coal porters LN43 2If music be the food of love then what a careening cacophony of carefree corpulescence we must have made. Yes, fatty bum bums all, in the gluttonous gloaming of the hall. And were we satiated? [burp] Oh, mightily, thank you kindly.

Steve Dempsey is more used to having his musical chums up on stage with him but tonight he took his talent in both hands and jumped right in to give us a glimpse of his (not inconsiderable) musical charms. Uncomplicated structures and simple guitar strumming allowed his heartfelt love songs and anthems to broken romance to shine through, unpolluted by the tyranny of lead guitars and crashing cymbals. And it sounded pretty good for it, you have to say. But it was on his penultimate number, ‘Brothers and Sisters’, that the fire in his belly became a roar and he belted out his moving protest song showing us all a startling set of pipes and nearly taking off the roof. Nice moves, Steve!

So, to The Coal Porters!

coal porters LN43Instant charm, musical affection and Bluegrass dynamite exploding forth from every tensioned length of steel and catgut. Good vibrations wobbling their way through the dense night air, setting each hair a shivering and a quivering, each hair passing it along and down, down, down into the roots and into the blood, round and round into those deep, deep sensory centres where the physical blossoms into the emotional and then…. BOOM! THE DANCING FEET! Here they come now, some whirling, some twirling, others just going up and down. Some are going from side to side, hypnotised by Sid Griffin’s merry band of banjo wielding (Paul Fitzgerald), fiddle searing (Kerenza Peacock), bass tearing (Jonny Bridgwood), mandolin worrying (Sid, the man himself), guitar bustin’ (Neil Robert Herd) gods and goddesses of good-time Americana. Hot diggety, what a night of music and chatter.

Sid’s been doing this a good while now, both in this current incarnation and previously with the brilliant Long Ryders, and his well-honed low-key showmanship shine through with homely banter keeping it humming along in between songs. And how about those songs? Great original compositions such as ‘The Old Style Prison Break’ and ‘Barefoot On The Courthouse Lawn’ sit tightly alongside brilliant (and unexpected, perhaps) covers of Bowie, The Stones, The Only Ones and even The Undertones. And let us not forget the stormingly ace homage to New York’s finest, ‘The Day of The Last Ramone’ (“gabba gabba hey, 1,2,3,4 they did say”, oh yes indeed). So not your average Bluegrass bandits, although there might well have been mention of a foggy mountain in there somewhere near the end of the night, but by that time the heels were oiled and context was the last thing on our minds.

The encore saw Letham Nights first stage invasion, sorry, dancefloor invasion as the spirit of Jimmy Shand took hold (not for the first time) and the band finished sans amp in the heart of the reveller’s pit. Almighty stuff, just almighty. When can we do it again?

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