Change' which bought into play some world class harmonica skills, through this track, you could picture yourself sat on the beach, post surf, tired but satisfied, watching the sun set with the faint aroma of sex wax and wetsuit in the air, great stuff!
I particularly enjoyed a track called 'Worn Out Shoes' which was about 'moving on. the slightly distorted eery grindings from the lap steel guitar being cleansed by the somewhat wholesome sound from the harmonica prior to his husky toned vocals kicking in over the top with the bass drum folding the heady concoction together. His 'between song banter' was great, he explained what went into each track, what he was thinking, where he was, his mood at the time and through this, 'The Great Unknown' really put you in the position of someone who had just exited a relationship and was busy rediscovering how to live again without his partner. His chequered shirt, beanie hat and beard allowed people to associate with Sam, not that he is the first (and will certainly not be the last) be-hatted, bearded lumberjack shirt wearing singer songwriter, what I'm attempting to get across is that people will remember him and relate to the music they heard this evening. With his bluesy dirty riffs and use of slide guitar could easily label Sam as a 6 string version of Seasick Steve, scrub that, Seasick Sam.... He also threw in a couple of tracks that he usually performs with his band 'Sam Green and the Midnight Heist' which from all accounts are even more amazing than he is on his own. Should you get the chance to see Sam solo or with his band behind him, you're in for a treat. To keep up to date with his whereabouts and musical shenanigans, head over to his website 'samgreenmusic.com' for more than you would ever need.
Onto the finale of the evening, someone I had heard great things about but had never seen before, I like to chat to acts ahead of their performance at the Loft Sessions but on this occasion, we kept on passing like ships in the night, whilst this was a slight blow, I didn't really mind as arriving at the venue, I bumped into Sam and he agreed to have a chat after his set.
From the outset, you knew you were in for a treat, sublime, heavenly vocals mixed with lush finger picked guitar and gentle backing beats and electronic ramblings made for an enticing opening which had peoples' gazes fixed on the stage, waiting to see what Sam was going to deliver next. He explained that it was a miracle that he even managed to play at the event as his esteemed drummer/percussionist/keyboard player gave him a protein bar, packed full of nuts, whilst a nice gesture, it didn't go down too well with Sam's allergy to nuts and after spending a few hours looking 'puffy and purple', he just managed to hold it all together and get up on the stage (had he not told us, I'm sure nobody would have guessed that he wasn't on top form!)
Switching regularly between lovely red hollow bodied and thin-line guitars, he produced an immense guitar sound, muted but complete, the sound ringing throughout the barn, his voice ranged from faultless angelic falsetto to a more deep, seasoned style, reminiscent of a young Chris Rea (well, he did to me anyway!) His tracks included some audience participation which helped to break the wall of silence that Sam was facing, everyone happily joined in and allowed Sam to create a rich, gently layered musical broth which gradually picked up pace, the subtle finger picked strings, pressure building until you thought it was going to boil over into a cacophony of din, but taken back down to a simmer once again.
A standout track for me included the rich acoustic tones of 'Fools On Saturn', a new track which is to make its debut on his next album which is due to land in Autumn 2017. After a HUGE round of applause from the room, Sam agreed to play one more track and deftly set his phone up which provided the backing beats, allowing his drummer/synth/backing vocalist/one-man-band-in-his-own-right to conjure a synth heavy opening which wouldn't have sounded out of place on a TRON soundtrack album. I chatted to Sam after the show and found out a fair but about him, his music and his plans for 2017, the interview will be available in our Introducing section very soon, keep checking and I promise it will be there within 24 hours!
So, all in all, a TREMENDOUS evening of musical entertainment from 4 acts, the October sessions have already been booked and feature Torbay legend Matt Sellors, Loft Live Session heavyweight Anna Pancaldi and local alt folk band Haunt the Woods, if you'd like to learn more about all of these acts and secure tickets (which will be SOLD OUT very soon), please click HERE
If you want to keep up to date with all of the acts that performed tonight, please check out their Facebook profiles below;
Review and Photography by Steve Muscutt