Snow that sets as sludge on the confounding one way systems of the big-small towns of rural England made for an interesting journey to The Keep in Guildford.
Even more interesting was the requirement to knock at the door and enter into a brief entranceway and stark expressions after explaining I was on the guest list, which, apparently, I wasn’t.
No harm was done by and after quick introductions were made a cold pint helped dissolve the excess ice crystals that had gathered on my skull.
I was standing alone at the bar of a quintessential British pub- low ceilings, dilapidated couches, lots of wood- to watch the performance of up and coming Country singer Carson McHone, touring as part of the Americana Music Fest.
It was a big night for The Keep whose nook-and-cranny pub was crammed with an eagerly anticipating audience keen to see face to face the author of the enchanting Carousal, McHone’s new album which Rolling Stone Magazine has recently rated in the top 40 best Country albums of the year.
With that fact in mind one would think there’d be the clichéd entourage, security and layers upon layers of barriers that create ever growing distances between fans and the stars they adore.
But McHone is of a different style, an old school style. She stepped into the bar as unassuming as one of its patrons in a slate tweed jacket nursing a pint and enjoying the performance of the warm-up act as much as any nondescript music fan.
McHone is of a delicate beauty with a petit figure, bulging blue eyes and fingers like wisps that pluck the strings of her guitar with an effortlessness that seems both inherent and unageing.
After nodding and applauding with the rest of The Keep’s guests McHone stepped onto “the stage”, picked up her guitar, plucked a couple of strings and sung a couple of melodies for the sound check before getting straight into it with the first song on the set list, How Bout It.
One writes “set list”, McHone’s attention to detail and meticulous approach amounted to turning to the side looking down at a sheet of crumpled up paper and scratching her head wondering ‘what song shall I sing now?’
That Texan conviviality held in stark contrast to the rigid lives and strict timetables of commuter London. It was as refreshing on this night as is the wind that chimes against the pumpjacks on the land rigs of the richest state in the US.
Carson finally decided upon her set nimbly moving through the gears with Sad, Dram Shop Gal and the epitimous Country song Maybe They’re Just Really Good Friends.
The music was superb however what comes along with the unassuming McHone is not just beautiful melodies, great lyrics and clever song titles, but also great stories.
We discovered between songs that her and her manager, having been racing from venue to venue, were driving on the wrong side of the road for much of the trip from London’s Oslo Bar to Guildford. And that she’d been partying the previous night till 6am, like all true stars of music are usually of a countenance to do. And that she’s as well read as any acclaimed author having been inspired by the musings of Messrs Hemmingway and Hughes.
To say it was a magical night is an insult of description by a writer who has far less of a grasp of the ethereal craft as McHone. But simple minds can only put together simple sentences. And maybe in that simplicity is the essence of McHone’s past, present and future success. She is simply all about the music, and she does it so so well.
Catch Carson McHone at the remaining dates of the Americana Tour listed below.
Feb 4th The Basement, York
Feb 5 The New Adelphi Club, Hull
Feb 6 Castle Hotel, Manchester
Feb 8 The Hug and Pint, Glasgow
Feb 9 Live Theatre, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Feb 10 Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
Buy Carson’s new album Carousel at carsonmchonemusic.com/store