Sam Coe & The Long Shadows + Lexie Green

Live at Little Rabbit Barn, two of the best Americana / Country acts in the region.

Now that I am curating the monthly Music to your Ears column in Grapevine Magazine, I get to listen to even more music than usual. It never ceases to amaze me how much good music is out there.

Consequently my ‘gotta see them live’ list is expanding at a somewhat greater rate than my physical ability to be at every gig I want to go to. But then occasionally serendipity comes into play as it did this last weekend when two performers on my list were performing at the same venue. That the venue in question was the Little Rabbit Barn made it a foregone conclusion that I would be there.

Sam Coe and The Long Shadows have been on my radar for some time. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam at the John Peel Centre some months back where she was performing a solo set in support of Dusky Sunday. All that did was whet my appetite for more.

It was a cosy fit for the six-piece band, including a full drum kit, on Little Rabbit Barn‘s stage, but this did not deter Sam’s Long Shadows from having a good time. The band’s current line up is only about six months old, with bassist Phil and lead guitarist James the newest members. Plus, on this occasion the band was augmented by their album producer and Ginger Dog Records owner Kevin Duncan on Hammond Organ.

And let me tell you this band is good. A tight, professional presentation of original Sam Coe songs and one or two covers. Sam’s lyrics are what you would expect from a down to earth, warm hearted person – honest and poignant and sung with such passion as to make you want to know more about the story, the background, the people.

If there was a set list, it wasn’t obvious as evidenced by Sam asking the band:
“Do you know how the Johnny Cash cover starts?”
“Eh.. yes.”
“OK, let’s do that!”
And they did it very well indeed.

If you have not yet picked up a copy of the album “Full Moon” I would urge you to do so. If only for the title track alone with its quirky drobo & vocal inflections. But there are twelve other excellent songs on the album and each one that the band played on Saturday night was done with the same intricate skill as you hear on the album – yes this is a band that can reproduce an album sound on stage.

Sam Coe & The Long Shadows play country music with a healthy infusion of rock without a Stetson, cowboy boot or false southern drawl in sight. Honest engaging lyrics, sung by a powerful strong voice and backed by top class musicians who know what they are about – what’s not to like?

So that’s another band off my must-see list then. Not quite, I want to see them again!

Special mention:
Whilst Sam changed guitars, she called upon a somewhat startled bass player Phil to fill in. He rose to the challenge with a festival food stall related anecdote. Fillers in such situations often go unnoticed by reviewers, but in this case the story of Planet of The Crepes (it helps if you were there!) deserves a full five stars *****

Lexie Green

Image © tonybell.PHOTOGRAPHY

Lexie Green opened the evening accompanied, not by her full band, but with just her guitarist John Wright. I say ‘just’ the pair were more than able to reproduce the Lexie Green band sound in this wonderful setting. She introduced me to a few new audio expressions that I had not come across before – ‘toilet reverb’, she and sound man Alex seemed to understand, which is what was important!

She and John then chose the keys of W and Z for one number (!) and friends of Lexie should expect to find a capo in their Christmas stockings. From which comments you can guess that Lexie releases a lot of nervous energy on stage! In-between numbers that is, because on song she is relaxed and rocks out her songs with ease, allowing John to display his not inconsiderable guitar skills throughout the set. Having come across her music only because one of the band added their gigs to GrapevineLIVE, it was a pure pleasure to listen live to Lexie’s husky flavoured vocals and John’s beautiful guitar work.

Lexie too is still on my list, I’ve got to see the full band.

As a testament to what goes on at Little Rabbit Barn Lexie has been trying to arrange this long overdue slot for some time. While Peterborough is by no means the furthest that artists have travelled from to perform at this unique venue, it says a lot that musicians want to play there.

If you have never been to the Little Rabbit Barn let me explain: these are American style ‘house concerts’ which take place in Jonathan’s two- car carport next to his house. To cater for the British weather, the carport has a couple of marquees attached to the front. It is not a permanent structure, as Jonathan and his team of volunteers build it once a month and take it down after each gig.

The artists are catered for in the summer house. A green, green-room, where they are fed and watered by Lyn, and generally well looked after before appearing in front of an appreciative audience. Sam Coe summed it up very well:

“This isn’t a shed, this isn’t a carport – this is a Venue”

Sam Coe

Geographically Saturday night was a perfect fit for Grapevine Magazine – I live in Suffolk, Lexie Green comes from Peterborough, Sam Coe & the Long Shadows are from Norwich and the gig we were all at was in Ardleigh in Essex. A box ticked in all four counties that the magazine covers! And I’ll be back there next month for Morganway and Shelly Fairchild!