It’s a wonder this hasn’t happened before. Delaney Davidson and Barry Saunders together, just the two of them, without Marlon or Tami. We caught a glimpse of the potential on the Lost Highway Church Tour back in 2015. A couple of songs together. It worked. And last month’s release of their new album Word Gets Around confirms the promise. Nine magical little rough diamond gems, hewn from the Lyttleton swamp, if there were such a magical place.
And now here they are performing live, in Auckland's Wine Cellar of all places. Barely 50 or so punters crammed into a little underground bunker with no wine in sight (well, just go out to the bar, there’s plenty…). And to open the show we discover Sandy Mill, supported by the angelic Dianne Swann, and their voices together resonate through The Wine Cellar as if it were Trinity Cathedral. Magic!
Where has Sandy Mill come from? Wrong question. Where has Sandy Mill been? is the better one, and the answer is everywhere. Sandy has been a backing singer cum percussionist for nigh on thirty years and yes, it’s just not easy to take that step forward, as Springsteen has described it, and be your own front person. So, from singing for everyone, or almost everyone in New Zealand, and doing a long stint overseas, covering multiple genres, Sandy has finally stepped forward, releasing her debut EP, A Piece of Me, last year.
And so, the Wine Cellar proved an unlikely winner to showcase her talents, with exquisite harmony and guitar support from Dianne, as she went through her brief set of covers and feature songs from her album. Soulful, gutsy, and yes, that word again, angelic. Way to go Sandy!!
At the start, Delaney and Barry in 2-piece suits and loosened ties launch into the final song from the album, the poignant Long Way Home. Could be The Warratahs, could be the story of their lives: “Another guitar in another hallway… Looking for a place to call home”.
The soft acoustic sound (which was Saturday night’s offering) augmented by master drummer Chris O’Connor and bassist Mark Hughes, two of New Zealand’s finest session men. This gives the entire evening a bluesy, gritty, dirty, whiskey feel (or maybe the whiskey is just me…)
The songs from the album sound exceptional in a live setting and they get through them all... with Delaney cutting loose, lead guitar snarling like his voice in discordant harmony to Barry’s smokey blues and a brilliant and well-balanced sound mix by Rohan Evans.
But it’s the covers that stand out, including of course the one from the album, Skip James’ Special Rider Blues (just called Special Rider on the record). Delta blues, haunting, ghost-like... just like the eerie sound W.C.Handy might have heard that lonely night at Tutweiler station. Or Charlie Patton’s Mind Readers Blues. Or Charlie Feathers' country rock classic Can’t Hardly Stand It. I couldn’t. Just too good. And where does Security come from? Otis Redding? Maybe...
Some old Barry Saunders songs: Magnetic South (1998) and One Red Morning (2002). And Delaney Davidson reaching back into his catalogue: Little Heart, recorded on the road in 2010; So Long from Bad Luck Man in 2011; and Broken Wheel, from 2015
The point is, these guys are legends, iconic, who have already left a legacy. But I hope they are starting a new chapter. This union has to continue, there aren’t enough words, only superlatives. Don’t let this be a one-off collaboration, boys!!
And then they are finished with All Fall Down. I nearly did... too much excitement (yeah, right)
Delaney and Barry's Setlist:
- Long Way Home
- Mind Readers Blues
- 19 Days
- Can’t Hardly Stand It
- Out of Our Hands
- Blues in This Room
- One Red Morning
- Make Your Own Luck
- Special Rider
- Broken Wheel
- So Long
- Stolen River
- Word Gets Around
- Magnetic South
- Little Heart
- All Fall Down
May 10 Paekakariki. St Peters Hall with Band
May 11 Wellington. Meow with Band
May 17 Christchurch with Band at Blue Smoke
May 18 Dunedin. The Cook with Band
Tickets from www.undertheradar.co.nz
Click here to stream or buy
Released: 26 Apr 2019