Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Lost Highway

The lost streakers on the Lost Highway
were, unfortunately for them, completely
unaware of the lost Juggernaut.

I'm fairly sure that most people have recently had an irrepressible urge to read about a slightly obscure alternative bluegrass and country rock event on the South Coast. Fortuitous then, that I just happened to have written about one. Quite a coincedence I'm sure you'll agree..

The Lost Highway

When first invited to 'The Lost Highway', I pictured a lone figure sitting under a tree by the side of a deserted road, poignantly plucking his steel guitar, the metallic twang sailing gently across the plains of the Mid West whilst the wind whipped up the melancholy melody like sand over the Dustbowl. To a mildly cold Hove then, for the latest showing of the regular country, folk and roots event at the Brunswick, and not even a Stetson in sight. I opted for a large Bourbon though, just to be sure. The venue’s small but prominent stage and candle lit tables ensured an intimate atmosphere for the busy crowd as the first act stepped up.

At odds with the event’s billing, Chris Simmons seems to have no doubt as to his own destination. His stop on the MySpace highway is certainly a busy one, and his CV reads as a breathless list of achievements (and a fair amount of name dropping). His first line, 'Mine is a written request, a pending SMS' by no means set as awful a tone as the lyric suggests. He has, along with his bandmate and backing vocalist Adam Mellor, an impeccable ear for melody. No wonder Jackson Browne lists himself as a fan. His songs are well crafted, and probably good enough, when he gives 100% (for here I fear he was not) to take him a very long way. The faultless close vocal harmonies lifted the tunes immeasurably, and the upbeat number 'Saturn Returns' sounded like Sting on anti depressants.

Headlining the event was the foot-stomping country rock of The Cedars. A set that started out a little tame soon became, in their words, 'low down and dirty'. The authentic up-tempo bluegrass numbers wouldn’t sound of out of place in a Whiskey-fuelled hoe down along the banks of the Mississippi; it took the sea gulls on lead singer Chantal Hill’s dress to remind me we were still in Brighton. The musicianship was first rate; the vocals shone throughout, especially when sung a cappella. The banjo and bass lines fizzed along nicely and the drummer rattled a surprisingly large sound from the world’s smallest drum kit. One drawback however, was the lack of charisma from the band members, which beyond the red lips of Hill, was notably absent. The audience too, could have reacted more fervently at times; where I half expected to turn and see impromptu do-see-do-ing to the driving rhythms, I was greeted with only mild toe tapping. I suppose this is, after all, the Mild South and not the Wild West!

Part of the reason for The Lost Highway's success is that it enables bands of many styles and disciplines to come together in a single event. Claire Lloyd, promoter with Kong Promotions, says 'The Lost Highway is an important part of the Brighton music scene. What started as an Americana event has branched out to give exposure to great artists from a wide range of genres, most that you would not normally expect to see on mainstream billings, whilst ensuring they don’t become pigeonholed.’

The next junction along The Lost Highway is The Fortune of War, Hove, on 14th May for what promises to be the best event yet. Hey Negrita,
Two Fingers of Firewater and the excellent Sweet Sweet Lies will be performing as part of ‘The Alternative Escape’, continuing the Lost Highway’s tireless journey towards unearthing some of the best, diverse and most entertaining acts in the area.

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