Big show Friday night at The Wine Cellar in Auckland, NZ. Big show also next door at Whammy Bar, judging by the sound which permeates in between songs. Distracting, but happily not so when the songs are playing in here. And in here we await Kendall Elise and her band, finishing off her album release tour celebrating the Roundhead recorded Red Earth.
First up we have Louis Jerlov and The Lonesome. Sometimes threesome, tonight twosome, always lonesome. Louis is a wiry, tallish young man with a Hank Williams hat and Costello specs and strikes me as an unlikely country singer. But, wait a minute, Elvis Costello does country! Louis also plays on Kendall’s album, but tonight he’s his own act. He breezes through an eight-song set, a mixture of what I presume to be originals and some choice covers, including Tom Petty’s Rebels, Jimmy White’s I Only Call (When I’m Drunk), and Billie Joe Shaver’s Georgia On A Fast Train.
Great rhythm from Tony Daunt (bass) and Sean Rundle (drums) with Louis playing dexterous guitar. I met Kendall Elise in Gore earlier this year at the Country Music Awards. Louis should have been there. Right at home in the heart of New Zealand Country. The music tonight is great, but the Hank Williams comeback doesn’t quite come off for me. I must give this kid another go sometime soon, but the unfortunate thing is that what follows is just too awesome for memories of his set to linger.
Waiting for Kendall. But that little wisp of a girl up on stage isn’t she. Who is it? And right from the get-go, she has me on a string. Why, it’s Sophie Mashlan, a name I’ve heard of but never heard from. Missed her debut album tour early this year. Send me your record Sophie. I’ll pay, I’ll pay!!
In a review from a couple of weeks ago, I remarked that female singer-songwriters often fail to impress because they can’t play. There are thousands of them lining up for open mics across the USA hoping to do a Taylor Swift. Jess Bailey from Fables can play. And Sophie Mashlan is not far off virtuoso as she entrances us with a short 5 song set of mainly originals from her recently released Perfect Disaster, but also a beautiful cover of John Hartford’s In Tall Buildings (he was the guy who also wrote Gentle On My Mind). Just 19. Still a student. Such confidence. Check out Maisy’s photos. Sophie is an aura, she’s on fire. What can I say?
Kendall Elise was stunning in Gore. She didn’t win, but she certainly impressed with a sad song about two friends who both lost their lives in road accidents leaving behind a pregnant partner. One of whom was Kendall’s mum. It’s truly a beautiful song, Slippery Creek. With its folky guitar, lilting almost soprano intro, which immediately sends me back into the ’70s and Sandy Denny, an extraordinarily gifted but troubled folk singer who was an early member of Fairport Convention. Now, of course, a legend.
We have to wait for the encore tonight before we hear Slippery Creek, but that’s ok, there are no duds on this record, and the band take their places, looking serious, like really serious dudes, on a serious if not serial mission, which is to support Kendall as she takes us on a tour of her hometown of Papakura and her trials and tribulations while growing up poor and troubled.
Flame-haired songstress. From the suburbs. Papakura. Mainly white. The history evoked in the name trampled on by colonial history. So how do you glamorise Papakura? You write songs, of course, beautiful songs, and that’s what Kendall Elise has done and that’s what she is sharing with us tonight. And Papakura’s finest are in the audience cheering every note. And so they should.
We go to Belgrave Place, one of the fourteen houses she lived in by the time she was sixteen. Never been kissed? Not sure, but don’t go to Kirk’s Bush, so Mumma said. Take the long way round. The band play blues. Go to The Clocktower, it’s safer. How about it? Don’t go to Valentine Street either, it’s the worst street in Papakura. Even though the song rocks like you don’t really mean it. Memories of childhood and escape down the Great South Road.
Red images. Red photos. Red hair. Red Earth, a big rock and roll song reminding us that Papa means earth and Kura means red and please let’s not forget it despite the fact that we have obliterated the meaning with concrete over clay, housing over hearth, leaving only red earth from open wounds.
Another rocker, Kingseat. Don’t go there either. Find out why when you listen to the album. Go to The Best of Town and Country, let the band take you there.
Great band. Her partner Chris Kemp on drums. Rob Scott on bass. Is that Kevin Place on guitar? (sorry if I’ve got this wrong). And it is certainly John Segovia, guitar maestro doing all sorts of tasteful things. Is he a legend? Should be. Maybe he’s got a father called Andres. Anyway, they’re called The Belgraves. From Papakura. Maybe.
So that’s the album, but we get more. There’s a very tasteful rendition of Dancing In The Dark by Bruce, a Suzy Quatro song (would you believe it?) which typically rocks, and a couple of earlier songs, Black Dog, off her first EP, and the retro-country murder song which was an extraordinary debut in 2016, Heart Full Of Dirt.
Kendall Elise, from Papakura, where Simon William Todd goes, in his mind, in search of an imaginary gig. Or that’s what he says. And What Simon Says cannot be taken for granted. But Papakura is real, and majestically evoked in this little gem of an album from one of our new stars.
Check it out. Red Earth.
Thanks to The Wine Cellar. Rohan Evans on sound.
Kendall Elise's setlist in Auckland:
- Belgrave Place
- The Clocktower
- Valentine Street
- Red Earth
- Dancing in The Dark (Springsteen cover)
- Great South Road
- Kirks Bush
- The Best of Town and Country
- Black Dog
- Your Mama (Suzy Quatro cover)
- Heart Full of Dirt
- Slippery Creek
Click here to stream or buy
Released: 03 May 2019