Comes A Time Festival had its inaugural event at the Rosemount Hotel in a celebration of what is commonly called Americana music these days. The promoter is keen to make this a successful event over the coming years and urged the healthy turn out of punters to bring their friends next year. On the days showing, there is bound to be many a tale told that should entice a large crowd next year.
Locals Galloping Foxley’s and The Justin Walshe Folk Machine represented the local scene as they welcomed early arrivals with their take on the roots genre before Melbourne tex-mex songstress Abbie Cardwell gave a fine set.
Joshua Hedley was last in Perth as the honey voiced fiddle player accompanying Justin Townes Earle at a packed Mojos show, and accomplice in trespassing on Bon Scott’s grave. Hedley has since become a solo artist in his own right. The stout singer is a contradiction in fashion with his business shirt and tie sitting beneath striped overalls. Having been chastised about not having music for sale at his gigs, Hedley quickly pressed up four songs for an EP available solely at the show. From this release he played New Song, Broken Man and Don’t Waste Your Tears whilst accompanied by pedal steel. Hedley’s day job playing country staples in a honky tonk has served him well in assuring that he never ventures into ’Donald Trump country’ territory having hones a sound that draws on the greats. Few have a voice that could match the stellar gift of Hedley who showed his gift for prose on Weird Thought Thinker.
Joe Pug is a man at ease on the stage and with his art as a storyteller is the Bruce Springsteen of country – even down to the black shirt and blue jeans. If like Springsteen’s prone to do, Pug had played a three hour set nobody would have objected. Even though performing a solo acoustic set, Pug appeared to be the man that most had come to see. Kicking off with tunes from his early EP’s such as the melodically tight Lock The Door Christina and I Do My Father’s Drugs. As a result of regaling a tale of inadvertently ordering a heap of yeast online in a drunken stupor (as opposed to the Fugazi records he used to order, Pug with tongue in cheek insisted that he would be playing songs from the time before he ‘lost his edge’. A harmonica falling to the floor mid-song during Nation Of Heat showed that the man isn’t infallible despite how effortless he makes things look. More recent songs stacked up favourably with the danceable Burn And Shine standing out.Pug’s attempt at writing a love song was described by his wife as the darkest song she has ever heard, but Pair Of Shadows showed that Pug is at home on a heartfelt ballad as he is with his more political tunes. Pug held the room in his hand from start to finish and furthered his reputation as a drawcard.
Well travelled Canadian Lindi Ortega who is from Mexican-Irish descent brought the glamour to the evening with her black veil and bright red boots. I Ain’t The Girl was on point when it comes to the well worn country tale of a relationship that is going nowhere as Ortega was backed by drummer and guitarist. The lack of a bass was hardly noticed as ‘Champagne’ James Robertson played slide guitar and reached heavily into his bag of tricks to be the focal point of many of the tunes. Ortega has a powerhouse voice and a clear love for Dolly Parton, but lacks the art of telling a killer story like the acts before her. Ortega has consistently closed her set with a slowed down version of Ring Of Fire. Whilst this version adds nothing to the original, it does give ‘Champagne’ James Robertson the chance to end the evening of a cascade of guitar acrobatics. He really should get equal billing as part of the act.
When Robert Ellis & The Perfect Strangers first made their way to the stage they generated much buzz with their array of hats, fringed jackets, pedal steel and Ellis sporting one of the most impressive and stylish nudie suits in existence. Ellis has made his way to Nashville via his hometown of Houston, Texas to find a place for his brand of hybrid country. Starting with Drivin’ – one of their tunes with the most twang – Ellis and The Perfect Strangers were clearly well schooled in their instruments with a clever amount of pedal steel making up for the fact that Ellis has the least developed voice of the day. Within the space of one song, Ellis managed to pack in the broad musical influences that he has gathered from growing up in the diverse environment of Houston. On too many occasions things delved into prog rock territory, yet the band were at their best when playing things straight like on the melodic Couples Skate.Rob Ellis and the Perfect Strangers are a bunch of crack musicians, it is a shame that their performance came across as smug and unauthentic as if they were a bunch of hipsters playing dress ups.