Review: Hannah Aldridge & Don Gallardo (The Green Note, London)

Amy Headlines, Live Review

The stage of the Green Note in London’s Camden is well worn from the boots of Americana artists and it was no surprise to see the Sold Out sign at the door on Tuesday for Don Gallardo and Hannah Aldridge’s double headliner.

Hannah Aldridge opened the evening, and despite sipping tea and apologizing for her voice having picked up a virus on tour, she proved a powerful presence before she had even sung a note. If her voice was off I didn’t notice, and she held the crowd captivated as she worked her way through a stunner of a set showcasing her unique brand of “dark Americana”.

Hannah Aldridge - The Green Note, Camden

Aldridge’s debut album Razor Wire was the focus for her setlist, which included the intense and personal title track. Described as a still frame of what was happening to her life, it is clear that Aldridge’s lyrics have been hard earned and she does not shy from honesty. Hailing from Muscle Shoals, her Alabama twang mixes with a harder rock edge and the angry lyrics of “Old Ghost” were delivered with a burning intensity. Joking that she didn’t have many happy songs, the audience weren’t phased as requests came for the self-reflective and profoundly personal “Black and White” and the even darker “Parchmen” that quite literally held us enthralled. A song about a victim of domestic violence who ends up on death row, “Parchmen” has a little of Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” thrown in with Eric Church’s “Lightning”. Yet, whereas neither of these songs are an easy listen, somehow, despite the topic, Aldridge has created beauty and “Parchmen” is a track that you will want to listen to again and again and the live version was exquisite. Aldridge saved just enough voice to close her set fully unplugged as she stepped down from the stage and roamed the room with the haunting and angry “Howlin’ Bones”.

After a short break, Don Gallardo packed the tiny stage with his Nashville sidekick Travis Stock (from How Far West) and a few friends that included members of The Dreaming Spires and The Roselly’s. Opening with “Down In The Valley”, we knew we were in for a treat, and Gallardo appearing relaxed and at ease, did not disappoint. Gallardo has that special ability that enables him to write lyrics that have relevance but are challenging enough to allow the listener the opportunity for reflection. As a performer his delivery is engaging and there is a clear desire to make a connection with his audience. As a result the whole evening was full of highlights and it is almost impossible to pull out one of two, but the pedal steel on “Diamonds and Gold” deserves credit, and given that this was essentially a borrowed band, the rounded sound that included Gallardo on Mandolin for the uplifting and inspirational “Home” was outstanding. I could go on and tell you that the keys added another layer to “Ophelia, We Cry” and the pedal steel rang clear and true in “Carousel” but I’m not sure my words could do it justice.

Don Gallardo - The Green Note, Camden

Although much of the setlist included tracks from Gallardo’s current album Hickory (a serious contender for my 2015 album of the year), his earlier work also made an appearance including a perfect rendition of “Rosalee”, the feel good “Home” and the audience rousing “Memphis Train”.

For me, the appeal of Americana is equal in the sound and the story telling. Tonight we experienced two artists with personal stories to tell and who are clearly proud to stand up and share their work. Gallardo suggested that there aren’t many of these songs around before he went into the stirring, Kristofferson inspired “North Dakota Blues” which included a lovely instrumental on keys, and although it is sad that these artists don’t receive the same recognition as their new country cousins, I don’t think any one of them would want this to become a commoditized art.

The evening closed with Aldridge joining Gallardo and the band back on stage for a super version of Neil Young’s “Helpless” which captured the entire room nodding and singing along.

It is always interesting when you have a double headline act as to who the audience is here to see. It was therefore heartening to see a long line of people queuing to buy CD’s from both Don and Hannah at the end of the show.

Aldridge is unsigned and Gallardo is signed to UK label Clubhouse records (their stable includes Case Hardin, The Dreaming Spires and Cale Tyson to name a few), yet he remains unable to attract a label in the US. I guess this highlights the blindness that exists in the music industry, but it is apparent that Clubhouse Records have spotted what Music Row has overlooked and should be commended for delivering another stellar act to UK audiences. I look forward to return performances from both Don and Hannah very soon.

Here are a couple of videos we recorded whilst the pair were at the Maverick Festival earlier this month
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Americana is the perfect concoction of American roots music that comprises our musical ethos as we know it today. It is something so ingrained in our history, folklore, tradition, and mythology that it is not as simple as just “becoming” Americana, but rather, it is something that you are born into. It’s that old cast-iron Coca-Cola sign that’s been in your neighbor’s shed for 50 years, a banjo and a Fender telecaster playing together, a 1955 Chevy with a modern stereo.

There are few artists that can truly encapsulate the essence and true range of Americana like Muscle Shoals artist Hannah Aldridge, whose musical pedigree precedes her and speaks for itself.

Hannah Aldridge is the daughter of Alabama Music Hall of Famer Walt Aldridge, who is one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern musical era. Twice named by Billboard magazine as one of the Top Country Songwriters of the year, ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, and countless Number One and Top Ten hits recorded by the likes of Lou Reed, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, Earl Thomas Conley, Ricky Van Shelton, Ronnie Milsap, and Conway Twitty.

With sounds ranging from blues in the Mississippi Delta to the dusty, dixieland jazz sounds from New Orleans, the musical stylings of Muscle Shoals on up to the primitive roots of American Country music, Hannah Aldridge leaves no inspiration or influence untapped.

“I think people have forgotten what real drums and real voices sound like. We have been so overexposed to these pre-packaged “#1 hits” that when there is anything that has any glimpse of truth or rawness to it, it is like a fresh breath of air. Americana music really is lyrically driven and is meant to make people think, which is the total opposite of most of the stuff out there on the radio, so I think that naturally people are being drawn towards it.” says Aldridge.

Besides being a seasoned staff songwriter for BAR Music with song placements in television shows like Hart of Dixie(CW) and recognition from American Songwriter as well as Relix Magazine, her vocal talents rarely go unrecognized, something that lends itself to being true to the Americana methodology of not using excessive “talent-enhancing” techniques in the studio or live. Both her natural and cultivated talent help her to emote with both listeners and musicians alike on a truly organic level.

Seasoned by both life events and musical events since the release of her first EP, “Wanderer” in 2011, Hannah’s upcoming release “Born to be Broken” shows a stark difference of growth in musical sensibility, writing, and maturity.

Hannah has toured all across the United States and Europe gaining a grassroots movement of fans that wait in silent adoration of the return of their Americana Heir Apparent Princess of Muscle Shoals.

(Biography sourced from: Artist Website)

Nashville-based Americana/Folk singer-songwriter, Don Gallardo, hails from a small town in Northern California and spent years cultivating his career on the west coast before relocating to Nashville, Tennessee in 2007. He has called Nashville home for 8 years and does not see himself leaving any time soon. Walking the line between classic 70’s singer-songwriters and more contemporary flavors of folk and Americana, Gallardo is a diverse and multi-faceted performer with a lyrical depth and a warm, unique vocal style, which helps him weave between genres and become immediately relatable. With three full-lengths, a live acoustic session album, and an EP under his belt, as well as a fourth full-length to be released on UK label Clubhouse Records, Gallardo has already achieved critical praise and had his work prominently featured in films “Jolene” and Jackass Presents “Bad Grandpa” as well as highly popular television series, “The Vampire Diaries” and ABC’s “Nashville.”

Gallardo has received high praise from Americana review sites in Europe and the U.S. such as No Depression, AltCountryForum.nl, Common Folk Music, and The Nashville Scene, who call him “country-rock with brains, charm and experimental impulses that are perfectly integrated into a familiar context.”

Last October, Gallardo signed to UK Indie Label Clubhouse Records. He is set to release his new full-length album, “Hickory,” in June 2015. “Hickory” was produced by David Pinkston. David has worked on many albums over the years and with legendary producer Johnny Sandlin on over 25 albums. He has also worked with a number of well known musicians such as Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas, Linda Ronstadt, Sea Level, Gretchen Peters and individually with each of the Allman Brothers plus all members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section: David Hood, Barry Beckett, Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson & Roger Hawkins.

(Biography sourced from: Artist Website)

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About the Author

Amy

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I live for the experience of live music. Nashville is my kind of town and life feels pretty good at a country concert in the sun with a cold beer in hand. My appreciation of country came via my Dad’s collection in the 70’s and 80’s and I spent my teens listening to Springsteen. On a trip to the states about ten years ago I flicked to the CMT channel and Brad Paisley’s Whiskey Lullaby had me hooked. Since then my love of the genre has seen me travel to the US regularly to attend concerts, festivals and more intimate songwriter sessions in some great venues. It is terrific to see artists making the return trip this side of the Atlantic but equally refreshing to see some fantastic homegrown talent gaining recognition. This is an exciting time for “new country” and I am very happy to be along for the ride.