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Tucked beside the Tyne, the East End of the Quayside situated on Broad Chare, the destination venue is the Live Theatre. A medieval building that has been modernised with an industrialised twist, though, still retaining its historical integrity. We head through to the cosy ‘Undercroft’for a quick pre-gig drink.  Although the venue is predominantly a theatre the setting so far is the perfect atmosphere for a live music gig.  This gig in particular hosted by the infamous “Jumpin Hot Club” who bring live Americana, Bluegrass, Rock and Roll as well as Reggae music to the North East.

Immediately as I take my seat I get the feeling of intimacy, imagine a jazz cafe feel but with folk and alt-country music. The room is filled with an audience of around 50 people, so intimate that I sit next to family members of the support for tonight.

Opening the gig is Martha Healy – a Scottish singer-songwriter. Healy’s musical genre is a form of country music that steers its way towards the genre of Honky-Tonk.  Fresh from playing at the Celtic Connections Festival, her Glaswegian accent cannot be traced easily. Sweetly singing melodic tunes of her experiences of home life and her time that she recently spent in Nashville USA to which the audience warmly received and applauded.  Martha Healy on the acoustic guitar, joined by her partner Al, who blends melodies tumbling around the acoustic on his electric guitar. In between tracks, we learn that Al went to school in the North East and gave us his best impression of the Geordie accent!

Healy’s standout track for me was “Mickey” a sweet lament describing her learning her ancestral Irish roots through a family photograph, gently depicting the story of what might have been with Mickey.  The support warming us up nicely, connecting both the Celtic – folk and those Nashville feels.

An intermission was then followed by the stepping from the back of the room, a tall figure of Carson McHone enters the stage. Hailing from Austin, Texas Carson McHone has been journaling life stories and lyrics since the age of ten.  Growing up in a musical family – her parents opening a Honky Tonk while McHone was reluctantly enrolling in college;  it was a given for Carson Mchone to naturally magnetise towards knitting those early journals with music.

Carson McHone is a natural.  Combining a mixture of folk, blues, and alt-country.  Carson is a refreshing change in comparison to the usual pop country that is played on the stations of the UK.

Singing from real life stories in the purest form and blending it with honey-toned lyrics.  Drawing on the influence of Honky-Tonk the young American singer-songwriter from Austin Texas began gently beguiling the audience with her soulful voice and quirky chord changes, this style of music has often delivered lyrically an element of hardship and loss by the likes of her peers Hank Williams and George Jones. Carson keeping the faith and making it current  – singing about the subjects of drugs, suicide and sadness, and some inspiration from Langston Hughes. Such topics you might find hard to digest, but her voice – a gentle wave that laps in and out disguises the subject with only the constant of her accomplished guitar playing.  Stand out tracks of the night include ‘Dram Shop Girl’ with memories of McHone’s waitress days, ‘Spider Song’ and the toe-tapping ‘Sad’.

McHone’s performance evokes that music is part her DNA, McHone ’s lyrics born from playing in dark clubs back in Austin Texas and that she delivers with an unassuming honesty not it would seem for financial reward but only for spiritual enlightenment! You may not be a follower of Americana but I can only recommend that if you get the chance to see Carson McHone you book tickets!!  McHone now in a label partnership with Loose sees her back in the UK in May this year with a full band.

Carson McHone 9/10

Martha Healy 8/10

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