Nikki Bluhm & The Gramblers @ The Vintage Room - Workman’s Club 6th February 2016

The writer’s last encounter with Nikki Bluhn was at The Mercy Lounge, Nashville in 2013 when she and her six piece band played a blinder of a set of west coast country rock bringing to mind the Laurel Canyon sounds of the late 60’s. In complete contrast tonight’s show features Nikki Bluhm play a stripped down acoustic set accompanied by two long term members of The Gramblers, rhythm guitarist Dave Mulligan and lead guitarist Deren Ney.

The gig was arranged impromptu at the end of her European tour which finished in Manchester on Thursday night and prior to Bluhm heading on a solo tour in the States later this month. Mulligan explains that having spent twelve months working in Dublin a few years back he was determined that they should visit the city and take in the great music vibe so unique to Ireland."I had never even heard of Luke Kelly until this afternoon in O’Donoghues Pub, will sure have to do some research on him" he adds excitably.

The gig is staged in The Vintage Room at The Workman’s Club. Aptly described as 'a posh version of your Nana’s living room’, the venue complete with black and white telly, radiogram and 60’s furniture is the perfect location for what can best be described as basically a ‘house party’ type gig with the band arriving with instruments in hand, setting up three chairs at the top of the room and treating us to an unscripted and hugely enjoyable seventy minutes of quality music.

Three musicians, three instruments, two guitars and a tambourine, "basically everything that we have left after the tour" jokes Mulligan. Despite the limited resources the quality of the playing together with Bluhm’s soaring soulful vocal contributes to a hugely enjoyable experience.

The set is a mixture of material from their 2013 self titled album and their more recent Loved Wild Lost release which features a more countrified sound than their west coast based debut album, certainly closer to Nashville than San Francisco. The set also includes a number of covers and to accentuate the 'session' feel of the evening, which also featured a worthy offering from a female in the audience whom they had only met that afternoon. Their signature song Little Too Late works equally well in the stripped back format as it does with a full band and includes some wonderful guitar work from Deren Ney.

All in all a great opportunity to witness the extremely talented Bluhm and her guitarists in a very relaxed and laid back environment. We look forward to a return from her with the full band in the near future.

Review and photograph by Declan Culliton