From Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lauren Barth and Jesse Aycock have a neat line in harmonies, but for all the blissful – and I dare say blissed out – intent, if you dig a little deeper there is a dark heart. Essentially two gigs in one, because although they are playing as a duo (and Jesse produced Lauren’s album) they are solo artists. Barth’s best moment, arguably, is the quite superb “Getting High (Is Getting Me Down)”, while Aycock’s distinctive voice makes “Leave Again” come alive. The vocals and guitar interplay between the two is interesting, and Aycock is skilled with his slide guitar parts too, before adding his own brand of music all over “Out To Space”. Clearly enjoying their first visit to the UK – even allowing for the fact they haven’t quite worked out the Highway Code just yet, their set ends with another one of Barth’s in the gorgeous ballad “I Won’t Let Love Make A Fool Out Of Me” and it is one which shows both their versatility and absolute synergy perfectly.
Another Oklahoma native, Carter Sampson reckons she’s lucky. If she is it’s not just because that is the title of her imminently released record (we’ve heard it and there’ll be a review in the coming days – it’s brilliant) and not even because she is a gambler (a good one, she reckons) but rather more that – as she says – she gets to do what she loves every day.
That feeling is shot through her 75 minutes here. There is a simple air of contentment about everything she does. Early on she plays solo, “Queen Of Oklahoma” is excellent, but is eclipsed by “See The Devil Run” which is enlivened by the story she tells of a trip to Memphis with her family – the song is inspired by Al Green’s church. Family is clearly important to her too, in “Lucky” she sings of having a “pretty cool mama and a pretty cool dad”. Adding, perhaps to the cheerful vibe. Although the song itself has a fragile side here.
For the vast majority of this, however, she is joined by Aycock and Barth, and playing as a trio – Aycock on the steel guitar is particularly headline grabbing – they are pretty formidable. “Ten Penny Nail” another of the new ones, is a highlight, while there is a touch of Steve Earle about “Wilder Side” (the title track of an earlier record).
Although, very obviously a fine songwriter and a compelling storyteller, Sampson has recorded some covers on the record. All these are played. “Hello Darlin’” is as laid back as can be, “Tulsa” (“it’s about two men, that puts a whole different complexion on it”, she smiles) is a little more raucous, while “Queen Of The Silver Dollar” – recorded by everyone from Dr. Hook to Emmylou Harris – ends things.
In between they play two of her own and both show Sampson’s skills. “Rattlesnake Kate” has the spirit of primal blues (it is based on a true story too) while “Anything Else To Do” is an unashamed love song.
It’s that kind of night, actually. A celebration of what is good in this world, rather than what is wrong. And on some level, if music like this, things cannot be all bad after all.
She might be lucky, she’s definitely gifted, but Carter Sampson shared some of whatever she has tonight – and there was plenty to go around.