Bob Harris presents UK's best acoustic night - in Harrogate!
Review: If BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris were to introduce exactly the same event in London, not Harrogate, it would be The Guardian hailing it as the best acoustic night in Britain rather than the Harrogate Advertiser.
An ‘exclusive’ never felt more quietly exclusive than the music broadcasting legend’s monthly Under the Apple Tree sessions held in a small room inside Warehouse studios in Harrogate created with the help of ex-Wally leader Roy Webber and producer Dan Mizen.Standing inside a small but cosy room inside Warehouse Recording Studios in Harrogate watching a beaming Harris introducing a four-part bill of ridiculously high quality musicians right in front of your face, well, you need to pinch yourself at times.So low key and relaxed is the whole affair, in fact, it’s like watching a gig inside the great man’s own front room.The event does have a regular format, however, which works a treat each time.During the day, his son Miles films and records the visiting 'emerging' acts at Warehouse for Harris’s Under the Apple Tree sessions for broadcast on his own Whispering Bob music channel on YouTube.The same acts then perform at night-time with the addition of a set from a well-known local act and a short cameo from another of Harris’s personal favourites from his radio shows.
As an audience including Be Bop Deluxe's Bill Nelson, Beatles' associates Colin and Sylvia Hall tucks into tasty food provided by BBQ king Andy Annat, onto the stage walks a very tall man with a lone guitar and a harmonica.
It's Tom Blackwell, a charming and hugely talented wandering folk-blues troubadour who hails from Liverpool via Plymouth and Leeds and recorded his most recent collection of modern-day Americana, Tyrone the Gun, in Nashville.A couple of songs later, it's the lovely Becky Mills, whose richly emotional and perceptive songs of worldly wisdom have reached the ears of English folk royalty Fairport Convention after slowly building a reputation in the Harrogate area for nearly 20 years.There's a minor detour into her early days in Becky and Lucy when said Lucy (Mizen) joins her on stage for a nostalgic rendition of Carey off Joni Mitchell's Blue album.With four acts, there's always a broad spectrum of styles and at least one act that's a little bit more musically challenging.This time it's Diagrams featuring bespectacled Sam Genders, the chatty lead singer of dearly-missed English alt-folk heroes Tuung.Accompanied by a male guitarist and a female co-singer, the adventurous and, occasionally, avant garde, Genders talks the audience through a broad potted history of his own musical back catalogue with tracks from The Accidental, Tuung, Throws and Diagrams.The most impressive moments come when he unveils some stunning new songs from a forthcoming album based on the incredible poetry of Dorothy Trogdon, a 90-year-old living on a small set of islands near Washington state in the USA.The night ends with Dexeter, a 'new' band whose feel-good brilliance bypasses any need for brain power.Harris himself reckons they will be as big as The Shires.If there was a bigger market for country music in Britain, I’d say that was an under-estimation.For Dexeter are threatening to do for country-pop-rock what Scissor Sisters did for middle of the road 70s disco and pop.Whether you like what this boy-girl band offer in terms of musical style is almost irrelevant.Such is the strength of their instrumental talents, flair for song arrangements and infectious, cheery personalities you have no choice but to fall head over heels in love with them.Like The Beatles or Slade in their early hit-making heydays, their biggest trick is to take big, obvious hooklines and twist them in new directions.They may be feel-good but they take no prisoners.Like honey on a stick, everything Dexeter does ends up sounding mighty sweet.The aim is to wring the maximum emotional and melodic potential out of every moment until the song itself is spent and the audience is conquered.What a band. What a gig. What an extraordinary event.The best acoustic night in the UK.