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Headline band, Ellen and the Escapades, are a curious curate’s egg of engaging, damn hard working, effervescent musicians. Their wholesome embracement of ubiquitous bitter-sweet sleek mid-West alt.Country-Folk ballads and galloping up-beat nu Folk has garnered fulsome praise from some who ought to know better than to make exaggerated claims the band’s self-effacing modesty might dream of but never assume.

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Nevertheless, some of it is thoroughly deserved. From the fair City of Leeds, titular lead singer, (and in no small measure, an accomplished acoustic guitarist) Ellen, has a dusky-till-dawn husky, vocal resonance that suggests a most productively mis-spent childhood. The punters took the band to their hearts, it being evident there were some die-hard fans amongst them. I’m duty bound to say that I was prone to the occasional Mumford & Sons moment of ‘Where have I heard this before?’ – the old wine in new bottles syndrome, particularly with ‘I’ll Keep You Warm’ that had ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ melodic references chiming for this reviewer, at least.

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If you can imagine one of those graphic photos – its whole being the composite sum of thousands of tiny photo tesserae. All very clever, ingenious and diverting but nevertheless reliant on your keeping your eye on the big picture. Or, perhaps it’s just one of those ‘magic-eye’ conundrums that some people just can’t get hold of. Any road up – check out their debut album ‘All The Crooked Scenes’ from which tonight’s set list drew on. Damn, you just can’t but help liking them and by rights ought to have punters going all kittens & puppies silly on the Festival circuit this Summer.

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Welsh indie-folk Paper Aeroplanes draw on a poly-sonic pallet of exquisitely crafted contemporary Folk and alt.Country & Western styles garnished with a Celtic flourish – though, ‘Melodramatic Popular Song’ is pushing genres references a bit! Co-founder member and bewitching singer, Sarah Howells and guitarist, Richard Llewellyn, gathered some scorching journeymen musicians to help them out tonight and oh, didn’t they just! Quite why they’ve been hiding away in the Kitchen Garden cafe across the road from the Hare is a mystery because this music, though subtle and nuanced, enjoys a big stage and a PA with some serious grunt. 1968, Edinburgh, my first ever gig – Pentangle. After seeing Danny Thompson play double bass I sold my soul to rock ‘n roll. And tonight the Devil paid me back in spades because session double-bassist, John Parker, plucked and bowed, slapped and swung his way through the set with breath-taking brilliance. Actually, this may be a JK first! I’m lost for words trying describe just what magic he contributed to the band’s icicle-fragile shimmering cadences complimented by haunting keyboards from Sean. Well, obviously I’m not. Lonesome laments echoed by church organ/Hammond Leslie cabinet keyboards wove haunting images conjured by such exotic song titles and lyrics as ‘We Are Ghosts’ (album title) ‘Stones Inside Your Shoes’, ‘Winter Never Comes’ and the utterly beguiling charm of debut album ‘The Day We Ran In To The Sea’. Set closer ‘My First Love’ had a ‘Country Roads’ sort of dronal bee-buzzing, summer’s breeze bounce that left the punters putty in their hands.

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A quick mention for John Napier and his fledgling band. His voice had the moth-balls in my Kaftan coat memory palace rattling to the refrain of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Stop Now, What’s That Sound’. His rhythm guitar dialogues with the sparse, and utterly Fender crisp, lead guitar were a delight recalling ‘The Who Sell Out’. Some cracking songs certainly – that is, when he eschewed Smithsonian indulgences. The somewhat leadened, post-modernist innuendo swipe at local music press ‘This Is Not A Showcase’ bristled with such self-referential, irony-free hilarity that we could barely contain ourselves – ironically enough.

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Gig Review by John Kennedy
Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

2 Responses to “Ellen & The Escapades + Paper Aeroplanes + John Napier & Band @ The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 20th April 2012”

  1. John Napier Says:

    Thanks for the review! It is our first. I’m not sure you mean ‘Smithsonian’ though, that’s a museum in Oxford. Did you mean like-The-Smiths? In which case it would be Smithsian, but that doesn’t sound great either. I’m glad you noticed The Smithsyness (damn! That’s a hard name to crack!) though but really the link is quite superficial. Our subject matter and delivery is really rather different. I wonder sometimes whether the aesthetic of music is given too much focus these days. Would Dylan be dismissed as just a Woody Guthrie rip-off if he were reviewed today? Are the ingredients more important than the overall taste?

  2. Gig Reviews | Gig Photography | Interviews | Competitions from Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » The Travelling Band + Ellen and the Escapades + Bella Diem at the Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 15th March 2013 Says:

    […] April I wrote in Gig Junkies the following – ‘Ellen and the Escapades are a curious curate’s egg of engaging, damn […]

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