Colter Wall – Green Door Store – 7th February 2018

Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Equally one of the biggest-selling genres in the world, and one of the most undervalued at the same time, country music is undergoing something of a resurgence in recent years as a new group of young singer-songwriters breathe new life into the scene. One of the most interesting is Colter Wall, from Saskatchewan in Canada – a singer who doesn’t just possess the same type of deep, rich rumbling voice as a certain Johnny Cash, but one that draws from the same barrel of tales of outlaws from a time long forgotten.

It was far from the usual gig crowd at the Green Door Store, with more lost wayfarers stumbling around in search of the venue than normal – inside, there were a smattering of cowboy hats atop heads in the style of Wall himself. Support came from Ian Noe, a performer who delighted many in the audience with a set of songs that dealt with the lighter side of life – heroine addiction, alcoholic relatives and a tale inspired by crime show True Detective. With a voice at times uncannily like Bob Dylan, songs such as ‘Today Doesn’t Do Me In’ and ‘Go Rest Easy’ struck a chord with an enraptured audience. Closing his excellent performance with the moody ‘The Last Stampede’, there was the sense that the room had seen something very special indeed from a performer destined for greatness – perhaps more so than anyone yet realises.

Bounding on to the stage five minutes early, Colter Wall seemed to be in no mood to waste time. The opening lines to ‘Thirteen Silver Dollars’: “It was a cold and cruel evening sneaking up on Speedy Creek, I found myself sleeping in the snow” instantly moved the inhabitants of the road about 4,260 miles west to his hometown of Swift Current. Wall’s voice possesses an even deeper sound of thunder live than on record, and it seemed as if the very building shook with the rumble of his vocals. With the song based on his arrest while being under the influence of, “Illegal substances”, it is a great introduction to a man very much following in some big footsteps as a purveyor of outlaw music.

Fully aware of the tradition in which he follows, Wall dropped a number of covers into a set largely dominated by last year’s self-titled debut album. Each selection brought to mind a romanticised view of life on the prairies, and each was perfectly performed. During his cover of Marty Robbin’s ‘Strawberry Roan’, you could almost feel a breeze from the plains brushing across your face, while his performance of the traditional ‘Railroad Bill’ was packed with an electrical charge that lit up the whole room. There is a timeless quality to many of these songs, and they resonated as much tonight with a Brighton crowd in 2018 as they had across the many preceding years when performed in many different bars around the world.

Of his own work, the biggest reactions were reserved for an uproarious ‘Motorcycle’, and his touching tribute to his best friend in ‘Me And Big Dave’. Showing his warm personality, the majority of tracks had introductions that helped to paint a vivid picture of his life back in Canada – though at times, they were sadly spoiled by a few audience members intent on carrying on their own loud conversations over the top of him. Surely no stranger to boisterous crowds though, Wall merely turned his own volume up and slowly but definitively drowned them out. A grand old night in the Green Door Store ran to a thrilling end with his version of the honky tonk classic ‘Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother’. Just as in that famous old song, on this showing Colter Wall will be raising his own kind of hell for some time to come.

Jamie MacMillan

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