I’m enjoying being on a journey of music discovery at the moment.
It all started when an artist who impressed me and my missus at a festival a few years ago, Dan Mangan announced he was coming back to the UK. His press contact put me on to the wonderful Laura Gibson. After the gig I got chatting to the guy standing next to me about how great she was, and he recommended Vera Sola. Getting through to Manchester on a school night on public transport is never easy so I didn’t want to like her, but half way through listening to her album on spotify I bought a ticket!
and it looks like the journey doesn’t end there. When chatting to a facebook friend who I noticed was on the “going” list, he gave me another couple of artists to check out. I haven’t got around to it yet, but I look forward to seeing where it goes next!
And of course, it’s not just about the headliners, Dan Mangan’s special guest Steven Adams turned out to be someone equally capable of headlining, Laura Gibson’s support Kind Stranger were also rather good, and Vera Sola’s support Elle Mary & The Bad Men sound pretty special too.
Certainly worth the trip to Manchester for I reckon! Look out for my photo-review after the event, or better still, get yourself along there!
Here’s the formal info:
A family of spiritualists, writers and performers generations deep, a home haunted by legends of literature and music, personal upheaval and a sense of being unseated in time: these are the origins of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Vera Sola.
With an ethereal voice providing the foundation for a haunting body of song, her timeless sound and enthralling stage presence draws an unlikely connection between Vera Lynn and Vera Hall, the grande dame of British music hall and the Depression-era Alabamian singer of work-songs and spirituals.
As a child she played classical piano, later guitar and bass, learning more by instinct than instruction.
An obsessive reader and writer, she’d forever written poetry and been fascinated by wordplay, falling in love at a young age with Russian literature and the work of Dylan Thomas, James Joyce and William Faulkner.
All this, along with a career as a stage and voice actor – combined with years of touring in Elvis Perkins’ band – would serve as a launching point for Vera Sola. But it wasn’t until early 2017, when she booked time at Native Sound Studio in St. Louis, that she began to experiment with the idea of recording her own material.
She hadn’t even shared her music with her closest friends and family, let alone recorded anything of her own. Even then, despite a lineage and lifetime of public performance, she felt a barrier blocking off her voice. Writing and playing came easily, but singing her own songs presented a different challenge. One she couldn’t explain and couldn’t quite shake.
That would all change. Just before she was to travel to St. Louis, a series of life-altering events marked a radical shift that reframed her relationship to her music.
With everything she’d known to be true now unraveled, along with it vanished the fear that had prevented her from translating the sound in her blood into song.
Entering the studio, she abandoned plans to bring in other musicians. She decided instead to make the album entirely alone, picking up instruments she had never played before, drawing from them the internal music that had for so long gone unexpressed. She recorded using anything at hand.
Bones and breaking glass, chains and filing cabinets, hammers and two-by-fours. Countless moving parts meticulously layered and arranged. And that old fear now cast off brought new abilities, a change in her voice, including an otherworldly vibrato. She’d become a vessel, capable of channeling at once her innermost self and yet something entirely beyond her. What emerged from the sessions was her debut album, SHADES, a collection of ten finely-honed and immaculately-rendered ballads.
Poems and stories delivered in a mannered but casually dismissive style – full of sorrow, yet arch and wry. Songs of the present that conjure the past. Accounts of women and their ghosts: echoes of memories that just won’t quit; of relationships over or current but fleeting; of the extinction of species; the violent capture of a feminine landscape and the spirits that stick around long after; messengers from the other side.
Local support comes from Elle Mary & The Bad Men. Drawn to the communicative and bonding qualities of plainsong but explorative beyond its stylistic connotations; enough of a pack member to want a band yet also keen to imbue a sense of solitude through her music, Elle Mary is an artist who operates best when balancing conflicting instincts. It’s what lies beneath the subtle tension that slightly tugs at the heart of her and The Bad Men’s slowcore minimalism.
When: 7.30pm on Tuesday 23 April 2019
Where: The Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LE