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'London, Islington, Hope & Anchor, 13 December 2017'   

-  Genre: 'Alt/Country'

Our Rating:
I say Yes, I say yes indeed it's time for Foghorn Leghorn. They are back and one half of this annual Xmas gig with The Snakeoil Rattlers that I've finally made it along to having been asked to go for several years on the run.

Now I haven't seen Foghorn Leghorn since the days when they used to play at the Sir George Robey. At least I think that's where I last saw them play several eons ago. I don't remember too much about it so won't compare the current line-up to the old one.

Anyway, tonight they are playing semi-electric rather than totally acoustic as they apparently usually do. Consequently, the band's sextet all harmonise around two valve microphones throughout the set although they do switch lead vocalists a good bit. Either way, they opened with a very plangent song about All That Remains that had some fine fiddle playing in it.

After some introductions they did Pizza Boy that, despite its title, is one of the band's songs about love going wrong again sometime after the mandolin kicks in, I do believe. They then went properly down home on The Roving Gambler that was played at neo-Polka pace.

I think it was the double bass that led off on the Instrumental they played a good clip to make us all think it was time for a hoedown. They then played the band's first drinking song, Spanish Champagne, that was a hell of a sad tale of love and despair with some lovely lap steel playing.

They then let Kev O'Neill take centre stage - well lead vocals - on Runner Up. It had a bit of a Hank Williams feel to it as the tale of woe unfolds around that gorgeous lap steel sound. They then tried to keep us dabbing at our eyes on Madeleine as once again the girl has left them all alone.

Yes, our heartstrings were being pulled and It's Beginning To Hurt. I think that was the old Ricky Nelson song or one based on it. Whatever, it certainly stuck to the band's main love hurts theme.

They went full on political for the sing-along new single The World Has Gone Crazy. It basically rants at Trump and Brexit and all sorts of other modern maladies while we all sing the chorus back at them. I look forward to hearing the single in the New Year. They closed with a brilliant version of that old bluegrass classic Psycho Killer that really does need Lap Steel and fiddles to get to the heart of the song. And yes, everyone in the Hope & Anchor seemed to be singing along with them.

Then after the break it was time for some deep southern rock (singer Barry Warren does come from as far south as Welling), and they opened with Dixieland. Then they played Bitter Town that my notes make it look like Bits of me. No matter, it was odd hearing Barry singing with an American accent but it does work for this kind of country music.

Things then get easier as the covers begin with a cool version of Mrs Claus Kimono by Drive By Truckers, which sounded like good fun and had some great drumming from Dave Morgan. Next was Road Tales - another cool downbeat country song with some good guitar bits.

They paid tribute to those we've lost this year and played Tom Petty's Free Fallin and had everyone singing along to it. Next was one of the band's train songs, Old Time Rattler, that led into the call and response of "Yo Santa" to get everyone in the mood.

They took things down a bit on Blood's no thicker Than Backwater but it was only a small melancholy moment before they broke out the Elvis and Blue Christmas. I could swear Barry's leg started twitching while he sang it. Still, he was soon enough looking for The Devil in His Rear view as they made sure we had the party spirit in us.

They over-packed the stage by bringing Foghorn Leghorn back up to make it about 10 people for a bluegrass country classic and the first version of Ace Of Spades I heard played this week. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was slower and less furious than Ginger Wildheart's version

My scruffy writing made the next song a mystery. I've since found out it was Keep On Rockin In The Free World: that old Christmas classic. The whole gang then gave Lonely this Christmas a good pasting before they finished the evening with a great sing along to Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade to leave us all smiling at the end of a cool yule night out.
  author: simonovitch

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