Hare & Hounds
Review by Mark Wakeman
Photos by Ian Dunn
This is the third time that I’ve seen Jessica Lynn live. The first time at the Slade Rooms back in 2017 was my gig of the year, last year at the Hare & Hounds it was a typically sparse Birmingham crowd, even though it was a double headline show with Raintown. Luckily this time it was a much bigger crowd who just wanted to have a good time and rock to some great country music.
The opening act were The Fartherline, who were playing only their second show together. But the band are all seasoned performers with lead singer Tim Protley-Jones a member of The Wandering Hearts, Steve Marks, who is the lead guitarist in Gasoline & Matches but tonight switching to bass, and Rich Watson on guitar.
The Fatherline played a highly proficient 30 minute set, as you would expect from quality musicians, even if this outfit is still in it’s infancy. Original songs were mixed with a superb cover of Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Joke’. ‘Before The Trend Set In’, the only song they currently have available online, was well received. Tim was in good form vocally and joking with the crowd, his humour was apparent in the lyrics for ‘This Works A Drag’.
For me the set highlight was ‘Epithany’ which Tim had written from lots of social media messages he had made chronicling his thoughts and had molded them into a young in tribute to his 10 month old child.
Steve reverted back to his usual lead guitar and was joined on stage by vocalist Sally Rea Morris along with a bassist and a drummer, who looked a cross between wrestlers Mick Foley and Terry Funk, to give us a full four-piece Gasoline & Matches. The band is essentially Sally and Steve and often they play as a stripped back or acoustic duo, so it was great to see them with a full band for the first time in a year. They were instrumental in getting Jessica Lynn to come to the UK and have been her principle support on all three of Jessica’s UK tours.
Despite Steve and Sally both being under the weather, you wouldn’t have noticed it apart from Steve ducking some backing vocals as he literally had no voice, they played a typically upbeat set to an appreciative crowd, many of whom were fans or knew the band. ‘If You Wanna Stay’ and the ironically titled ‘Not Into Country’ were well received before Sally dedicated ‘Tequila’s A Healer’ to a friend she had sadly lost.
Fan favourite ‘Never Have I Ever’ became a drinking game between Sally and the audience after she had jokingly asked if someone would buy her a Tequila. Set closer ‘Smiley Viper’, co written with Jen Boskic, is always a live highlight for me. Sally and Steve curate the excellent quarterly Nashville Sounds In The Round at the Kitchen Garden Cafe where they get a wide variety of artists to play songs from their repertoire and chosen covers in an intimate setting. The next show takes place on Wednesday 28th August and is well worth checking out.
Jessica Lynn, looking every inch country rock’s answer to Daisy Duke in her demin shorts, cowboy boots, fishnets and croptop, was an ever smiling and wonderful headliner. Sure Jessica is a gorgeous young woman and draws obvious comparisons with a younger Shania Twain but behind the glamour is a superb live performer and talented songwriter.
Jessica’s band is very much a family affair. Husband Steve plays lead guitar, her father and manager Peter plays bass, and mum Victoria sings backing vocals. It is quite clear to see where she gets her stunning looks from, her mum could easily pass as her older sister despite being in her 50’s and her Dad looks like he hits the gym everyday. The band was completed with an excellent drummer and veteran Bob Riedel on pedal steel guitar. Bob who is an old family friend of Jessica’s family was the butt of some good natured banter having been dubbed the ‘Beast of Birmingham’ on his last time in the city.
Jessica delivered a barnstorming 90 minute plus set featuring songs from all her studio albums with highlights being ‘Crazy Idea’ and ‘Let’s Don’t’. I may be biased as I am a big fan of hers but this was a gig of the year contender for me again. All the band were given chances to shine and Bob in particular showed what a fine specialist musician he is.
Despite having a good back catalogue to choose from a few covers were thrown in for fun. In no way were they set fillers as the concert literally flew by, ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ by Queen and Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ were huge crowd sing-a-longs and a Patty Loveless cover showed what a fine voice Jessica has. But the night was all about fun and having a good time, we have enough doom and gloom today without bands pushing their political views and activism at us at concerts. Jessica and her band knew the crowd wanted to rock and have a good time and they provided it ending with Jessica on drums and Bob on lead vocals as everyone sang along to Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’.