The Grahams (Alyssa and Douglas) will have made many friends on their UK and Irish tour which ended at this welcoming, intimate venue. They first introduced their short documentary film, Rattle the Hocks, which captures part of their recent exploration of the people, places and music connected by the American rail system. It features many of the songs from their two albums recorded in hallowed places like Sun Studios or on their own, as well as with a selection of fellow artists such as Alvin Youngblood Hart, the Norman Sisters, Mark Rubin and, from the North Mississippi Allstars, Luther and Cody Dickinson. The latter also directed the intriguing short film which was well received and a novel way to start a show.
There was a short question and answer session following the film that revealed details like which guitar Alyssa had played in one scene and the breed of their dog (labradoodle). After a short break they took to the stage with percussionist extraordinaire Mike Meadows to deliver an entertaining and engaging 17 song set. The majority of the songs were originals including the title track from their latest, Glory Bound, which was played towards the end of the set, without amplification, standing amongst the audience. Other songs included Kansas City, Griggstown, If You’re in New York, Mama, Biscuits, A Good Man, Marnie Hawkins, Cathedral Pines, Carrying the Torch and Wild One. For the song Revival Time, they got the whole audience involved in singing along on the chorus.
Alyssa has a strong voice and takes lead vocal with Douglas adding effective harmony and duet vocals. Both are also adept guitarists, with Alyssa on a solid rhythm and Douglas playing Dobro and acoustic throughout the show. Momentum and percussive interest was provided by percussionist Mike, who kept things swinging along with touches of tambourine and shaker as well as his custom made bass drum adding depth that brought an extra dimension to the sound. Meadows had joined the Grahams for this particular tour, but he is a freelance player with a long list of clients, frequently playing with Hayes Carll.
The Grahams told stories about the songs and their origins, and the playful banter between the two added to the overall ambiance of the evening and informed the context of the show. Marnie Hawkins was inspired by a house they grew up next to. It transpired that they had grown up together before playing music and becoming romantically involved and this deep connection shows in the music.
The majority of the songs are originals, written with their friend Bryan McCann. They said that although the both had played in cover bands, a song had to be special to be included in their set. Alejandro Escovedo's Broken Bottle was one such a song. Indeed Escovedo's song suited them well and makes one wonder why more of his fine songs don't get covered more often.
However it is the Graham’s songs and personalities which took centre stage. They closed the show with a love song and announced that the next day was their 18th wedding anniversary, to be spent for the most part on an airplane flying home. The Grahams are a partnership that has, so far, produced two albums; but the signs are that their music should find them gaining more acclaim with their future tours and releases.
Review by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton.