Angel Olsen + Jaye Bartell @ The Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath – 5th June 2014


Support tonight comes from Jaye Bartell. Bartell released a band-backed album, ‘Loyalty’, in 2013, but tonight he performs a stripped down, no-nonsense solo acoustic set. And very good it was too. Live, with his acoustic guitar, he sounds (and even looks) a little like the young Leonard Cohen on his first album – plus a tinge of Bill Callahan. He’s a bit of an unknown gem, and Angel Olsen praises him and his songs profusely during her set. (Review by John Bentley)


Angel Olsen is touring in support of her recent solo album Burn Your Fire For No Witness which was released back in February and has received a warm response, particularly on BBC 6 Music. Previous to this, she has provided backing vocals for Bonnie “Prince” Billy both on record and as a touring artist. Tonight’s performance is in the smaller of the Hare and Hounds’ two venues and is totally sold out, which sees many people standing on the sofas to be able to see the band. The first track of the night’s set is Hi Five which is an upbeat number musically that displays the unique voice of Angel Olsen to the max. Her voice has a quality that is reminiscent of some of the female country singers of the 60’s such as Patsy Cline or Skeeter Davis mixed with 90’s American indie singers such as Patti Rothberg, yet still managing to sound contemporary at the same time.

The Latin inspired Drunk And With Dreams emphasises this retro characteristic to her voice and this song could easily be a lost 78 in my grandmother’s collection. Her band provides instrumental support in the form of bass, guitar and drums yet there is not requirement for any backing vocals and as the sound resonates perfectly throughout the venue the crowd listen attentively, responding enthusiastically after each track.


As the set continues Angel’s face barely cracks a smile however, easily engages with the audience questioning about the drink choices joking that she will stick to her 2% beer or rambling about peoples’ behaviour at the weekends. Acrobat, taken from her first solo album Half Way Home, starts with a quiet fingerpicking guitar line and pondering lyrics that builds adding discordant guitar and vocals then gradually fades away to where it originated. During the tempo change in Lights Out, a hint of Jefferson Airplane creeps in particularly with the use of slide guitar and heart wrenching voice but this is only a brief allusion and with High and Wild there is distinct 90’s indie vibe again. Olsen knows how to make the most of her voice, using different strategies such as singing away from the microphone during Miranda and when she reaches the higher register her vocals assume a haunting trait similar to Erika Wernerstorm from Heartless Bastards. After the rousing end to Sweet Dreams, the rest of the band exits the stage leaving Olsen wondering about living out of a bag whilst on tour. This solo end to the performance consists of the melancholy and sombre White Fire that has a constant finger picked guitar line whilst the vocals embrace a laid back and minimal quality. The audience watch in utter silence and this reverence is continued into the final song of the evening, Iota; completing a concise and varied set.


Throughout this review, I have noted a variety of similarities to other artists however; Olsen is unique as her voice is a combination of all these characteristics not an artist that swaps the sound of her voice at regular intervals. Angel Olsen is definitely a talented, musician who has plenty of scope for development and I look forward to seeing her perform live again as it was a thoroughly enjoyable gig.

Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – John Bentley

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