Erin Enderlin and Kayla Ray’s first UK tour got off to a dream start with a sold out show at London’s award winning Green Note last Thursday, a venue that always attracts a knowledgeable and attentive audience and is particularly well suited to acoustic music. Having seen Erin play several shows on recent trips to Nashville, where this Arkansas artist is carving a name as one of music city’s finest singer/songwriters, I was thrilled to see her announce this tour alongside her good friend and Texan artist Kayla Ray who I was looking forwards to seeing for the first time. Both ladies have traditional country music coursing through their veins, albeit with their own distinctive sounds, and it was great to see so many familiar faces in the audience ( including many industry insiders) as we waited for the music to start. I also loved how both artists mixed freely with the crowd from the off, happy to chat, sign merch and have photos taken.
Kayla took to the stage first, looking every inch the Southern Belle as you can hopefully see in my photo, telling us how emotional she was feeling about her first visit here and indeed I did notice tears welling up at several times during her set. She also mentioned how nervous she was after her first few numbers, asking if we minded her removing her shoes which must have somehow helped as she really impressed throughout with some some stunning fingerpicking, sweet emotional vocals and beautifully crafted songs, which as is the case with most good country music often told moving stories. And she interspersed numbers with amusing and informative chat, she came across as someone I’d really like to sit down with over a few drinks!
Several tracks from her well-received 2018 album “Yesterday and Me” naturally made the set list, including “Rockport” which kicked things off ( ironically one of the few songs she couldn’t lay claim to!), “Magnolias in Springtime” ( a beautiful love song, sung from the perspective of a travelling fiddle player) “Red River Valleys Run Dry” ( which she calls her “truck stop song” as she finished writing it at one) and the hilarious and very well received “Pills” about addiction to prescription drugs. And I was happy to hear my favourite from her 2014 release “Love and Liquor” , the cheating song “Room 402” which paints such a great picture . We were also lucky enough to hear some brand new material including her newly released single “The Jameson Waltz” , inspired by the whisky of the same name which she’d already told us that she drinks diluted with a lot of water these days as it makes her feel she’s drinking more responsibly! Just listen to this and imagine couples dancing in a Texan honky tonk…
Kayla performed too many amazing songs to mention them all here, I just urge everyone to check out her music if she’s a new name to you, and catch one of the remaining shows on this tour if you get the chance! “ You don’t know how much this means to me” she told us towards the end of her set, believe me Kayla it means a lot to us, too, that musicians like you take the time to visit us and treat us to such an incredible evening.
A brief break and it was time to sit back and enjoy the music of Erin Enderlin, who has written massive hits for many of the top country music artists around today but who is thankfully beginning to get the recognition she deserves as an artist in her own right. Launching immediately into the opening track from her latest album “Whiskeytown Crier”, the murder ballad “Caroline” , she demonstrated from the start what great talent she has for painting pictures via her songs and also what a strong and emotional vocalist she is. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time” she told us after this opener ( “so have we” was the reply from many in the audience) continuing to say how cool it was to get to do it with her friend Kayla Ray. “I don’t always kill people in my songs…make up your mind about the next one” she said before performing “Sweet Baby Sister” ( in my mind this brought the body count up to two!).
Explaining next a bit about her background, growing up in Arkansas and moving to Nashville 20 years ago where she had luck with several cuts, of course her set wouldn’t have been complete without the inclusion of her own versions of the hits she wrote for Luke Bryan (“You Don’t Know Jack” ) Lee Ann Womack ( “Last Call” ) and Alan Jackson (“Monday Morning Church”) , the latter of which she sung as her encore telling us it was the song that got it all started for her and if it wasn’t enough that Alan recorded it he also got Patti Loveless singing harmonies! if you’re anything like me you’ll agree that there’s nothing better than hearing a song performed by its writer, who obviously has a very special personal connection to it , which is one reason I love a Nashville style songwriters round!
But as mentioned earlier, Erin is making a name as a recording artist herself, and is obviously enjoying the fact that she is now getting to tour and perform her own songs. She described the last two years as “ amazing” before we got to hear her single from last year, “These Boots”, which reflects her love of being out on the road and following her heart and dreams. Talking of dreams, which country artist doesn’t dream of standing in the circle and performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and the first time Erin got invited to do so back in 2013 she performed what she told us was a very special song to her, “I Let Her Talk”, and if there’s a better cheating song I have yet to discover it, definitely a favourite for a lot of the Green Note crowd too with its clever twist.
She has been very busy this year recording and releasing three EPs, the most recent coming out just a few days prior to this show, making this practically an EP release tour I guess, so of course its title track “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” made its way onto the set list, “one of the favourite songs i’ve ever written” Erin told us. There’s one more in this excellent EP series to come, and it was great news to hear her tell us that there’s also a new album due out later this year which she was excited to reveal would be available on vinyl , the format she grew up listening to her music on.
The set was a good representation from all her releases to date, performed with a polish and professionalism that has come from her relentless touring schedule back home which includes opening for one of her heroes Willie Nelson . “Basically I got paid to watch him perform every night” she joked, before singing the song she wrote in tribute to him, trying to imagine a “World Without Willie” which clever references many of his writes. Another of her great influences, Gene Watson, is mentioned in the title track of the first in the aforementioned collection of recent EPs , “Tonight I Don’t Give A Damn” , Erin writing this one a while back apparently, visualising herself as the woman in the bar and wondering what she would put on the juke box if she was in her situation.
A generous gesture was Erin inviting UK’s Hannah Rose Platt to perform one of her own songs, something that was totally unscheduled with Hannah being there to just catch the show. It turns out that the two had chatted but never met (Hannah has recorded her own version of “You Don’t Know Jack” ) …”I feel so privileged” she said before singing her beautiful song “1954”, inspired by a lady with dementia living in a care home who would get herself ready every day expecting her husband to come to take her on a date.
Yes, Hannah, I think everyone at the Green Note felt privileged too seeing these two very special artists pour out their hearts and souls and share their fabulous music with us. The total silence while they were performing, the rapturous applause after every single song said it all. Definitely an evening that will live in my memory for a very long time. And Erin, we all forgive you for what you called your “nerdy” moment, taking a selfie from the stage to show all the friends back home who helped fund this tour. Like you do, we also owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
There’s still a few more chances to catch this tour including another London date next Friday, details and ticket links at erinenderlin.com and kaylaraymusic.com where you can also find out more about the two artists.
Review written by Lesley Hastings (https://twitter.com/lesleyhastings)