REVIEW: Brent Cobb – Live At The Hare And Hounds, Birmingham

LifeInASong_UK

A hot and steamy night in Birmingham. That’s England, not Alabama. Very occasionally we get to leave our coats at home. The Hare and Hounds is a suburban pub with a musical heritage in the UK’s second city. The plaque on the wall indicates that this was the first live venue for UB40 but I don’t suppose this was of great significance for the two guys who were on the bill tonight.

Colter Wall is Canadian. There is a growing buzz about this guy in Nashville where he now operates. He has just released his first album that was produced by Dave Cobb and we were privileged to be amongst the first to hear some of those tracks live.

He has a style which seems almost unique but actually harks back to the country greats of old. Think Waylon or occasionally Johnny Cash. A very weathered baritone voice that is used to relate his minimalistic brand of rural country music. He describes himself as a folk singer – “I think I oughta sing a folk song” said Colter, before launching into ‘Kate McCannon’ a stand out track from his new album.

He opened his set with ‘Thirteen Silver Dollars’ and the guitar expert standing next to me was immediately intrigued with his Martin 00-15M acoustic guitar which he estimated was pre-war. This of course meant very little to me. All I knew was that Colter Wall played his guitar as well as he sang his songs but speaking to Wall after the show, he confirmed it was a 1936 edition that was worth more than he could afford to pay for it. It was used when he recorded the album.

I suspect that the majority of the patrons wouldn’t have been too aware of Colter Wall pre-show. I’m also suspecting that they might be taking a little more notice now.

He might be an acquired taste with a voice that belies his appearance and his young age but we all know that tastes can very easily be acquired. Dave Cobb worked with another underground artist two years ago, produced an album that they called ‘The Traveller’ and we all know what happened to that.

Brent Cobb is no stranger to the UK. He was here at the back end of last year and seems determined to raise his profile by building the market slowly. He released his album ‘Shine On Rainy Day’ in 2016 but had also benefitted from cousin Dave’s fame with ‘Down Home’, which was included on the compilation album ‘Southern Family’ in March of last year.

His set list was obviously drawn from the album and, like last year, he was accompanied by Mike Harris who is a supremely accomplished guitar player. Brent Cobb’s music doesn’t rely upon production techniques or enhancements so these two guys can pretty much recreate the feel and atmosphere of the studio tracks. Always a bonus when seeing a live performance.

He has an engaging personality with an accent that evokes images of a deep south landscape from the heart of Dixie. He’s from Georgia, so I’m probably a few thousand miles out, but in the West Midlands  Brent Cobb sounds like Huckleberry Finn.

He indicated after the show that he didn’t feel that he had been at his best but no one would have picked up on that. His music is more familiar to the UK crowd than it was when he visited on his mini-tour last year and it was noticeable how many were singing along.

He opened with ‘South Of Atlanta’, before performing stand outs like ‘Diggin’ Holes’ and ‘Down In The Gulley’. His set included covers of Dwight Yoakam’s ‘Guitars Cadillacs’ and Leonard Skynyrd’s ‘Swamp Music’.

Cobb’s a fine raconteur and his pre-song introductions to ‘Old Shit’ and ‘Down In The Gulley’ grabbed the attention. How the word ‘shit’ could have been ‘stuff’ which would have given it radio exposure, especially with Miranda Lamberts support, and his family’s semi-autobiographical input into ‘Gulley’s’ tale of moonshine and stills.

He isn’t a performer that would shine in a huge setting. His music has the intimacy that the smaller venues provide. Up close and personal, and the respectful attentiveness of the UK crowd’s work just fine for Brent Cobb. That’s not to say that his profile couldn’t be improved and his forthcoming appearance on the US chat show ‘Conan’ will assist in this regard.

His song writing is his strength and he also chooses his partners well. Andrew Combs was co-writer on ‘Shine On Rainy Day’, a track that was featured on both of their respective albums. Having heard and become familiar with Andrew’s version before Brent’s, it’s a song that I associate with the former rather more than the latter but having said all that, it’s a great song.

Brent’s hour-long set came to end rather too quickly, leaving the audience wanting more. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity of seeing these guys in our own back yards. Brent Cobb and Colter Wall in Kings Heath…wow!

Graham Wharton

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