Josh ScrollerCome on London, you can do better than this. The lovely team at Green Note put on an eclectic bill of excellent Americana diaspora for a measly seven oncers and the room isn’t even half full; even I can do the maths on that one. Eighty people; that’s all it takes to fill the upstairs room at Green Note; sort yourself out London. To be fair, the audience was attentive, but it’s nice to have a full house. End of rant.

London-based Robert Chaney opened the show with a lovely set of introspective, off beat and melancholy songs. He has a superb voice which was offset perfectly by the harmonies of Laura Tenschert, who joined Robert three songs into the set. There wasn’t a bad song in the set, and “The Cyclist”, “Corazones Amarillos” and “(Broken) Beyond Repair” stood out as highlights.

Next up, string band Tildon Krautz injected some fun into the evening. With a traditional Appalachian line-up of double bass, mandolin and fiddle and guitar and banjo, the trio treated Green Note to some superb musicianship and lots of random gags between songs. “Adele Koslovsky” was a standout song and Gabi’s slap double bass playing was a joy to hear.

Josh Harty was touring in support of his new album “Holding On”, although the early part of the set focused mainly on older material, including “Round and Round”, “On my Mind” and the beautiful “Whisky and Morphine” and was laced with anecdotes about his hometown of Fargo and his preacher father. When the new material was introduced towards the end of the set, Josh’s picking and percussive guitar style added a power that the album, with its full band arrangements never quite achieved; “Holding On”, “The Kind” and “English Rain” all worked superbly in the one voice/one guitar format. And Josh did his tribute to Merle Haggard, whose death was announced that day, with his version of “Mama Tried”.

In just a few hours we were taken from surreal melancholy through manic multinational ensemble playing to a set of high octane acoustic songs. You couldn’t fault this line-up on quality or variety; shame about all those people who stayed at home and missed it. The great music’s still there, you just have to get off your butt and go out and find it.

Josh Harty - 'Holding On' - cover (300dpi)Josh Harty; he’s a genuine, actual, one hundred per cent son of a preacher man. From the age of five, he performed in Lutheran churches around the Midwest with his father and he’s been a travelling evangelist ever since, only now, he’s spreading the word about his music across the USA and Europe. “Holding On” is Harty’s sixth album, following three solo albums and two collaborations with Blake Thomas and it’s full band effort with a core of Scott Beardsley (drums), Chris Boeger (bass), Chris Wagoner (guitar, mandolin and violin) and producer Blake Thomas (guitars and keys). The versatility of the line-up (and the quality of the players) allows the band to move seamlessly across the wide variety of Americana styles from the banjo, mandolin and Hammond-led title track to the high octane driving beat of “Shiver in the Dark”, pushed along by a pulsing rhythm section and a chugging guitar part.

The basic tracks were recorded live in the studio, giving the album a very immediate, cohesive feel despite the wide range of stylings. The playing’s relaxed and self-assured; there are plenty of nice licks and the arrangements fit together perfectly without any of the musicians ever hitting the loud pedal. “The Kind” is a perfect example, with delicate piano and guitar fills creating a beautiful backdrop before the uptempo chorus kicks in.

“Holding On” is a bunch of songs written on the road over the last few years, and that shows in the lyrics, with running or driving away as common themes and the centrepiece of the collection is the slow ballad, “Learn to Fight” which displays Harty’s laconic voice at its most powerful and vulnerable. “Holding On” works well as a self-contained unit, pulling in elements from across the Americana spectrum and sprinkling them across the ten songs to great effect.

“Holding On” is out on Friday April 8th and you can see Josh on his UK and Ireland tour over the next few weeks. You should make the effort; it’s worth it.