June 7, 2017
The Green Note, Camden, London
“This does feel like a living room!”
The Green Note’s regulars tend to be very loyal to the venue, so few seemed familiar with Two Ways Home. That’s despite their profile on the scene as a result of hosting their own songwriter’s round, The Round Up, in Bloomsbury every month. Two Ways Home are something of a modular act. They variously perform as a full band (“quite rowdy”), a trio, or – as here – a duo.
With crystal clear acoustics and a listening crowd, The Green Note can be unforgiving. Just as well that the room loved Isi Mariee’s vocal. Take My Hand and Don’t Give Up On Me Tonight were sweet and melodious.
Lewis Fowler’s voice blended with Isi’s beautifully; Lewis’ reach on Better Days kept up with Isi’s dulcet tones. A striking connection – all smiles, intense eye contact and delicious acoustic moments – makes these two a pleasure to watch. In other words, a true duet rather than two singers happening to perform together.
The show was a grand reunion. The headliner, Kate Ellis, and guitarist Andy Hobsbawm had performed at Two Ways Home Round Up earlier in the year. In that darkened room, the immediacy of songs about abandonment, heartbreak and death were sombre and intense. With a full band and a full set, the effect was completely different – joyous, expansive and warm. There was still the abandonment, heartbreak and death, of course, but you could hardly reflect Irish heritage without a bit of that, could you?!
That background was immediately apparent in Don’t Bring Me Down. Ellis’ soft Celtic lilt was backed up by a storming fiddle line, double bass, brushed drums and Hobsbawm’s deft electric-style licks on an electro-acoustic.
Ellis was clearly in playful mood, reflecting on events on both side of the Atlantic in the Trump-Brexit era when she joked “this next song is *not* a political song.” The name of the song? Don’t Lie To Me! It was another stomper from a tight band, especially a great fiddle part by Joseph Paxton.
Taking it down for a breather, Inside was sweet and gentle; a welcome soothing interlude. Back to the upbeat full band performances, and back to the wry humour Ellis introduced Paper, Scissors, Rock as a “metaphor for the games was carry on playing [as adults]…it’s not Scrabble”!
Before The Dawn, accented by harmonica, was a musical response to a time and a silence; “there’s a special quality of one’s thoughts and feelings at that time.” There was also a countrified cover of a cover – Hurt was much more Johnny Cash than Nine Inch Nails.
Vocally, Ellis is eminently suited to the tender tracks like I Believe, but the sense of joy permeating from the full band numbers was undeniable. Holding The Whole Thing turned into an exuberant jam punctuated by double bass and shakers.
As if the band wasn’t big enough, Lewis from Two Ways Home stepped up for backing vocals on Against The Grain. Later, Isi also sang with the band.
It was testament to the quality of Ellis’ debut album, Carve Me Out, that there were so many memorable songs even before the rendition of the first single, Ones You Love The Most. It’s gained attention on radio and online for its searing seriousness; a song about family abandonment is not exactly the kind you’d expect to be souped up with a melodica, fiddle and gentle beat! Nevertheless, the remixed live version was just as good.
Like with the album, so with the live show – both closed with Carve Me Out, a deeply personal track which was strong, moving and memorable.
When the show ended, there wasn’t the usual quick dispersal. An impromptu receiving line sprang up for those who knew, or wanted to know, Ellis and her talented band. Congratulations were certainly in order!
Head to twowayshome.com for info about the band’s EP, Closest Stranger, and for tour dates including headlining shows at The Green Note (August 18) and The Borderline (September 12) and festivals in Wigan and Liverpool.
Visit kateellis.com to order her new album, Carve Me Out.
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