Live Review | The Wheelhouse, Wombwell | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Having feasted upon Miss Quincy’s current album Your Mama Don’t Like Me over the winter months, a thought occurred to me; how will a stripped down version of these songs go down at the Wheelhouse? Pretty well it transpires. Miss Quincy is quoted to have said, when referring to the home-made approach she applied to her album, which was recorded in a similar log cabin up in British Columbia during the hostile winter of 2009/2010, that if you listen carefully you can hear ‘the crackling of a wood stove or the swish of a whiskey bottle’. It was that sort of feeling that came over tonight at the Wheelhouse in Wombwell. Miss Quincy is the alter-ego of Canadian singer-songwriter Jody Peck, who when suitably attired in cowboy boots and trilby hat, sporting a bright red flower and matching lippy, to go with the ever present and intriguing full forearm tattoo, brings the character of one of her songs to life. “The Ballad of Miss Quincy” appeared on her first album Miss Quincy and the Ramblers and has subsequently become the singer-songwriter’s charismatic character. Starting with a new song “Northern Sky”, the title of which derives from the name of this very website I’m flattered to say, Miss Quincy and guitar/banjo maestro Tyler ‘Lefty’ Toews, went on to showcase a couple of sets of songs, largely made up with songs from the new album with a handful of others thrown in. Alternating between acoustic and electric guitars, apparently chosen randomly as the mood suited, both musicians were characteristically in tune with both one another and the audience alike in no time flat. “Carmen”, also from the first album, provided the sort of chorus that invited an enthusiastic audience response without too much trouble. The great blues women of the 1930s feature quite liberally in Miss Quincy’s set, both in terms of homage, with her self-penned “Sing Lady”, dedicated to the first queen of the blues Ma Rainey and the inclusion of the odd blues cover, Memphis Minnie’s “Bad Luck Woman” for example, featuring Miss Quincy’s bluesy harmonica playing. For the sheer passion in Miss Quincy’s inimitable voice there was no finer moment than when forty pairs of ears awaited the sound of a pin to drop during the astonishingly beautiful “Record Store”, which closed the first set. The reference in that song to Hank Williams was echoed during the second set, when the duo performed one of the country legend’s most memorable songs, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Both musicians brought to Wombwell a sense of fun, the kind of banter that can only be honed from the experience of the road, a road that Miss Quincy is no stranger to. Some of the characters Miss Quincy meets on that road inevitably find their way into some of her songs and also in the stories she likes to tell in between those songs. Coming from a cowboy family, Miss Quincy reminded us that dragging a dead horse around is a difficult business, especially when used as a simile for being involved with ‘married men and whiskey’. Using the Wheelhouse stage as a stomp box, Miss Quincy delivered a stunning version of “Dead Horse”, catching the audience off guard with one of those ‘the song’s not quite finished yet’ moments. Other songs from the new album included the show stopping “Nobody With You” coupled with “Sweet Jesus Café” as well as a fine reading of the traditional “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” with Tyler’s syncopated banjo accompaniment. In “Silent Movie”, we are invited to ‘go there’ with Miss Quincy, which we obligingly and quite willingly do, joining her on the tracks as Buster Keaton’s runaway train approaches, to the proverbial drama of the piano accompaniment, or on this occasion, deputised by a couple of guitars. Returning to the stage for a final encore of Nina Simone’s “Sugar in My Bowl”, Miss Quincy dispelled all my initial fears that I might not engage with her live music as freely as I did her album. How wrong; it was on equal par if not better.