LIVE REVIEW: Abbe May @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney 25/08/11

written by Chris Familton

Oh Willy Dear! are singer Daniele Marando and guitarist Dan Babekuhl playing predominately bluegrass styled country music – a departure of sorts from the swampy rock n roll blues of their other band The Maladies. They played a mighty impressive set of covers and originals with some quite stunning guitar work from Babekuhl and a reminder of how outstanding Marando’s voice is. His range ran from a tender, almost feminine croon to a strained and crackling howl. Their final song, an original, was one of the highlights and marks them as the prefect support act for Gillian Welch if and when she returns to Australia.

Hootenanny are also a duo but quite a different kettle of fish. Two rabble rousing girls from Perth, they alternated between guitar and drums but by far and away the best combination was when the gravel voiced Nan Hunt was behind the kit and Jennifer Aslett was out front on guitar. There the songs were harder, tighter and way more cohesive as they ground out riff-heavy, bluesy rock n roll with a healthy dose of humour and spunk thrown into the mix. Once they get some more songs to match their best like Fire In The Belly they’ll be unstoppable.

Abbe May straddles generic rock and something a lot more artful and clever with her sound but on on this night she leaned more toward the former. Arriving on stage with bottles of hard liquor raised high she seemed to flip between the ‘live it up’ rock chick persona and someone deeply into her music and with a humble attitude. It probably didn’t help having a band of three lads with the hair and clothes and rock moves down pat – or perhaps it did if that is the vibe May is going for. Too often they descended into rock cliches and extended riffing that didn’t really reach great heights. When the music worked the best on songs like the quiet/loud Taurus Chorus and the slow motion mood of Disney On Acid her exquisite voice became apparent. Her guitar playing was effortless in style with some unique phrasings which often saved songs from becoming generic workouts. Mention should be made of the brilliant sound on the night – everything was crystal clear and loud without killing the eardrums – something that doesn’t happen as often as it should and that certainly enhanced May’s good but not great performance.

this review was first published in The Drum Media.

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