It is perhaps unsurprising that Gill Landry is currently exploring the more provincial regions of the UK on his current tour. The Louisiana native has a propensity for exploring the fringes of society, literally in his travels and more figuratively in his music, and the full church in the centre of one of the Roman empire’s most northern outposts are more than grateful for the former Old Crow Medicine Show musician’s presence this evening.
This tour is in support of Landry’s excellent new record Skeleton at the Banquet. It’s probably his most consistent in style and tone and the acoustics of St. Mary’s church perfectly compliment the album’s stark characteristics, as every strum of the guitar is met with glorious spaghetti western style reverb. That’s not to say that this is all we get this evening and Gill Landry delves deep into his musical heritage, touching upon a range of genres to produce a hugely satisfying show which touches upon the Leonard Cohen inspired timbre of the new record along with the authentic Americana, ragtime and bluegrass of previous releases.
Although he starts from a standing position, he appears uncomfortable. In truth, Landry is a bit of a reluctant troubadour, repeatedly questioning the quality he delivers. He really shouldn’t and once a willing fan brings a chair on to the stage midway through the set, Landry settles into a more relaxed groove. Each song is accompanied by a colourful vignette, placing its origins into context. We get an insight into his life as a busker in New Orleans and road trips taken for no reason amidst evocative landscapes such as Baja and New Mexico. What emerges through this approach is a musician who is obsessively collecting stories and characters to populate them and ultimately results in an authentic and intimate portrait of an artist and his spiritual search for meaning.
Although his tales are personal, one of the main influences that emerges from this evening’s performance from a musical perspective is the legendary blind guitarist Doc Watson. Many of Landry’s songs this evening are enhanced by a fingerstyle and flatpicking approach that he acknowledges is inspired by the late, great guitarist.
Particular highlights of the evening include the new record’s enigmatic ‘The Wolf’ and much of the new album presented tonight has an equally forlorn bearing, but this really is the appeal. The instrumental brilliance of ‘Portrait of Astrid’ adds some colour and there are a few love songs sprinkled through the set like the Old Crow Medicine Show track ‘Genievieve’ and ‘I Love You, Too’, but the prevalent mood this evening is an authentically weary one, encapsulated by his performance of the brilliant ‘Take This Body’. In Gill’s hands it sounds incredible.
Words & Images by Iain Fox