Sarah MacDougall

Live Review | Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey | Review by Allan Wilkinson

When I introduced Sarah MacDougall onstage tonight I think I was right in saying ‘once heard, never forgotten’.  I was of course referring to her singing voice, which is distinctly unique.  Tonight saw the now Whitehorse-based singer-songwriter return to the UK for the first time with a trio, comprising famed Juno-winning record producer Bob Hamilton on upright bass and mandolin and regular sideman Tim Tweedale on Weissenborn; you know, that dulcimer-shaped lap slide guitar that helps in no small measure to make Sarah’s sound what it is today.  Town Hall Live staged this, the second concert of her current UK tour, at the Diamond Jubilee Town Hall in rural Kirton in Lindsey, with a couple of sets of songs from both the newly released The Greatest Ones Alive (2011) and her earlier Across the Atlantic (2009).  Relaxed and completely at ease with her newer material, Sarah kicked off with “It’s a Storm (What’s Going On?)”, one of the strongest songs from the new album.  Immediately re-visiting the older material, with the jaunty “Crow’s Lament”, Sarah was determined to mix it up a little, performing a good cross section of songs from her steadily growing repertoire.  The title song from the new record “The Greatest Ones Alive” is a pretty good place to start for any newcomer to Sarah’s music; a highly personal song executed with all the passion and drive of a seasoned performer.  While “Cry Wolf” presents a more playful side to Sarah’s song writing, with both of her band mates joining in on the chorus of wolf calls at the beginning, “I’ve Got Your Back” demonstrates Sarah’s ability to write a good waltz time Country standard.  “Mmm”, also provides the audience with one of the easiest choruses to remember.   Described as ‘two of the most talented musicians in Canada’, Tim Tweedale and Bob Hamilton started the second half with an instrumental duet written by Tweedale, performed on both Weissenborn and mandolin.  Sarah continued to mix new and old with assured performances of “Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Win” and one of her most infectious songs, “Ballad of Sherri”, with its distinctly French-sounding chorus.  “Headed for the Hills” is the title song from a much earlier alt-country album, which was nice to hear once again.   Other songs included “Cold Night”, “Song #43”, “Across the Atlantic” and “We’re All Gonna Blow Away”, before finishing with the enduring “Ramblin’”.  For a small but enthusiastic Kirton audience, the trio returned for one final encore, the Bruce Springsteen song “Tougher Than the Rest”, which was treated as a bit of an instrumental workout towards the end and therefore a pretty good choice for a closer.  Stopping off enroute to London and opening the concert tonight was Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Paul Handyside, together with Rob Tickell, another Weissenborn player, who between them played an all too short opening set.  With an opening act this good, it couldn’t fail to be another great night at the town hall.