Thursday night down The Sun at the Station and I’m on time to see the support acts, which ardent followers of my reviews, AKA no-one, will know is not like me. The reason behind my untypical punctuality being a desire to catch opening act The Cribbler.
The Station has evolved over recent years from a proper old mans pub into more of a hipster hangout, some of Moseley’s bohemia spilling down the Alcester road and into Kings Heath. In a medium sized room with a proportionally large stage, separate from the main area of the pub, they now host gigs. This was there.
The Cribbler, I had been pre-informed, is the solo guise of the big guy from former, local folk-spazz band Mills and Boon. Humorous, irreverent yet simultaneously deep lyrics matched with acoustic guitar (through pick ups) full of fast fingerpicking, pull offs and slides. ; Unpolished but in a good way. As was the way of Mills and Boon, The Cribbler plays with a variety of unusual and interesting guitar tunings, adding further layers of depth and intrigue to his songs. A bit like Badly Drawn Boy back when he used to be good, crossed with Madcap Laughs era Sid Barrett, plus a smidgen of spazz and a dollop of folk. As he finished playing his last, and catchiest, song The Archers Wife, someone in the decent sized crowd shouted out “Do you have any Cd’s?” “No I don’t I’m shit” he laughed back. Business skills maybe? Performance? – no way.
Second up was Tekla, from Manchester. A small, diminutive, red headed, female soloist. Who informed us not only was this her first gig in Birmingham but it was her first ever visit here! Opening with a gentle number played on some sort of horizontal harp – the guy next to me speculated it could be a Zither – she exhibited a lovely, soft, and somewhat unexpectedly Dido-esque voice. Picking up an electric guitar for the rest of the set Tekla treated us to a number of slow, beautiful and haunting songs. Minimalist harp/guitar work, emphasis on the vocal line, and lyrics littered with nature references, a sort of ethereal folk. Sounding like This is the Kid or Cat Power the slightly more up-tempo wistful last song of her set was my personal favourite.
Finishing off a Pentangle influenced evening was dbh (not capitalised on his merchandise so not capitalised here), another solo artist, currently on a UK tour playing tracks from his yet-to-be-released new album ‘Mood’. Exhibiting a languid style, incredibly long fingers and a fingerpicking hand which barely seems to touch the strings, dbh has a way of playing a lot of notes very quickly yet somehow maintaining a sound which is gentle and almost relaxing. Equally as hypnotic with the electric and acoustic guitar this was an indelible performance by a man with an innate ability to make astoundingly complex guitar work look far easier than it actually is. Steve Gunn style fingerpicking with the odd strummed chord and difficult guitar harmonics thrown in mid-song to add further texture and variety. Despite being the only completely instrumental act of the evening the vocal line was not missed, such was the fullness of sound coming from just one guitar. Sometimes when there is no singing there can be a tendency for the more inebriated of the crowd to talk amongst themselves, however this audience was completely enthralled.
Dbh didn’t announce the titles of the songs during his set so it’ll be of little interest to you which I enjoyed the most, but it was the fifth. A short, gentle acoustic number full of tone and heart. In fact he didn’t really talk to the audience until, as he was coming to the end of his performance he thanked us “for being so quiet, and nice” before finishing off with his interpretation of Neil Young’s ‘Tell Me Why’.
Review by Alex Dean