Review: Winterhouse, Ryan Thomas, Eleanor Lee, Anwyn Williams – Jamcafe – 23 January 2014

// Share this content....This evening is another of the more ‘parisian cafe’ kind of gigs at Jamcafé, with candlelight subtly lighting the room, and people still eating at their tables, it’s […]">
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This evening is another of the more ‘parisian cafe’ kind of gigs at Jamcafé, with candlelight subtly lighting the room, and people still eating at their tables, it’s relaxed and calm. The atmosphere is perfect for the performers who come to grace the stage, and the first to do that is ANWYN WILLIAMS.

Anwyn opened with an upbeat and gorgeous number, with carefully constructed and lovely melodies. Her songs are folk/country in style, but her vocals are strong and gutsy and have that belt that you might associate with female pop vocalists. Her songs take a turn into the darker side as she progresses onto some deeper songs, which she explores the lower depths of her vocals and sings of more painful topics. The lower vocals are very effective over fingerpicked guitar, which adds tension and an undercurrent of unrest. Her voice is strong in every register she sings in, and her head voice was lovely when I heard it, but I would have liked to hear more. She sings passionately and with an intensity which catches you off guard. Her final songs of the evening are more lively, and show a more fun and playful side to Anwyn as she gets creative with melodies and performance.

ELEANOR LEE is the next to take to the stage with her guitar, and she instantly dazzles as her vocals are unique and her vibrato is intense but in a vulnerable way. The vulnerability and passion in her vocals give them such character, and this character seems to be nurtured in her songwriting. Her songs have really lovely developments, which puts the audience through their emotional paces, as calm and gentle sections often develop into intense and heartfelt outpours which are beautiful and heartbreaking too. Eleanor seems to have a strong emotional investment in her songs which translates in her performance, and when she changes from guitar to piano, this seems to be even more the case. She uses the piano well as an instrument, exploring the use of pedals which make the chords expansive and heady, which to me seems to replicate emotion. Eleanor’s vocals will break your heart and mend it all in one song, and if you haven’t heard her yet, make sure you do.

Changing the pace a little, the next performer is RYAN THOMAS, who brings his own brand of blues to the Jamcafé stage. He performs solo with his guitar and a harmonica at times, and harnesses both instruments very well. His guitar technique is flawless, and he has a really good use of harmonics too, which for me, is always a pleasure to see and hear. His vocals are gritty but controlled, and are really quite gorgeous. The use of harmonica in his songs compliments them, and adds a contrast in sound compared with his vocals. Some of his songs have a more indie/rock feel to them than the blues, which I think is good in a set like this, as it changes the pace and gives the audience something really different to listen to. In terms of changing the pace, Ryan does this again when he swaps his acoustic guitar for a Fender resonator guitar, which leads to a more bluegrass style of playing. Using a metal guitar slide, this brings some new pitches and techniques to his songwriting, and adds new levels of intrigue to his performance. It was a great performance, and an absolute pleasure to watch.

Finally, the headline act WINTERHOUSE took to the stage as a duo rather than a trio. The two of them coped really well without their third member, and gave another gorgeous performance. Their harmonies are flawless, and I loved the falsetto vocals, as they were delivered confidently and passionately. Their delivery was brilliant and their solos were really well executed, and make up for their missing member completely. With lyrics like “every day give a little bit of your heart away to someone who needs it” you can’t help but feel connected to the music, as it is beautiful and poignant. The melodies have a wonderful direction and this is only made more prominent by the well executed harmonies, and even though their vocals sound traditionally folky at times, I also noted rock tones and country too. What struck me about their performance is how involved and invested they were. The two of them were really convincing and had obviously carefully considered the arrangements of the pieces, and were really in sync. Their stage presence is good too, and understated, which is nice because it promoted a relaxed and calm atmosphere. It did make me laugh when for their encore, they announced that the song was “really shit”, but of course it wasn’t and ended the evening on a high.

Review by Cassia Helme

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