Live Review – The Rails @ Hare & Hounds

The Rails

Hare & Hounds

Review by Mark Wakeman

The Rails

Birmingham Promoters venturing out to the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath doesn’t happen that often. But it was the right venue to put on a band like The Rails and was rewarded with a very solid turnout.

Support came from Birmingham singer Gaby Kettle assisted by Charlie on keyboards. With Charlie’s excellent playing and Gaby’s smoky voice her set had an immediate jazz like quality despite a false start on the opening song.

It soon became clear we were watching two performers who were really on their game and complemented each other. ‘Better Than This’ was a typically moody track which built to a powerful chorus and ‘Company’ was a more up tempo number which featured a particularly fine solo from Charlie.

New song ‘This Life’ perhaps showcased Gaby’s fine voice the most but across their 30 minute set we were able to enjoy two fine performers purveying their talents.

Often with opening acts I say they may sound better with a band but with Gaby’s vocals and Charlie’s playing giving that great jazzy sound I’d be happy to see them play in this form again or at most in an expanded quartet with a drummer and bassist to retain that great jazz like feel.

The Rails certainly have a very solid musical pedigree with co-vocalist and rhythm guitarist Kami Thompson being the daughter of Fairport Convention co-founder and legendary folk guitarist Richard Thompson and noted folk singer Linda Thompson. Whilst the other co-vocalist and lead guitarist James Walbourne is a member of the current line up of The Pretenders and had a stint in The Pogues too. Rumours that he left The Pogues because he turned up sober for a gig are unconfirmed.

Backed by an excellent support trio of bassist, keyboardist and drummer who all had solid experience in other bands, it was clear we were in for a great evening’s rock music. James’ thunderous guitar playing drove things along and it was very much a rock concert as opposed to even a folk rock concert. Vocals on every song were literally shared by Kami and James with them alternating verses or singing in tight harmonies.

With three albums of material to choose from The Rails delivered a measured collection of older numbers whilsts rightly focussing on songs from their latest album ‘Cancel The Sun’.

Despite being a couple both professionally and personally this latest album was the first they have actually written together as opposed to adding pieces to each other’s songs.

‘The Inheritance’, ‘Waiting On Something’, ‘Call Me When It All Goes Wrong’ and ‘Save The Planet’ were a powerful opening quartet of songs from ‘Cancel The Sun’. Before old folk song ‘William Taylor’ from their 2014 debut album ‘Fair Warning’ was given a well received airing.

‘Something Is Slipping My Mind’ was simply beautiful and ‘Mossy Well’ about drinking in Muswell Hill and the loss of community feel was epic with James’ much vaunted guitar playing really delivering.

Things were slowed down as just James and Kami remained on stage to deliver the gorgeous ‘I Wish, I Wish’ and a great cover of the late Bap Kennedy’s ‘On The Mighty Ocean Alcohol’. Bap was a friend of James and this song was a heartfelt tribute to him. The original version is worth checking out as it appropriately has Shane McGowan on guest vocals.

The band returned and the concert picked up pace again with a deeper delve into The Rails first two albums including ‘Panic Attack Blues’, ‘Fair Warning’ and ‘The Cally’ written about a road James’ grandfather used to live on.

‘Capture The Sun’ was perhaps the highlight of a great set with yet more great guitar work from James, before ‘Dictator’ and ‘Ball and Chain’, again from the excellent latest album, bought a great concert to an end.

From someone who has done over 100 gigs this year, this concert is a lock for my top 10 list and possibly in the top 5.