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The Diamond Jubilee Town Hall, which dominates the town square in the small North Lincolnshire town of Kirton in Lindsey was basking in darkness by the time I arrived at the venue tonight, illuminated by one or two street lamps and the light from the window of the neighbouring convenience store. Coincidentally, tonight's support, a seventeen-year-old singer who goes by the name of Skye arrived at precisely the same time, jumping out of the family van with guitar case in hand like a seasoned folk troubadour, who swiftly made her way into the venue with tonight's main guest Drew Nelson following shortly afterwards.
The Michigan-based singer-songwriter was unfortunately suffering, presumably from something he managed to pick up along the way during this current tour, which threatened the standard of his singing voice tonight. With various lozenges, medicines and remedies, together with the obligatory jar of honey close at hand, the sound checks were completed with little fuss before Drew retired backstage to rest his voice, with just the little matter of an interview with this reviewer to contend with, which was conducted after a bite to eat, courtesy of the Town Hall Live organisers. Despite being weighed down by this cold, Drew demonstrated his cheerful nature and chatted freely about his new record TILT-A-WHIRL, whilst also delving into his past, his heritage and his music.
Opening the show tonight was the aforementioned Skye, making her second appearance at the venue having supported The Hut People earlier in the year, who during her set showed confidence beyond her years with a selection of self-penned songs, with the odd non-original song thrown in such as Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me. Other songs included The Best Day, which was dedicated to the singer's mum who was in the audience and Remembering Sunday, which was performed in timely fashion.
For his two sets, Drew was joined by travelling companion, guitar playing sideman and fellow Michigander Jack Leaver, who between them managed to quash any notion that a cold was going to get in the way of a good performance tonight, with each of the two musicians playing to a seemingly high standard, albeit with one or two lead guitar fluffs, which gave the performance a more improvised feeling. Much of the first set was centred around the new record TILT-A-WHIRL, which for anyone in any doubt, is the American equivalent to the fairground ride known here as the Waltzer. Those songs included What She Does, My Girl (Shooting Star Wishes), Dust, Lessons, Danny and Maria, 5th of September and Hallelujah Morning.
The second set was pretty much made up of older songs, a couple of covers, one or two brand new additions to Drew's growing repertoire and his take on the traditional Shady Grove. Opening with Bruce Springsteen's Highway 29, Drew set out clearly where his musical sensibilities lie; somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Boss with a little bit of Steve Earle thrown in. Standing aside to make way for Jack to sing the final song of the set, Neil Young's Unknown Legend in his best Neil Young voice, Drew returned for the one encore with Promised Land, the opening song from the new record.