Colter Wall received a warm Yorkshire welcome as he strolled onto the stage at The Wardrobe in the centre of Leeds. If Colter wasn’t surprised, then I was, that well over 300 people turned up at this intimate venue to see this young Canadian strut his stuff. He’s currently doing a few UK gigs and has already been in Continental Europe.
With an amplified acoustic guitar Wall worked his way through his 2017 eponymous album and much of his 2015 Imaginary Appalachia EP. The crowd were familiar with his work and sang along in places. The bearded troubadour briefly introduced songs from beneath his Stetson and let his wry and panoramic lyrics speak for themselves as his distinctive slow paced baritone phrasing often engrossed. He sings of Canadian prairies, motorcycles, Highway 61, railroads and projects that he glimpses life, in North America, as a drifter.
The seventeen song set included a few covers ('Wabash Cannonball' and 'Railroad Bill'). I really appreciated this nod to the past as it clearly illustrates that he’s steeped in American Roots music. All these songs fitted seamlessly into his catalogue. There were a few new songs and amongst the selection was 'John Beyers' - an excellent song that recounts friends firing bullets into their respective ’69 Chevrolet Camaro’s! However, it was the songs from the last release that brought the biggest reaction. 'Kate McCannon' went down a storm. I expect many had viewed the surprising YouTube low budget video, shot under grey skies. It depicts lives going nowhere, the expectations and necessary graft to create a life together and the treachery that eventually results in her fatal demise.
In fact it was on this song that the gift of Dave Cobb surfaced tonight. The album created the same intimacy that Rick Rubin captured with Johnny Cash on his America Recordings. On the record, in a classically stripped down setting, the voice commands with every inflexion, pause and deliberation. The timbre, depth and unique sound of Wall’s voice brought out the audience tonight. However, sometimes with the usual venue amplification and the wretched, unforgivable, babble from the bar crowd then some of that intimacy and impact was lost.
'Codeine Dreams', 'Me and Big Dave', ‘Motorcycle' and the hilarious 'Thirteen Silver Dollars' were especially memorable. He opened the set with the latter and explained that this was a “true story about falling asleep in a snow bank” – we can all sympathise with such a predicament as who hasn’t at one time or another had this mishap!
I came away wondering if Wall will be an artist enjoying the same following on the next album? Cobb’s collaboration is the difference between interesting music and the propulsion to fame. He has the song writing talent and voice. I hope he gets the setting to produce more compelling releases. For all this then the crowd left happy and I for one hope that other visiting young and upcoming Americana entertainers can get them out in such numbers regularly.
(It was a pleasure to attend the concert with Mark Sutcliffe, who it’s be fair to say will recognise some of his observations in the above! Supporting Colter Wall was Ian Noe, a Kentucky folk singer).