Jeannine Barry/Lucy May The Islington 23rd March 2017 – Lesley Hastings

The final date of this double headline UK tour saw these two talented British singer/songwriters at the ever popular Islington in North London, a perfect venue for an intimate evening of country music!
I have been following Lucy May’s career since seeing her play a gig at Canary Wharf a few years ago, and knowing she has been busy writing and recording for her next album ( the follow up to her 2015
release “ Whirlwind”) I was hoping to hear some of these new songs this evening. Jeannine’s name has been familiar to me for a while now but I only got to witness how good she is live relatively recently, when she opened for American trio “ Southern Halo” , I really loved both her performance and writing that evening.  Her third EP “ Bittersweet” was released last November and like Lucy she is working on an album at the moment.
This evening had a really full schedule and the music kicked off as soon as the doors opened at 7pm it seems, sadly I missed the ” opening opener” Rebecca Jayne but caught most of the ” opener”,  male duo Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer who really impressed and engaged the relatively sparse audience  ( I wasn’t the only one caught out by the early start time it appears!) with superb playing ( both were on acoustic guitar, finger and flat picking) harmonising and strong compositions. Ok not exactly Belles or Gals but I recommend you check them out, country/rock and blues influences coming through reminding me of the MilkCarton Kids at times.
The music just kept coming, as did the fans and the venue had filled up nicely by the time  the first headliner Jeannine Barry took to the stage accompanied by the band who had been on the entire tour with the ladies, and a great job they did too getting much thanks and praise from both Jeannine and Lucy May. I must mention in particular the amazing lead guitarist Harry and female bass guitar player Katy ( sorry I don’t get their surnames!)  who both did sterling work on backing vocals too. So Jeannine played three songs from her second EP to get things underway, the title track ” Off the Hook” ( love its blues influences)  followed by ” Lonely Road” before slowing things down with the heartbreaker ballad ” Carousel”.  Wow she she let rip at the end of this one and right from the start her strong and versatile vocals shone through. My favourite song of hers both as a composition and performance followed, ” Us or Drinking”….some fantastic lyrics …” it’s always the same, one too many and you pick up the phone, slurring words about you and your pain”……give it a listen here, get your tissues ready!

Jeannine’s competent version of Lucie Silvas “ Letters to Ghosts was a popular choice as her only cover,  and then we heard an ( as yet) unrecorded song from her , written a while back apparently “ Under Stars”. I thought she struggled a bit on the lower pitched opening section ( it was the end of the tour so maybe that’s part of the reason!) but her vocals were soon soaring again as the song progressed, wonder if this will be a contender for her forthcoming album?

Drawing her set to a close, the most light hearted song Jeannine performed was the catchy “ Long Hot Summer” ( yes it definitely is a sunshine song!)  was sandwiched between two really emotional tracks, both from her current EP . “ Burning Bridges”  ( written after an argument with her ex) is apparently one of her favourite to perform ……” It’s all about forgiveness but I don’t know where to start” ….and included an amazing guitar solo from Harry! ) and the superb title track “Bitter Sweet”

Jeannine is off to Nashville soon for a three week trip where she will be hooking up with some of the city’s songwriters to get material together of her album….and she’s also playing her first show over there which she told me she’s really excited about. Can’t wait to hear what songs and collaborations come from this trip!
A brief break and the ever glamorous Lucy May got her set started  with “Hooked on Your Love” followed by the punchy, threatening  “ Keep You Hand Off My Man” , both from her debut album and immediately I was impressed with how much she has grown in confidence as a performer since I last saw her, and how vocally strong she is these days.  Throughout the set she had a great rapport with the band, especially long time accompanist Paul Morhen ( later in the set they played an acoustic version of “ Hole in My Heart”  together that got a massive cheer from the crowd) and ditching the mic stand for the entire set  she worked the stage extremely well. Indeed most of Lucy’s set were tracks from her album, including her first single to be playlist on Radio 2 which she told us got its first play courtesy of the late Sir Terry Wogan, the beautiful ballad “ Paper Heart” which she performed with fantastic emotion rivalled only by another tear jerker. “ Hole In My Heart” which is not the break up song many may think but in fact written after the passing of a close friend

She also included my favourite album track, “ Looking Out A Window” , a daydream song about waiting for that special someone to come along ….” funny how a dream can leave you lonely, funny how I still believe in love”. We did get a taste of what her sophomore album may sound like when she played a new song ( apparently already fully recorded and video shot) called “ Counting The Days”, in which I detected some blues/gospel influences, I’ll be excited to hear the studio version of this one for sure! She was equally impressive on the more uptempo songs such as “ Don’t Wake Me Up” which got the audience clapping along ( she was almost in tears when dedicating this to her Father, it’s his favourite and apparently he has a tough few weeks ahead) and the title track to “Whirlwind”.

She closed her set with another new song “ Little By Little” about falling in love which was extremely catchy and had me singing along to the chorus in no time …” little by little, kiss by kiss, oooh I’m losing it “ …..before inviting Jeannine to join her it one final song, “ A Life That’s Good” from the hit TV series Nashville.
All in all a fantastic evening, not country music for the purists out there but it certainly showcased some of our amazing UK artists who’s country influences shine through in their writing and of whom we should be very proud.
Jeannine and Lucy May’s passion for, and enjoyment of, their craft was undeniable (both are extremely hard working which is something I really admire, they have ‘regular”  jobs as well!)  and it was clear that they had thoroughly enjoyed the experience of touring together. I’m really looking forwards to their forthcoming albums, of course we will keep you posted here at Belles and Gals and you can check out their websites here…..

Review written by Lesley Hastings

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