JT and the Clouds

Live Review | The Wheelhouse, Wombwell | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Midway through their current UK tour, JT and the Clouds stopped by the Wheelhouse for a short break, staying with their host and tour companion Hedley Jones, who just so happens to have his own stage at the bottom of the family garden, here in the heart of the South Yorkshire Delta.  In this relatively intimate setting, Jeremy ‘JT’ Lindsay, together with Dan Abu-Absi on guitar, Chris Neal on keyboards and Mike Bruno on drums, stripped themselves down to a couple of acoustic sets so to speak, leaving their electric guitars in the van, in order to bring the essence of their often rich and melodic songs to a very appreciative audience in ‘the shed’ tonight.  The Chicago based four-piece band are currently touring their new album Caledonia but tonight also showcased a few songs from JT’s rootsy side project Mountains/Forests under the guise of JT Nero, the singer-songwriter’s solo alter-ego, performing the title song early in the first set tonight.  Other songs from that project due to be released in the UK later this year included “MI Salvador What’s Happenin’”, “Gallup NM”, “North Star” and “Double Helix (Rainbow)”, which closed the first set.  Relaxed and gently spoken, Jeremy Lindsay appeared comfortable and in control, with a gentle guitar style and soulful gruff voice that alternated effortlessly between the throatiness of, let’s say a Rod Stewart, together with the rich falsetto of a Curtis Mayfield.  It’s quite fitting for the kind of songs he writes and nowhere more effectively as in “I Have Heard Words”, a beautifully soulful love song from the current album featuring the sort of keyboard work that turns heads, not unlike that of Billy Preston, courtesy of Chris Neal.  With the uplifting “Fever Dream”, the opening song from the new album, JT managed to cram in so many hooks, any one of them good enough to ensure a hit single in an ideal world, none of which were lost in this stripped down acoustic performance tonight.  Referring to The Wheelhouse as a ‘man cave’, JT struck up a good rapport with the audience from the start, with some gentle between-song banter and a repertoire any performer would die for.  Songs as thoroughly engaging as “Funeral”, the most joyous and fun-filled song to the dear departed this reviewer has ever heard as well as a couple of songs from the earlier Delilah album of 2004, “Prairie Lullaby” and “Scattered Leaves”, subsequently covered by the Be Good Tanyas.  With a crowd pleasing version of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”, the band headed towards the finishing line, but not before a stunning performance of the title song from the current album, the Neil Young inflected “Caledonia”, which had everyone in the Wheelhouse joining in.  “Til It’s Gone” followed as the intended closer, featuring some excellent guitar from Dan Abu-Absi on the Gibson he borrowed from the host, but finally the band rounded everything off with an encore of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freight Liner”, JT and the Clouds leaving their mark on this tiny South Yorkshire venue, where their picture will join the healthy array of talent already pasted upon its walls.  Earlier in the evening, photographer and general good fellah Phil Carter stepped up to the mic to provide a set of well-chosen songs from the pens of a handful of well-established and much acclaimed songwriters from both sides of the pond including Pete Morton, Ralph McTell, Martyn Joseph, Bob Dylan and Ray Hearne.  By his own admission, these songs would normally be shared exclusively between him and the four walls of his bedroom; the audience agreed that these songs were just as fittingly suited to the four walls of the Wheelhouse.  Why should the wardrobe and the chest of drawers have them all to themselves?