Two of 2018’s best traditional country albums were released by Erin Enderlin and Kayla Ray respectively. (I sifted through a lot of music to come to this conclusion). However, whilst they’ve accumulated accolades and awards Stateside, with the cost of visiting these shores, and their current UK profile, meant I’d probably have to make do with the records.
Meanwhile Sheffield’s own Lynne Robertson was in Nashville celebrating her husband’s birthday earlier this year. They found their way to 3rd and Lindsley to listen to some music. By chance Erin Enderlin was playing. Lynne was amazed by what she heard. In chatting and buying a CD at the end of the night a conversation started. They discussed Lynne’s regular Sheffield acoustic music nights for loyal and appreciative members. Erin said she had tentative plans to make a foray to the UK to play her first ever gigs outside of the USA.
I have heard people claim that Sheffield is often touched by Divine intervention. Not least at the nearby Sheffield Wednesday soccer ground, a mere stone’s throw from Lynne’s venue. I didn’t believe it was true until I learned that both Enderlin and Kayla Ray were to appear at one of Lynne’s nights. When buying my tickets Lynne commented that to her surprise people were grabbing tickets from miles and miles away; it was no surprise to me that it was sold out.
First up was Kayla Ray. She seemed taken aback by her first trip to England with our quaint ways and ancient towns. You could tell she was thrilled to be here. The crowd of 60+ were knocked out by this charming Southern belle: all Texan drawl, talk of the bible and whiskey with lots of sass and a fabulous sense of humour. Over ten songs we were treated to A selection from her Yesterday & Mealbum, new unreleased songs, her latest single release “The Jameson Waltz” and even a classic gospel song. The audience completely lit up with “Pills”. Hilarious lyrics delivered with an impish smile and considerable guitar skills. Between songs there was banter explaining the song’s origins and a self deprecating commentary - “this one’s (Rockport) written by a good friend, Jon Dews. We call him ’pappy’, not because he’s older but because unlike other songwriters he also has a proper job!” Her song delivery has a slow, classic 60s, earnest feel and the pain and anger was shared by the now captivated audience.
After the yearning emotion of “I’m Still A Woman” she declared “on a happier note this is a gospel song about domestic violence”, cue audience collapsing into fits of laughter. It was “Fair Warning”: a tale about an abusive relationship. She finished all too soon with the gospel standard “Peace In The Valley”. The audience clapped and clapped: slightly awestruck she stood there and beamed before making way for her ‘buddy’.
Erin Enderlin has been an important songwriter for a long time with several of her songs appearing on albums by the biggest country stars. These songwriting duties continue but she’s seems to be creating a bigger solo profile by releasing her own music. Whiskeytown Crierseemed a break through and another album is in the pipeline.
Starting with “Caroline” you notice the voice. She has a range with considerable emotional pull. Each song places you in the story. You immediately empathise with the actors in these three minute dramas. If I was feeling this by her fourth song “Ain’t It Just Like A Cowboy”, the room was also transported into the heartbreaking life of a betrayed, yet understanding, lover whose cowboy strays for reasons she explains to be of her making. With little or no eye contact Enderlin plunges us into this woman’s empty life where all hope seems lost; her voice soars or whispers. We absorb this heartrending misery while being carried along by a sumptuous melody.
Enderlin shares her journey: working as a peer to peer counsellor, touring with Willie Nelson, her love of country music from a young age and the icons who’ve inspired her. Many of the songs have been influenced by her own life.
Of the 12 songs,five came from her last album and three from her recently released EPs. Lee Ann Womack covered Last Call onher 2008 Call Me Crazyalbum. Here in the hands of the creator it was beautiful with its pathos and weary understanding of the lost and lonely male on the end of the line.
“Any requests?” She asks for the encore. The audience doesn’t know her catalogue but, like me, they also think that whatever comes next will be fabulous. She picks “Monday Morning Church” her first ‘hit’. In 2005 Alan Jackson tookit onto the charts. If it were needed, this confirmed she’s been writing brilliant music for a very long time. She took a bow and the audience rose to their feet and hollered its appreciation.
On the way out I saw one of Lynne’s regulars grab her arm, stop her, look her in the eye and just say in a hushed reverential way…”wow!”