Green Note in Camden is fast becoming one of my favourite places to see a band in London. The Camden venue won a prestigious Time Out Magazine award ‘London Venue of the Year’ in 2015 so I’d guess I’m not alone in my view. The venue is, as they say, intimate which makes it fantastic to get up close to a quality artist or two. One such artist is Ruth Theodore and her visit to Camden was to introduce her very fine new single ‘You Can’t Help Who You Love’ and a whole lot more.
Usually when a band take to the stage, they take to the stage….tonight Ruth and her six piece band took over one end of the room. The strident and bluesy ‘Buffalo’ opened proceedings and thrust Ruth’s strong vocal and inventive guitar work straight out front and centre. Her guitar playing seems highly original and the clever use of slide was the icing on the cake. In such a small venue seven musicians might be considered overkill but the sound was great with Julia Doyle’s double bass and Krisztina Gyura’s viola adding depth and balance to the sound. The odd slight equipment malfunction early in the set was soon forgotten thanks to a nimble soundman and the old adage that gaffe tape fixes everything proved correct.
Ruth has surrounded herself with a great bunch of players who rotated on and off stage at regular intervals usually returning to play a different instrument. Haruna Kamatsu started out at the piano, dabbled with a melodica and added some, quite lovely clarinet when Ruth took over at the keys for a mid set run at the ivories with ‘The Carcass and the Pride’ an obvious highlight. Guitarist Luke Upperton would also take a turn at the keys late in the set. I hope everyone is keeping track as there might be a quiz later. A special mention goes to drummer Wayne Thompson and percussionist Jigh Ejakpovi who when called upon added deceptively clever backing vocals to the mix. With Ruth it really is all about the songs and the arrangements which are obviously lovingly constructed.
Ruth is often described as “quirky” and the likes of ‘Eris’ a love story about two planets is definitely a little left of centre but the lyrical delivery and some impressively dexterous guitar playing bought to mind Frank Zappa. Ruth is an engaging host and topics raised included the state of the London borough of Hackney where she resides (note to council…must try harder). It is this ability with words that caught the ear of producer Todd Sickafoose when Ruth opened for Ani Difranco at the Union Chapel in London and the result in her new album ‘Cactacus’ due in September on the Aveline label. If tonight is a gauge then the album should be essential.
Tonight’s show was to promote the aforementioned ‘You Can’t Help Who You Love’ and frankly this is a gem. I mentioned to Ruth after the show that 'You Can’t Help’ was deserving to be a hit, whatever that means in 2016, but really this should be on a radio station near you now. It sounded equally as great live as it does on disc. I’m sure the idea of a hit to Ruth would be an alien concept, I get the feeling it really is all about the craft, but good songs deserve to be heard. At the end of the evening Ruth was running out of time and songs so ‘Slippery Slope’ became the encore (a quick cheer and much laughter) which was probably a relief because getting that many people off and then back on stage looked like a logistical nightmare. Ruth will be playing a show at the Borderline (another great venue) in September to mark the release of ‘Cactacus’ and this really should not be missed.
It would be amiss of me not to mention the opening act this evening Linah Rocio originally from Santiago, Chile but now based in Switzerland who impressed with a short set. Performing solo at the piano Linah demonstrated an impressive vocal range and I was especially taken with her piano playing which exhibited both tenderness and attack. Her closing number ‘Kill The Monsters’ sounded especially good and bodes well for her second album ‘Warrior Talk’ due early 2017.
Gig Date: June 8th, 2016
Everything Is Temporary
Kissing In Traffic
Snakes And Ladders
The Carcass And The Pride
You Can't Help Who You Love
Man Of The Land