Live Review | The Wheelhouse, Wombwell | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Seattle-based singer-songwriter Anna Coogan arrived at the Wombwell Wheelhouse slightly frustrated by the fact that the airline had managed to lose her suitcase containing all her worldly belongings; well the essentials that a touring musician requires to get through a couple of weeks in a strange country at least. Putting the horrible week thus far behind her temporarily, Anna instantly engaged with her audience tonight, performing songs from her debut solo album The Nocturnal Among Us as well as a few well chosen songs from her impressive back catalogue. Starting with “Back to the World”, coincidentally the opening song from that album, Anna’s distinctive voice filled the little summer house, characteristically alternating between straight singing and falsetto with ease. Perhaps Anna’s operatic training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg prepared her for the confident way in which she delivers a song or maybe it’s the influence of Alison Krauss, whose delicate voice provided Anna with gateway into the world of folk and acoustic music as opposed to her formal training, the threshold of which Anna crossed with some considerable ease. Whilst “Dreaming My Life Away” demonstrates Anna’s command over melodic pop songs, it’s with the more thought provoking songs such as “Crooked Sea” that Anna excels. The little promotional video Anna made for this song, filmed in the back of a VW bus, being probably the smallest imaginable house concert in the world, was probably more than anything else responsible for Anna’s Wheelhouse appearance tonight, Hedley Jones having seen the video, knowing how well that performance would transfer to his garden shed. Originally from New England, it’s little wonder that the sea takes a major role in Anna’s growing repertoire. From a community that shares some of the maritime music of Nova Scotia, it seems only second nature for her to include the likes of Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, which evokes the hazardous and unforgiving legends of the Great Lakes to the traditional “Golden Vanity”, which also demonstrates Anna’s fluent handling of traditional material. Inspired by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, “Indian Summer” deals with the darker side of human nature, picking up on one infamous murderer’s Native American background, as chronicled in Capote’s celebrated true life novel. Written after reading the book alone, Anna confesses that it made her quite nervous for an entire weekend. Despite Anna’s other nervousness, that of driving alone in a strange country, suffering from insomnia and having her suitcase in transit God knows where, the singer cheerfully tells of picking up some clothes as a temporary measure from an Edinburgh charity shop, namely Pets Need Vets, reasoning that pets are getting their vets whilst she is getting a change of clothes. Anna remained professional, engaging and cheerful throughout. Anna also provided a couple of new songs in her set, one of which was described as being under construction ‘with scaffolding all over it’, destined hopefully for a follow up to The Nocturnal Among Us. Towards the end of the night, Anna brought out a couple of stunning songs from the new album Coins on Your Eyes and the beautiful “Holy Ghost of Texas”, a song that first appeared on her Glory album, revamped and re-vitalised for the new record, which together with a pretty faithful version of Springsteen’s evocative “My Hometown” made for a memorable set at the Wheelhouse.