Live Review | The Wheelhouse, Wombwell | Review by Allan Wilkinson
When Brigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough planned their current UK tour I was slightly disappointed that their dates didn’t include any gigs in the Yorkshire area, yet just as I was considering venturing far and wide to see the duo, it came as an unexpected surprise when I discovered that my old mate Hedley Jones was going to be the duo’s UK tour manager and that he was considering staging a house concert at his place on Mothering Sunday. The Nashville-based duo have been working together since the Rose of Jericho days, back in 2011, when Will, a noted and well-respected musician, became an important part of Brigitte’s music. It’s only recently though that the two have begun worked closely on their joint song writing, which has proved highly successful on Brigitte’s last album Savannah Road and the duo’s first album in both names Mockingbird Soul. Moving the clocks on for British Summertime ensured a little more light as Wheelhouse regulars gathered at the bottom of the garden for what promised to be a memorable night. During his introduction, Hedley calculated that this would be the 100th house concert and would possibly be one of the best so far, having already witnessed what Brigitte and Will are capable of at the duo’s first two shows. Starting with “Everything”, the album opener, the duo demonstrated from the start the rich quality of their harmony singing, both voices seemingly made for one another; they refer to it ‘acoustic soul music’, which pretty much sums it up. Throughout their opening set, the duo focused on the new album continuing with “Broken Fences”, utilising the DADGAD tuning “for you Yorkshire Folkies”. The ‘love bunker’ proved to be a relaxing space for the duo, who both found their stride almost immediately as well as their easy-going interaction with their close-up and personal audience. Thanking Hedley for raising the American flag outside the cabin, Brigitte felt she also should apologise for recent events in her homeland’s history, with Will’s tongue-in-cheek promise to “burn it later”. Dedicating “Running Around” to Taj Mahal, the duo launched into some ferocious finger-picking with this bluesy ragtime number, which was swiftly followed by “Honey Bee”, a delightfully sprightly ragtime number, demonstrating the duo’s mutual love of early blues and jazz recordings by the likes of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. Brigitte went on to claim that her husband liked her singing that particular song, to which Will quipped “do you have a little outfit?” Towards the end of the first set the duo’s surprise inclusion of Robin Williamson’s “October Song”, brought a sense of immediate recognition and was a most welcomed song in the set. The performance, which included the now familiar Incredible String Band-like guitar introduction, which for me, could have gone on for much longer, demonstrated the duo’s flair for arrangement. After a short break, which included once again some fine culinary delights courtesy of Lynne Jones up on the decking, the duo continued with their second set, this time focusing on some of the songs from their own respective solo back catalogues. The Mardi Gras influenced “Wash and Fold”, with its Bo Diddley groove was dedicated to Lowell George, much to the approval of Dave Burland, who was sitting right there on the front row, with a further dedication to the late Allen Toussaint. Other name check references during the set were that of Lightnin’ Hopkins, with Will demonstrating the flatted fifth on “Three Angels”, apparently the Devil’s chord, and JJ Cale, the influence behind the opening riff of “Mud Bottom”, featuring some fine bottleneck playing by Will, which in effect transported the little cabin in Wombwell to the deep south of Alabama. “It gets too hot before morning time” said the lyric and the sweat had already begun to form on Will’s brow. “Worker”, the first song Brigitte and Will collaborated on from the Savannah Road period, evokes the days of slavery in the southern cotton fields of Alabama, which was performed with delicate precision, whilst Will’s “I Can Hear Your Voice”, a moving song about his own ailing father, brought on all the emotions that go with the subject of dementia. Lifting the spirits, “I Don’t Like It”, was played in tribute to the late Chuck Berry, which on this occasion was slightly modified to incorporate some of Berry’s familiar riffs. Finishing with a couple of Hank Williams songs, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “You Win Again”, the duo returned for a final song, with Will de-tuning his guitar to that of a double bass for an improvised take on “Rainy Day”. So there we go, 100 house concerts at this cosy little South Yorkshire acoustic music venue and one that we shall all remember for a long time. Great songs, great people and an outstanding performance.