REVIEW: Carolynne/The Abrams – Live At Gullivers, Manchester

Last Thursday (June 1st) I headed up to Manchester to see the incredibly talented Carolynne, co-headlining with The Abrams, who had made the trip across the pond from Ontario, Canada. Two artists with bags of talent and experience; you would have thought it was an enticing prospect for the northern country fans. Unfortunately, the turnout wasn’t great, a rather sad indictment of the struggle UK country still faces. These guys deserved so much more support, and despite the numbers, they really gave us a show to remember as if the venue was packed to the rafters.

Midlands-based country artist Demi Marriner opened the show with a selection of tracks from her debut EP ‘Tracks and Trails’ and her latest EP ‘Dandelion’, which reached #2 on the iTunes country albums chart. Seeing Demi acoustically adds vulnerability (in a good way!) and really puts the focus on her lyrics, and her music shines in a setting like this. The aptly-named ‘Learn To Love’ was particularly meaningful, with the Manchester attack still at the forefront of everybody’s minds. She also performed a couple of newly written tracks which maintain her high standards of song writing, and she was warmly received by the crowd. You can catch Demi at Buckle & Boots and FSA Fest this summer!

Carolynne took the stage soon after accompanied by her 5-piece band (including Luke Thomas who you will very rarely see off stage at the country festivals!). She showcased material from her new EP ‘Coming Back To Me’, including her new single ‘Real Man’ which is SO Shania with its girl-appeal and soulful groove – “what has a girl got to do to get a man in this world?”.  Such a fun, feel-good track that you can’t help tapping your feet to! Carolynne included a cover of ‘Telescope’ which all you Nashville fanatics will be familiar with – full of sass and attitude, and a killer performance too. The title track ‘Coming Back To Me’ was another highlight with its thumping backbeat and anthemic aura, showing off Carolynne’s incredibly and versatile powerful voice. This was a very accomplished performance from one of UK country’s brightest talents.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about The Abrams prior to the show, and I suspect many of the other attendees probably didn’t either. We do now. John and James Abrams combine country, folk, bluegrass and indie rock elements and have been performing since they were just 8 years old. That was clear to see, too, as their stage presence was phenomenal and they performed with such confidence and pride. Imagine a heavier version of High Valley. They released a self-titled, 6-track EP last year and it made up the bulk of their set list, including the pounding ‘Champion’ which nearly blew the roof off the place as the volume was cranked up. They also threw in a couple of quality covers too, including Zac Brown Band’s ‘Knee Deep’ (never going to complain about that am I?) and ‘Devil Went Down To Georgia’ which was a truly stunning performance and displayed their immense musical ability. They put so much passion into their show and certainly left a lasting impression. In a festival environment with a guaranteed crowd, these guys would absolutely smash it.

Dan Wharton (@LifeInASong_Dan)