Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles @ Thimblemill Library, 23rd June 2017

Tonight’s show was originally scheduled for the wholly familiar surroundings of Kings Heath’s Hare and Hounds pub, though for reasons unknown, it was switched to the less familiar Thimblemill Library. The “switcheroo” could not have been much more of a polar revision: the shadowy recesses of the pub having been passed up in favour of the brilliantly bright art deco library. The decision offers up the opportunity for the building to share itself in a completely new way. Rather than the proverbial finger to the lips at the first instance of any noise other than the turning of the page of a book, tonight, the emphasis is on embracing the sounds generated by Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles.

The setting is just perfect. The dwindling summer light permeates the many windows which surround the stage, whist the sound of rustling trees and the hum of a distant motorcycle engine enter the open windows and swirl around the room. Once the music commences, these outside influences are added to the mix and really create a heady concoction and lend themselves to enhancing an already wonderful environment in which to witness the band hailing from Nashville.

Though this is not Erin Rae’s first visit to these shores, it is her first visit to Birmingham, and the numbers in attendance tonight is mightily impressive, given Rae’s limited output up until now. The first song of the set is ‘Light,’ taken from her 2016 album, ‘Soon Enough’. The union of Rae and her two band members – The Meanwhiles, Dominic Billett and Jerry Bernhardt – is sublime. Jerry Bernhardt’s guitar playing is so subtle, with no note unaccounted for or present for the sake of it. His flourishes, though tinged with that sound of the South, they remind me of Nick McCabe’s contribution to The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ album. The understated playing is so lacking in ego and the focus is solely upon enhancing the song.

The standout performance of the evening is unequivocally Rae’s latest release ‘Playing Old Games’, a song which was recently listed in the most highly rated americana releases on Spotify. Indeed, it is the newest material which makes up the set which entices most. All of which will emerge at some point later this year on Rae’s latest album release. In addition to Rae’s own material, there is a stunning rendition of the late great Judee Sill’s, ‘Jesus Was A Cross Maker’. It is with much excitement that I await the release of Rae’s next official release, and with that, comes the hope that she will venture to these parts again in the not too distant future.

 

Reviewer: Chris Curtis

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