If all was fair, Jerry Joseph would be a performer who requires no introduction. After 30 odd years of releases and touring, the California native has built up a reputation as being a name amongst all the right people, Drive-By Trucker’s Patterson Hood has called him: “One of the greatest live performers I have ever seen and long one of my favourite songwriters, one of the absolute best of our generation”. High praise from a legend of the Southern Rock scene.
Acting as support for The Delines at Glasgow’s St. Luke’s, Joseph appears from a door at the back of the stage with little fuss, carrying an acoustic guitar and a can of Red Bull. Opener Days of Heaven allows Joseph to show you why he is so revered back home, with its totemic lyrics and the room’s natural reverb adding to Joseph’s foot stomping.
Every song is a story, and every song has its own story, they are not always explicitly connected but they inform each other. Before Bone Towers he talks about his travels to teach guitar to kids in war torn countries, in this case Kurdistan. He takes his experiences of bombed out apartment buildings there and transposes it on to the middle years of marriage.
Joseph describes closer, Wisconsin Death Trip, as stemming from a challenge to write a song with any title. From it he produces a song that he says, despite its morbid title, is about hope. At St. Luke’s the track becomes elongated and takes a journey of its own. Stepping away from the microphone and letting his voice fill the old church all on its own, he segues into a Paul McCartney doubler of Maybe I’m Amazed and Let It Be. The set is short but it’s powerful.
For those who have had their interest piqued, Joseph returns to Glasgow twice in quick succession supporting Charlie Parr and then Drive-By Truckers (Charlie Parr – Glad Cafe – 10th May & Drive-By Truckers – SWG3 – 12th June).
Whilst this is a stripped back, and almost restrained, Joseph, his brand of angsty and uptight Americana should seem at odds with the laid back country soul of The Delines. Somehow here it works.
Despite their self-claimed title of county soul, The Delines are also so much more than that. They are as much soul, jazz and even a little funk that dovetails with their more traditional country sound.
Right from opener Little Earl they show the storytelling prowess that they have become known for. With guitarist and songwriter Willy Vlautin’s knack for song craftsmanship he has the ability to take you on a ride through the lives of the characters of his creation. Each track is a vignette, a glimpse into a cinematic America, composing his anthology of Americana. It’s unsurprising that Vlautin’s side gig as an author has found critical acclaim across the literary world.
Frontwoman, Amy Boone flits between Vlautin’s characters perfectly. Her soft, weary vocals allow her to take on the roles of woman scorned or True Romance’s Alabama to her imaginary Clarence. This is no more apparent than on the incredible Surfers in Twilight from the most recent album The Sea Drift. In the surroundings of St. Luke’s it becomes haunting.
One of the keys to The Delines sound is the ever-present Rhodes piano sound of Cory Gray. Gray’s vamping at times adds an almost Philly soul sound, at others his playing textures the songs like raindrops. More impressively is his ability to do this while occasionally breaking out a Sketches of Spain style trumpet.
There is a mid-set instrumental break while Boone “goes to get some tea”. The swelling and rhythmic Lynette’s Lament allows the band to really let loose. When Boone returns, her “tea” is significantly stronger than Scottish Blend.
Whilst the general vibe of The Delines is of a grim retelling of Vlautin’s imaginary America, they do stray into rowdiness towards the end of the set. Punchy, in more ways than one, Kid Codeine increases the tempo and allows them to show their rockier side.
A three piece encore of A Room on the Tenth Floor, The Oil Rigs at Night and Let’s Be Us Again close out the show and lead to a standing ovation from the congregation.
All in all, it would be difficult to conceive of a better combination than St. Luke’s, The Delines and Jerry Joseph .
Review by Callum McCormack