Erin Rae @ The Kitchen Garden Café, 28th August 2018

Erin Rae last found herself in this neck of the woods a little over one year ago when she performed at Smethwick’s Thimblemill Library on a truly memorable summer’s evening. Rae begins by asking if any of those in attendance tonight were also at the previous show. In addition to the chuckling as a consequence of Rae’s pronunciation of Smethwick, with the emphasis heavily upon the W, the question prompts a surprisingly few of our number to raise their hands, no matter, the intimate café is almost full to the brim, a likely result of Rae’s richly received 2018 album release ‘Putting on Airs’.

The previous visit to the UK saw Rae was billed as Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles, this time around she is performing as a solo artist, though, it’s a pleasure to report that at least one Meanwhile has managed to snag himself a seat on a tour which, in addition to the spattering of solo dates, see’s Rae provide support to Hiss Golden Messenger, culminating in a show at the Islington Assembly Hall. Before the year is out, Rae will also fulfil a number of enviable obligations by providing support to the likes of Jenny Lewis and Iron & Wine on their North American tours.

The aforementioned Meanwhile that joins Rae for the first instalment of tonight’s show is the sublimely subtle, Jerry Bernhardt, a guitarist with a sonic palette that appears to be endless in its inventiveness and exquisite execution. After the politest of introductions, the two guitarists gently slip into ‘Minolta’, taken from 2016s album ‘Soon Enough’. The opener shimmers in the hazy and tranquil surroundings, the last glimpses of the summer stream through the opened patio doors of the cafe, and Rae’s voice, as delicate a thing that the gentlest of breezes could effortlessly carry it out over the rooftops of King’s Heath.

The stunning ‘Old Games’ is offered up next, and it bodes well that such a gem of a song is played so early on in the set, for it would suggest that Rae has such confidence in her latest collection of songs. Speaking of which, the first appearance of music from ‘Putting on Airs’ is ‘Bad Mind’, a song to which Rae has spoken publicly how it attempts to consider her own attempts to reconcile her feelings towards sexuality. ‘June Bug’ and ‘The Real Thing’ are also gleaned from the new album, the latter is sublime.

The recent album’s title song offer’s Bernhardt the opportunity to run wild with some soaring slide work, at this point, the duo are joined by bass and drums, a welcome addition, though the bass playing threatens to dominate proceedings on more than one occasion. Rae makes mention that the recently adopted rhythm section have done an admiral job of learning the material in such a short space of time, and that they had only met up for the first time at the beginning of this tour. At times, the lack of time playing together is apparent, though it is only a microscopic criticism.

The highlight of the evening is easily ‘Wild Blue Wind’ and see’s the band ignite in perfect union, Rae’s vocal skyrocketing out through the opened windows, propelled by that majestic guitar playing of Bernhardt. Let’s hope that the momentum is continued, and that we see Rae back in the studio, and back on these shores very soon.

Reviewer: Chris Curtis

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