The Good Lovelies

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

Discarding their usual strict dress code (ie dresses!) and opting for ‘pants’ on this occasion instead, The Good Lovelies approached the last couple of dates on this their debut UK tour, whilst dazzling everyone present at the Wombwell Wheelhouse with their utterly gorgeous harmony singing, their musicianship and their seemingly unlimited sense of fun.  Reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters (or if you’re into uniforms, the Andrews Sisters), this Toronto-based trio update a much older style of singing, giving it a contemporary edge, but losing none of its beauty along the way.  With Kerri Ough (pronounced ‘O’) on banjo, Sue Passmore on guitar and Caroline Brooks on guitar and mandolin (Kerri and Sue sharing bass duties), the trio brought equal measures of warmth, fun, humour and gorgeous songs to the popular South Yorkshire house concert with two sets of immediately accessible songs from each of the trio’s two available albums.  (There is a third, but that’s a Christmas record and in May, pretty much inappropriate). Selecting songs predominantly from the trio’s current album Let the Rain Fall (2011), the Good Lovelies launched into their first set with “Kiss Me in the Kitchen”, demonstrating from the start just how intuitive and tight their three part harmony singing can be.  Their unforced, laid-back approach to harmony singing often sounds effortless and natural, especially on songs like “Home”, “Best I Know” and their version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Straight Time”, all of which have a lullaby feel to them.  Along with all the new material, the set also included one or two songs from their earlier Juno-winning self-titled debut album including “Sleepwalking”, “Baby I Got My Way” and “Lie Down”, together with one of the trio’s earliest compositions “February Song”, which not only appears on the current album but also the trio’s debut EP Oh My! (2007), featuring Kerri’s delightful glockenspiel accompaniment.  With a voice like a fine red wine, Sue Passmore delivered one of the most beautiful love songs of the night with “Into the Spotlight”, augmented by utterly delicious harmony accompaniment courtesy of the singers on either side of her; goosebumps sort of singing.  Going on to pay homage to the singers who obviously inspire The Good Lovelies, the trio performed an a cappella version of The Boswell Sisters’ “Heebie Jeebies”, adding a distinctive fun side to their repertoire.  With stories about moving house, travelling across Canada with Caroline’s parents, constantly defending one of Canada’s most derided cities, being adopted by their own American ‘Grammy’ or just the occasional ‘banjo joke’, the three women clearly enjoy working together as touring musicians.  Their escort on this particular tour is none other than Rebecca Kemp, an unsung hero in this genre of music, who continues to deliver to the Wheelhouse and other venues around the country some of the most impressive musicians this reviewer has ever seen.  Kempy celebrated her birthday tonight, which all added to the party atmosphere.  With Hedley Jones presenting a cake and having “Happy Birthday” sung to her in extraordinarily good three part harmony is pretty memorable stuff, not just for Kempy but for all of us.  Finishing with a stunning version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, reminding us all that underneath all the criminally over-played and nonsensical ‘pop’ versions that have recently been foisted upon us via shows like the X Factor, “Hallelujah” is still one of the most beautiful songs by one of Canada’s most beautiful song writers and in the hands of The Good Lovelies, possibly the prettiest version of all.