Alan West & Steve Black, The George, Charmouth, Dorset, April 23rd 2011
Alan West and Steve Black played to a crowded George Inn, Charmouth on Easter Saturday. Sadly, few of the assembled masses had come to listen to the quality music on offer and the pair had to endure a constant stream of customers, push-chairs, dogs and children moving between the bar area and the garden as well as a constant din from the bar. Alan and Steve are however, seasoned campaigners and adjusted the sound sufficiently so that the small group of devotees could hear above the noise and nobody’s evening was spoilt. Although both are still relatively undiscovered treasures, Alan enjoyed significant success as half of the award winning duo West & Elliott which led to tours with the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Sonny Curtis and Hugh Moffatt. More recently his critically acclaimed 2007 album SONGS FROM A NEOPHYTE spawned a tour with Hal Ketchum. Steve Black is a real unsung hero who is a prolific writer of top quality country songs and Alan’s latest release THE WAY OF THE WORLD is devoted to Steve Black’s material. Playing an eclectic mix of numbers from each other’s albums and some superb covers, with most given a country or country-rock flavour, this turned out to be a first class evening’s entertainment and well worth the 110 mile round trip.
Alan and Steve shared the vocal lead throughout the evening and kicked off with Mick Hanly’s Past The Point Of Rescue, a hit for Hal Ketchum, followed by Wasilla from Alan’s latest album and which is also included in Steve’s own 2006 offering ALL I SAW—but not before Alan was forced to redirect a customer with a pushchair away from the speakers! A lovely ballad I Miss You So (their ‘E minor’ song) was followed by the Kevin Welch country rocker I Feel Fine Today and another rocker, Bring It On Home To Me. The first set wound down with a country version of the Bob Dylan classic Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright and another from Alan’s latest, The Big Freeze. The second set opened with The World That’s Lost Your Name, again from the new album, and Tim Hardin’s If I Were A Carpenter, made famous by the late Bobby Darin. More covers; Steve Earle’s I Don’t Want to Lose You Yet, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, another Steve Earle classic Good ol’ Boy and Robbie Robertson’s The Weight were all delivered impeccably before they closed with Framed from SONGS FROM A NEOPHYTE.
The last set got off to a great start as they launched into The Beatles’ You Can’t Do That and the hilarious Redneck Hippie Romance written by Shel Silverstein who was responsible for some of the quirkiest song titles in the history of country music. Dave Loggins’ beautiful ballad Please Come to Boston was followed by the Lowell George smash Willin’ and Fire, a song written by Bruce Springsteen for Elvis Presley but a massive hit for the Pointer Sisters. By now the bar was virtually empty but there was still time for another Steve Black song Keep The Spirit and a terrific rendition of Neil Diamond’s I Am, I Said on which Steve actually sounded like Neil Diamond, before they closed with the Steve Earle staple Copperhead Road. These are two exceptionally talented guys who enjoyed a terrific repartee whilst dealing with a somewhat transient audience. They both live in Devon and are happy to fill their diary with gigs not too far from home and whilst it would be great to be able to expose them to a wider audience they clearly enjoy what they do whilst living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Anyone in the Devon or Dorset area who likes their country music uptempo ought to be able to catch them at a gig fairly close to home.