It is a dilemma that no self-respecting football fan and country music lover should ever be faced with, but fate is cruel. I had a decision to make on a wet and wild Wednesday night. Do I curl up on the couch at home with a continental beer of my choice and cheer on my favourite team, who hail from the red side of Merseyside, as they chase European glory for a second successive season or do I venture out into a rainy Glasgow night to see and hear the lovely Liverpool country/pop singer/songwriter Laura Oakes at the city’s SWG3?
I opt for the latter, despite not knowing whether this young lady is red or blue. Good choice as it turns out. My team were beaten by the team from Madrid, and Ms Oakes is fabulous… even though it does turn out that she and her family do support the team from the other side of Stanley Park. Hands on face shock emoji. I turned up in the west end of the city around 7.30pm, at the same time as throngs of young women who were descending on the venue. This looked to me like it was going to be incredibly busy. And then one of the security guys must’ve noticed me sticking out in the crowd like a blue and white bobble hat in the middle of the Kop end of Anfield and informed me that the young people were all heading for Bongo Bingo in the main hall. He then directed me to the Poetry Club, which was through the black door on the left and up the stairs. I got in just in time to see the first of the two support acts.
Scott Ashworth is a Scottish-based singer songwriter, who originally hails from Salford. Ex-military man Scott (he didn’t say which of the armed forces he was in) has many tales to tell and is quite an accomplished songsmith. During his 30 minutes set he added a couple of covers written by guys he admired from the Nashville scene, and I have to say I personally think his own songs stack up well against tunes written by, what he reckoned, were big hitters. He’s good. I liked him. And I am sure I will see and hear more of him, as this guy strikes me as someone who will ply his trade and hone his skills in and around the British country music scene.
The second support was, by her own admission, an unlikely fit for a Laura Oakes gig. However, there was no denying Laura Murray is a talent. A young, Scottish singer/songwriter in the mould of Adele. Her songs are beautifully crafted and well performed. Her band were decent too. To cater for the audience she was presented with, Laura and her band gave us a couple of country covers. Shania’s “You’re Still The One” and “A Life That’s Good” from the TV series Nashville.
So, onto the night’s headliner. Laura Oakes took to the stage sparkling from the-get-go. She has an immediate rapport with her audience. She clearly likes Glasgow. And they clearly love her. She is comfortable and confident on the stage, and commands it well. She chats quite freely with her audience in between introducing songs. Even though this is my first time seeing her, I already know it won’t be the last.
On this current tour she has been playing tracks from her new EP “How Big Is Your World” which doesn’t drop till next month. The current single “Old Ghosts”, a particular favourite, is on there. As is her last offering “Better In Blue Jeans”. This one provides an ideal opportunity to get in some community singing, as she coaxes her audience into providing the “Uh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh”s backing vocal while she does the heavy lifting. Trust me it sounded way better than it looks written on paper.
Her banter with the audience was briefly interrupted when Laura noticed the Poetry Club has its own wee train up on the wall, puffing out steam and chugging away. She is genuinely taken with it. The banter starts up again and some guy asks her to sing “Rocket Man”. Really? The Elton John song? It’s not on the set list but why not says Laura. A cracking version. I haven’t heard it sung that well since Kate Bush covered it on “Two Rooms”. Turns out she’s a huge rocket man fan. Coincidentally, old fashioned 7”singles back in the day on Sir Elton’s record label, The Rocket Record Company, used to have a wee, puffing, chugging steam train on it. Don’t you just love it when stuff like that happens? I do. Go on… Google it.
I loved hearing her stories of how, why and where her songs were written. Particularly “Learn To Be Lonely Again”. We got a very full set from her which unfortunately, due to the club’s strict curfew, didn’t include “the obligatory walk-off walk-back-on-again encore”. However, I’m sure no one minded as I am confident they will all be there again when next she visits our fine city.
Laura Oakes is a very accomplished musician, smashing performer and lovely, young woman. I have no doubt she will go on to have a long and successful career in country music.
On a night that saw my favourite football team lose their crown as Kings of Europe, I couldn’t help but feel I was witnessing this Lancashire Lass being fitted for her crown as my new favourite Queen of British Country Music.
Author and Photo Credits: David Brown