Saturday, August 04, 2012

Hardin nuff - review of Case Hardin

Photo by Richard Markham

Case Hardin at ACE Space, Newbury on Friday, July 20

AND so, as ACE Space goes dark for the month of August, the community arts venue saved one of its best for last, with a gig by Case Hardin, sort-of local (it’s complicated) leading lights on the UK’s alt-country/Americana scene.

With two albums-worth of material to chose from (2008’s Some Tunes For Charlie Spencer and 2011’s Every Dirty Mirror), plus a few new songs, the band, led by Pete Gow (intrepid TV news producer by day, beardy waistcoated musoman by night) now have a sturdy library of songs to select from - mind you, Gow has been fronting the band in varied formats since 1999, so he’s had time to build up a bit of a back catalogue.

Gow is quite a storyteller, and his songs paint pictures of bare knuckle fighters (Champeen) and shell-shocked squaddies (The Ring), complemented by Adam Kotz’s lamenting mandolin and banjo and  Jim Maving’s weeping guitar. That’s not to say that there aren’t any upbeat moments - forthcoming single Where Angels Fear To Tread, to be released on Clubhouse Records and described by Gow as “a three-and-a-half minute precis of why I am, and will always be, single”, ends with a bit of a wig-out; while, encore Three For The Road finally transformed some of the tapping toes in the audience into dancing feet.

A handful of the songs were solo or near-solo numbers, with Gow being accompanied only by Maving’s heartbreaking guitar playing, but Gow certainly appreciates the coven of musicians he has gathered around him. Stating that he’d “long been of the opinion that I’m the third best singer in the band”, he launched the five-piece into 1,000 Sides Of Vinyl, showcasing his voice alongside those of Maving and Kotz, who otherwise focused mainly on providing the harmonies that added to Case Hardin’s rich sound. 

Gow’s awareness of two elements of his songwriting, that which requires the full band sound, and the more introspective singer-songwriter component, is reflected on the album Every Dirty Mirror, which was conceived and sequenced as if produced for vinyl, with a full tilt band “side” and the second part being more contemplative. Case Hardin is very much Gow’s band, but although he suggested that he “became a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster in the studio” (he possibly meant Dr Frankenstein himself), he is clearly very comfortable with the current line-up, and the high calibre musical input and inspiration they bring to the performance of his songs, both recorded and live.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 26. 2012

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