The lineup guaranteed a bizarre night and it certainly was, but the best surprise of the night was the music. Not to say that both bands weren’t fabulously talented before, but something had changed, the bar was raised, a lot.
Being onstage on time was probably the first sign that something was different about the supporting act, Dexter Selboy and his Shonky Trio. So often, I’d go to their gigs wondering what outlandish calamity would have befallen them to delay their set.
After their set I jokingly agreed with Jose the lead guitarist that the performance was “almost professional” as he put it. Naturally he was being humble, because it was superb.
With this new professional approach to their craft came a maturity in their music, no longer just relying on great lyrics, good grooves and witty banter, they’ve incorporated more complexity to their songs and instrumental variety.
They claim to not practice the ends of theirs songs and you believe it as towards the end of one song Dexter Selboy shrugged to the rest of the band as if to say “I don’t know what to do, we’ve never played this bit before.” So thankfully, they haven’t gone too professional.
Before Ali George’s set there was a crap raffle or a “craffle” as they called it. It was an interesting way to help generate funds for the musicians and members of the audience won everything from uniquely titled albums to packs of condoms. I refrained from entering, for fear of winning a Steven Seagal box set.
In the past Ali George’s music has had a melancholy edge and while fantastic, could be a bit somber. This was the first time I’d seen him perform with a full band and it certainly added a fantastic transformation to the music. These songs were faster paced than I’d been expecting and featured complex picking, gentle percussion, a firm double bass and a hint of electric all underpinning Ali George and Ruby Browns’ enchanting vocals, which undoubtedly are the award winning part to this ensemble.
There was still a slightly sorrowful element to some of the songs, like the morbidly titled “Desolation comes again” performed on the melodian of a departed friend, but many of the songs were really uplifting.
It took a year to record the album, all done locally and I think Ali can definitely be proud of what he’s produced. The soft and understated nature of many of Ali’s songs bely the truth that he is actually a phenomenal musician and I don’t mean “Oh, that was clever”. He’s masterful construction of songs, lyricism, deft guitar work & ability to use his voice in a range of ways sets him apart from other acoustic/folk musicians. Respect this man’s talents and the band who support him.
The album is a truly beautiful accomplishment and a year well spent, well done sir.
The added treat at the end of the night was a combined performance by both of the night’s acts as Dexter Selboy and the Shonky Trio provided backing vocals to Ali and his band.
A last comment has to go to Chapel Arts Centre. It’s always such a good all round performance whenever we attend a gig there. Now if only it wasn’t so damn expensive.