Are you sitting comfortably? then I shall begin….
A while back, it may have been 2014, I saw a band called Paper Aeroplanes perform at the Exeter Phoenix, supporting them was a solo singer songwriter called Stu Larsen. After his set, I chatted with him and at the end of every interview I do, I always ask for the name of an artist or band that I should check out, Stu was very quick to mention a Canadian act called The Bros Landreth. When I got home, I did some research and found out that they had recently released their debut long player in Canada and the United States but alas, no sign of a UK release on the horizon. I emailed the band and David Landreth (Bass guitar) kindly mailed me a copy of the CD for review purposes (I think we were the first in the UK to run a review of ‘Let it Lie’), anyway, to cut a long story short, we found out that the band were not only playing a handful of dates in the UK, they were also appearing near Exeter, this was pretty much on our doorstep! One email back to David and he was really excited at the prospect of meeting up with us, we were duly added to the guest list and were eagerly counting down the days until the show.
Fast forward a few weeks and the time had come to venture down the A30 to a place called Cheriton Bishop, unchartered territory for me but I was so excited, it didn’t matter. I followed the Sat-Nav to a junction where I saw a sign pointing me to ‘Higher Eggbeer’, it appeared to be no more than a farm track so I hit the 4WD button on the dash and made my way down the lane until I saw a signpost ushering me into a field which was the temporary car park. I followed the lights and made my way to the barn where tonights festivities were to take place.
Now, a little about the event, there’s a Barber shop in Exeter called The Loft Barbers Lounge who, as well as providing amazing head and facial hair related services, host live events at Higher Eggbeer Farm in Cheriton Bishop called The Loft Live Sessions.
So, what is this place that so many have heard about but have never been, well my friends, I can honestly tell you that it was like stepping back in time, to the middle ages to be precise! Upon entering the main barn, you are faced with a sea of low tables and hay bales which masquerade as seats for the many wise folk that know about this place, adorning the walls are torches, not those requiring 2 AA sized Duracells, those filled with fuel that create a warm, inviting glow. Decorating the tables are tea lights and hanging from vintage wooden cross shaped chandeliers are simple church candles, I must say that upon entering, I was blown away….
Tonight, there were 3 acts performing, opening up was an Exeter based singer songwriter called Leigh Coleman, following him was Exeter based all female trio Wildwood Kin and taking over duties until the night closed was Canada’s very own The Bros. Landreth, a triple whammy of quality acts to take away the winter blues!
Before the music kicked off, I was introduced to Sarah Lacey who is responsible for putting on the sessions, she was lovely, very accommodating and happy to chat about how it all started and how it had become a very popular event, often selling out in record time. I also spoke to Wildwood Kin who I have heard about before and seen briefly at the Beautiful Days festival in 2015 but never been fortunate enough to take in an entire set.
The time came for the evening to kick off and with it, a very handsome, bearded, behatted gentleman (Adam Moran) took to the stage to introduce the event, take us through the safety procedures in the event of an emergency landing and generally get the audience whipped up into a frenzy ahead of what was to be a superb night of live music. The wonderful thing about The Loft Barbers Sessions is that they are all filmed using professional recording equipment and made available after the event for anyone to see, with this comes great responsibility, as the behatted gentleman went on to tell us, they operate a strict ‘no talking’ policy whilst the bands are performing, I whole heartedly endorse this as there’s nothing as rude or ignorant as chattering away to your friends whilst someone is up on stage, giving it their all. After the announcements, the handsome man introduced Leigh Coleman to the room and left him and his band (The Devon Cowboys) to do their thing.
What followed was 30 minutes of pure heaven, despite the songs being covers of classic tracks, this did not deter the eager crowd one iota and they hung on every sweet note that Leigh drew from his inner core and erupted at the end of the song. He played a tremendous bluesy version of Marc Broussard’s ‘Lonely Night in Georgia’, showcasing sublime vocal harmonies and some terrific guitar work, Coleman’s effortless smoky vocals blending so well with the surroundings, it was a pleasure to be there and soak it all up. Next up was their version of Chris Stapleton’s ’Tennessee Whiskey’ which sounded amazing with the clean rim-shot drums and brooding guitar, allowing the vocals to drift above, so tender, almost delicate at times but then breaking and coming in heavy like an aged blues singer, knocking out numbers in an American whiskey bar for drinks and tips.
A young lady called Philippa Cookman took to the stage to join the band for a dazzling version of Derek & the Dominoes ‘Anyway’, her vocals really shone and they sounded so good together, the harmonies just flowed, the guitarist doing a great job with his surf green ESP strat, emulating Clapton’s trademark style.
When you thought that the night couldn’t get any better, they wrapped up their set with a cover of The Eagles ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, lifted from the classic ‘Hotel California’ album. A hard act to follow? you bet! We knew that the bar had been set very high anyway but after this performance, I really did feel for even the headliners as this was going to take some beating!
As an added bonus, here's some video footage from the night of the super talented Leigh Coleman
I caught up with Leigh shortly after he came off stage and chatted about what else he was getting involved in, he said that he has been helping a North Devon artist going by the name ‘Lack of Afro’ or ‘LOA’ for short. This is a full on vintage soul outfit and will be joining them on a UK tour shortly, keep those eyes peeled folks!
After a short break, 3 young ladies going by the name Wildwood Kin took to the stage and launched straight into their opening track ‘Salt of the Earth’ which consisted of some beautiful finger picked guitar work before the drums came in full force, backed by the stunning vocal harmonies which made me stand and stare. They have recently been in a recording studio in London, working on their next EP and from it, they introduced the room to a stripped back track called ‘The Author’. ‘Warrior Daughter’ was a real stomper, courtesy of the almost tribal drum sound and the addition of a new bazouki that had been playing up a little (the cheeky little thing!)
Thanks to the strict ‘no talking’ policy enforced at all of the sessions, I found it easy to pick out each and every instrument that was being played and really appreciate the feeling that went into every track that was being performed. ‘Turn Tides’ was a song all about the importance of building a sense of community within this sometimes superficial world in which we live, being told what to wear, how we should look, how we should all be a size zero in order to find true happiness…. Seeing the ladies up on stage all playing together made me think that they were displaying a true sense of community right there. Their last offering was a track called ‘Listen’ which kicked off with a trio of harmonised ‘wooos’ before launching into life, again the drums taking centre stage and certainly forming the backbone from which everyone else hung from. They ended the song with two members of the trio sharing the drumming duties, reaching an almost ear piercing climax prior to falling to silence, followed very shortly by rapturous applause by all who were fortunate to be in the room!
I chatted to the ladies after their set and they said that they hope to have their next EP available for the summer, their producer having become an unofficial member of the band, no sign of an album yet but they do have winter to get through so you never know, here’s hoping!
Another short break ensued, complimentary luxury canapes were offered courtesy of La Cantina Street Kitchen and people happily indulged (very nice they were too!), glasses were charged, bladders were relieved and before long, the audience were sat, eagerly waiting for the main act to hit the stage.
This was the 4th night of their UK tour that takes them across the country prior to 3 dates in the US before taking a flight to Australia to play a handful of shows at the world famous Byron Bay Blues Festival. So what is it about these guys, why had many folk ventured far and wide to sit in a medieval barn on the outskirts of Exeter to watch them perform? Maybe it was their devilishly good looks that attracted them? or maybe they heard that they are a kick ass band from Canada who deserve their attention for the evening, whatever the reason, they were in the barn, the band were on the stage and it was happening!
They opened with a fab cover of ‘Let ‘em in’ by Wings prior to performing more of their own material from their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Let it Lie’ which was unleashed upon the UK last year. They looked very much at home on the stage, playing a lush blend of picked guitar, smooth bass and steady drums, accentuated by the keyboard which bought an entirely different slant on the proceedings altogether.
Their between song banter was amusing, interesting and very enlightening, they told a funny tale of when they needed to borrow a track that their father had written to complete their album, he agreed, the track was called ‘I am the Fool’ and it featured more defined guitar work, bordering almost on an alt-country track, had it not been for the blisteringly cool guitar solo, I would have firmly pigeon-holed it in that camp!
An amusing story unfolded from Joey, he told us of how he went on a date with a very pretty girl and after just one date, he wrote her a song, from this came a joke about him NOT telling her and instead, he was rewarded with a second date instead of a restraining order, this tale was not accepted very well in Canada, USA and some towns in England, I feel it went down well enough in Exeter to warrant him including it in future sets!
The title track form their album was up next, all stripped back guitar and yearning vocals before the remainder of the band struck up and joined him to complete the perfectly rounded slice of Country Rock that was served up. Americana? I’d like to offer them the chance of using a new genre that I only just created, ‘Canadana’, a bit like Americana but founded in Canada instead, you can have that one for free guys!
The rest of the band left the stage leaving Joey to play a song that David had written, based upon him caring for his partner, talk about a pin drop moment! It was eerily silent, the feeling coming from Joey’s voice was immense, such passion and determination coming through the music, a proper standout spellbinding moment for me and no doubt others who were present.
The guys joined him after this song and huddled around for another slow burner of a track, accentuated by their vocal harmonies, it really showcased just how in tune they all are with each other, at this time, the heavens had opened and the sound of rain hammering down onto the corrugated iron roof did nothing to dismay the feeling that these guys delivered through their songs, if anything, it made the atmosphere even more interesting!
They played a further cover, this was the track that Jamie Lee Curtis danced/stripped to in the bedroom scene of ’True Lies’ way back from the 90’s, the track was ‘Alone in the Dark’, originally by John Hiatt, the guys doing a terrific job of making this their own, it wasn’t long until the whole place was nodding along as the track carved a path with its driving guitar and bass, if only there was a dance floor!
They joked that they could leave the stage, go and stand backstage for 5 minutes until the audience were shouting and hollering for more, they decided not to and stayed on the stage, playing a couple more tracks including a great singalong moment where the audience were encouraged to join in on the chorus of ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ which went down a storm.
As you've been SO good and read this far, here's a video of Joey Landreth performing his song solo, on stage, just him, his voice and his Fender Strat, it was SO quiet, you can hear the rain on the tin roof....simply exquisite stuff!
So, why did the evening sell out? I think when you put on a night with 3 amazingly talented acts, the knowledge that you’re in for a great night of music and all out entertainment and it’s on your doorstep, what’s not to like? I for one will be heading back to the venue at the end of April when it plays host to the super talented Gavin James who has been tipped to become the next Ed Sheehan, you heard it here first folks, get those tickets ordered now before the event sells out!
I left the barn, into the cool night air for my drive back to Rattery with a spring in my step knowing that I had witnessed some amazing acts perform in an intimate, stripped back environment which only multiplied the feeling that they were able to deliver within their music.
An incredible evening that no doubt will be replicated in the near future.
Words - Steve Muscutt
Photography - Mal Roberts and musicmuso