Monday, 28 October 2019

GIG REVIEW: The Rails - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 27th October 2019

A member of the Thompson clan is just one piece of the jigsaw, though not a too shoddy one to portray when making introductions. Throw into the mix a co-front person with the pedigree of James Walbourne and it of no surprise that The Rails have created great waves since moving into the world of a recording outfit in 2014. The core duo of Walbourne and Kami Thompson, husband and wife in their regular lives, morph into a five-piece band when hitting the road, and it is this format that greets folks heading out to catch them live on the current tour. This latest run of dates coincides with the release of the band's most recent album. Therefore the bulk of the seventy minute set played at the Hare and Hounds this evening came from the recently released CANCEL THE SUN and those present had the perfect opportunity to tune into its riches in a near unfiltered and complete state.

This album is The Rails' third full length release since formation and cements a status of being at the forefront of the folk rock fraternity, just like Kami's father Richard was, close on fifty years ago. Yes, the band do hit it hard and heavy in places, but in a crafted way that never loses a grip on being purveyors of fine folk songs. There is a dynamic edge to the way the music is delivered that thrills folk and rock fans alike. Gaps are left for harmonies and slower tunes to prosper alongside fusing the influence of established keyboard player Sean Read, and a trusty backline of drums and bass. The tunes range from uptempo popular numbers like 'Other People' and 'Late Surrender' from a compact but perfectly formed back catalogue to newbies such as 'Ball and Chain' and 'Call Me When it All Goes Wrong', which go a long way towards spearheading the sound of the latest album.

In line with the rituals of folk, a traditional piece gets a full makeover, and in this instance its 'William Taylor'. Encore number 'The Dictator' was introduced as a response to the mobile phone, while the inevitable stripped down slot where the backing band took a breather, Walbourne dealt a song he wrote many years ago with the late Bap Kennedy in 'On the Mighty Ocean Alcohol'. Ending with a little nod to the above.

To keep the rock part to the fore, our two co-leaders stick to electric guitar all evening, whilst still moving to the mood of the songs. The title track off the new album, which closed the pre-encore part of the set, saw a good mix of Thompson kicking things off vocally before hubby concludes with the evening's most memorable guitar segment  The London roots of the band, Walbourne in particular, are not too far in the distance as found in the pair of tracks 'The Cally' and 'Mossy Well', both taking influence from real life North London. 

In line with a good night's entertainment presented by Birmingham Promoters, local vocalist Gabby Kettle opened the show with a short set of keyboard accompanied personal songs and left no-one in the audience in the dark of her considerable talent in the voice department. Maybe the polar opposite to what The Rails went on to deliver in style, but still the perfect complement, and all in all, an enjoyable experience. 

Three albums in and many shows played, The Rails continue to power forward as a band. Kami Thompson and James Walbourne harness their talents splendidly to play a brand of music that is both cultured and edgy. A fiery mix to continue a long tradition of folk rock prodding the boundaries of convention. All in evidence on this Sunday evening in Kings Heath.