HRH CROWS – O2 Academy, Sheffield 7th & 8th September, 2019

Well a week after Sleaze and we back in the O2 again for yet another full weekend of music – this time it's the turn of CROWS (Country Rock Western Outlaw Southern – if you were wondering what that stands for), Again, this makes use of 2 stages meaning that music is constant all weekend.

Set List: Big Shot/Going With The Wind (w/Stop)/Dreaming Merry Go Round/About This Boy/Promiseland/Midnight Queen/Lullaby.

The first day main stage started with a band I had heard quite a bit about to say the least in Collateral and after hearing their single, 'Midnight Queen', I was eager to hear more. I certainly wasn't disappointed since these guys have it all – the look, great songs and a ton of personality up there.

We get a range of both acoustic (Going With The Wind) and electric with even some Southern Countriness thrown in making them more relevant. They have even rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bon Jovi and with these standards it's hard to see why. They are guaranteed to go up if they stars keep aligning.

Highlights include the opening 'Big Shot', 'Merry Go Round' with the acoustic opening and the closing rocker 'Lullaby'. A quality band!

Set List: Farrell Wine/Arkansas Beardstalker/Preacherman/Riley/The Ballad Of Jedediah's Goat/Dirty Kiss/Long Road Too Far/55 Gallon Drum/Purple And Red/Swamp God/Elsa Cachet/Devils Trom.

 

Emcore: Lazy Town.

It kicked off with some quirky sounding stuff up on Stage 2 by means of The Wattingers – you what you may ask, quite rightly as well because they did have me wondering with their unique brand of southern meets zany dark Gothic like bluesy-country or whatever the hell it was, coming complete with weird sh*t that would be fit to be on the same set as inventor, Wilf Lunn! I kid you not!

It's like voodoo craziness with killer basslines and chanting vocals almost like black slaves in the fields (Long Road Too Far) at times. They remind me of music you get on those home-made movies with the quirky computer sounds and complete with harmonica (Arkanasas Beardstalker) and jaw-harp (Riley) or even the likes of Johnny Cash and early Bob Dylan with cuts like the talking country blues of 'The Ballad Of Jedediah's Goat'. Let's just say this is very much unique steampunk heaven.

Set List: Dead Man's Train/Bolt Out Sun/Out In The Rain With The Top Down/Weeping Tree/Never Say Never/Crawl/Clara Belle Lee/Shaking Hands/Crank It Up/Run To The Wildfire/Walk Tall/The Gator Hole.

Swamp Born Assassins on the big stage sensationally socked it to us, proving that the sounds of the south were also well and truly alive up in Scotland – Glasgow to pin it precisely people! They had a vibe and groove that mixed in the essence of American Good Ole Boys, Molly Hatchet and the original half Native Born, Blackfoot.

They even throw in some essential harmonica on a few of the cuts like on opener 'Dead Man's Train'and the excellent ballsy 'Never Say Never' and ZZ Top like 'Run To The Wildfire' You would have assumed they were the real deal with the swagger they had in these songs until the highland hoarse voice gave it away between songs.

It was even one of the guitarists first shows as well – you would have never know either – we loved em! The closing number 'The Gator Hole' totally ruled as well!

Set List: Slow Down (Part 2)/SearchinMan Blues/Old Black Dog/Live My Life With The Blues/Don't Go Fishing/Street Art/Miss Liza/Soulshine.

Lol Goodman are a straight-forward blues trio who didn't move too much up there and got on with the job. They came across a very concentrative act who were more about getting into the guts of the song vibe than looking too happy up there from what I could see. I think they were on the wrong weekend to be honest and more suited to HRH: Blues.

Highlights though included 'Searchin Man Blues'; the excellent 'Live My Life With The Blues' with it's excellent harmonious arrangement or funky blues of 'Miss Liza'. Great voice and solid songs throughout.

Set List: Intro (Big Ass)/Brotherhood/Dixie Whiskey/Marvin Popcorn Sutton/The Great Unknown/It's My Bad/Rich Man, Poor Man/Up Shit Creek/Start It Up/Snake Hips Slip/The Brave/Free Man/Damned If You Do/If It Ain't Southern.

Sons Of Liberty have become faves of mine and Steve Cooper's who we saw the previous month on an outdoor stage at another festival who this time got a full hour to crank up on. These old boys like the Swamp's really have it going down coming complete with a classy voodoo cane, a cool look and plenty of stomping to their name too.

Brilliant to see the folks here in Sheffield have took a big liking to them too since the room is pretty packed with the Sons setting their stall out from the start with gutsy country blues southern sounds making their trip all the way from Bristol all the more worthy.

It's a festival they were made for and easily the best band band in here on this stage today with songs like 'Damned If You Do'; 'The Brave' that has some really great Native American sounds and authentic flute or the joyous sing-along that is 'Up Shit Creek' – and we all are now and again.

A new release entitled 'Animism' is out now! Top that! Looking forward to catching these Sons' again!

The Jupiter Blues are a band we were due to see at same same festival as Sons Of Liberty but that's another story.. but today all managed to get there and are a cool rock band whose singer seems to think he is Mick Jagger with his quirky moves and vocal styles at times – even throwing in a bit of Rolling Stones too. Worth seeing and having a few beers to.

They also have a Black Crowes feel to them as well which is no bad thing at all. Standouts if my memory serves me right include the infectious 'Pumped Full Of Sugar'; the laid back, moderate tempo Robinson Brotheresque 'Stingin' and smooth, building up 'Dead On The Street'. Entertaining set!

Set List: See You In Hell/Hangman Jury/Country High/Shipfaced/Too Much Willie Nelson/Whiskey Drinking Liar/Burn The House/Send Some Whiskey Home/Chicken Friend Snake/Voodoo Queen/Milk My Cow/Laughing All The Way/Back To Georgia.

It's always a blast to see 'The Outlaw Orchestra' and this is no exception who delight the Sheffield folk with their tales of where to eat, what they like drinking where they come from and more through hilarious banter, cooking slabs of Dixie tooting greatness in a true hillbilly like style and a nice array of string instruments – the upright bassist made it to the show too as he missed the last one since being trapped elsewhere.

So many great songs to be found in a set from these Southampton dudes that included hilarious songs like 'Chicken Fried Snake' that was influenced by various pubs and clubs that will remain un-named; 'Milk My Cow' – the four legged one hopefully and a brilliant take of that Aerosmith cover 'Hangman Jury' as well. These guys never fail to impress!

Set List: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades/Golden/Ruler Of Tomorrow/Hitch/Hellacious Days/Another Mule/Wildcat Bird Head/Biker Lord/Lord Kill The Pain/Guns 'N' Ammo.

Pig Iron mashed up a lot of Stoner Rock with Blues and Southern Sounds. Their ditties are pretty damn long and have that dirty, roasted punch about them who come all the way from the south – well London to be exact. They seem to be a band that the folk in here seem to be looking for with those flannel shirts, gutsy Gibson's and big, shrill 'n' high vocals.

Highlights included the wailing 'Wildcat Birdhead' that's as gutsy as it gets; the groove of 'Golden' where it's better to burn out than fade away; the stomping 'Hitch'; the throbbing, riffing tonnage of 'Another Mule' or deep, Sabbathy stoner blasts of 'Guns 'N' Ammo.

Your head will be like the contents of a concrete mixer after witnessing their live set – it smashes, pounds and rumbles and rocks ya brains from beginning to end.

Set List: Both Sides Of The Line/Golden Days/When The Angels Cry/Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man/Beat On The Mountain/Cappuccino Rosie/I Can't Help Myself/Good Things Come To Those Who Wait/Golden Ball And Chain/White Lies/Somewhere Within/Better Than This/Last Time Around/Help There's A Fire/Broken Whiskey Glass/Mona Lee.

Jason & The Scorchers from the USA are an act that I've seen were playing up and don the country but I've never got around to check out. This was the night for it and I was not disappointed. The man himself saunters on wearing a Wildhearts t-shirt (a band he loves dearly) in a wobbly kinda way as though he is drunk – but this appears to be part of his act. He has a wining deep southern drawl which some couldn't understand in here – myself excluded though after being in the USA a lot over the years.

It's full on Americana, Country and bluegrass stuff – right up my street with high y'alling harmonies intact and guitar-work from Warner Hodges on the Telecaster to die for – the country equivalent of Rick Parfitt, I kid you not with the stage presence to match just about. Some liked it, some hated it and others loved it – I personally couldn't get enough of it – easy the most authentic act of the day and perhaps the entire weekend.

Highlights of which there were literally loads included the opening 'Both Sides Of The Line'; 'When The Angels Cry'; their cover of the fast-driving 'Drug Store Truck Drivin Man''; the punky 'White Lies'; the 12-bar rocker 'I Can't Help Myself; the country of 'Golden Ball And Chain'; the recent rockin' 'Better Than This' and the spilling over 'Broken Whiskey Glass' and fantastic fuelled up closer 'Mona Lisa'.

It truly didn't matter if you knew any of his songs and cuts by any selective obscure acts he covered since it mesmerised and totally sucked you into the moment, transporting you to Texas in an instant. I need to get hold of all his albums now as I was that impressed! And no he never did trip over his microphone lead though you expected him to tumble at any moment – this was a true pro at work on this Sheffield stage even though there was a bum note or two – hahaha – is that a contradiction there?

Set List: Dixie Lullaby/It's Chitlin' Time/Deep South Blues Again/Rag Top/Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine/The House Of The Rising Sun/Stumblin'/Shufflin Back To Memphis/Some Folks Like To Steal/Have You Ever Loved A Woman/Wishing Well/My Daddy Was A Milkman/You Gotta Move/Oh Lonesome Me/Drum Solo/Little Queenie/Spirit In The Sky/Dumas Walker/The Ballad Of Davy Crockett.

 

Encore: Don't Let Me Down/Hey Jude.

The second band of the weekend from the USA and tonight's headliners are The Kentucky Headhunters who play their laid-back 12-bar based country rock much to the approval of the folks down here crammed in front of the main stage with songs like 'It's Chitlin Time'; 'Stumblin' or 'Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine'.

With a set that comprises various originals and a sprinkling of covers, they joyously crank out their sounds from albums new and old. Guitarist/Vocalist, Richard Young on numerous occasions keeps placing a big cigar in his mouth even though laws here prevented him from lighting up which did look rather bizarre to say the least – each to their own I guess.

Highlights included their cover of 'House Of The Rising Son' that guaranteed everyone sing a long and my person fave 'Dumas Walker'. Or what about the Bo Diddley like 'My Daddy Was A Milkman' or the humour of 'The Ballad Of Davy Crockett'? 

Pick your own favourites out of the set because it was a long one and there were so many.​ This was a fine ending to Day One of HRH Crows.

Set List: Work hard, Play Harder/Pour Me/Sunday Drinking/Tonight/Rear View Mirror/Before He Cheats/Double Dealer/Enter Sandman/Don't Stop Believing Mash-up/Hangman's Train/Gunpowder and Lead/Pink Guitar/All Jacked Up.

'Finding Georgia' were the 1st relevant band on stage two upstairs on the Sunday who nail their place on the map with their country rock with Georgina Surridge taking care of the lead vocals. They play a mix of both covers and originals with highlights that include the delta sounds of 'Gunpowder And Lead' and 12-bar groove of 'All Jacked Up.

The there was the killer mash-up of some classic Metallica and Journey that surprised everybody in the room with folks talking about it weeks after. A powerful band who deserve a show or two here in their own right or a good tour supporting slot at least.​​

Another band on the second stage worth a mention are Nine Miles South who hail from Guildford (well it's South from here anyway but a bit more than nine miles – sorry had to go there!). They are a brilliant three piece who nail their own original songs of the country and blues variety who I strongly recommend.

Okay, so I didn't get a set list but if memory serves me right they played some beauties in their set like the building-up brilliance of 'Bones'; the blues-rock of 'Fingernails' and deep-delta grooving of 'The Reckoning'.

Set List: Tale Of A Broken Man/Over And Over/On My Way/The End/Bring It On Home/Drink/Never/Walk The Line/Drift Away/Hard Times/All That I have/Bring You Pain.

Seeing Doomsday Outlaw on the big stage was rather special since they really got to show what they could do up there with unlimited space – they didn't appear lost up there either. I have seen them numerous times in Sheffield but this took them to a whole new level especially since they have now added a dude on organ to the unit that totally takes them to the next dimension.

Highlights of their momentous set included the opening blues-rock of 'Tale Of A Broken Man' the sinister 'Come My Way'; the awesome riffed and slightly southern styled 'Bring It On Home'. 

'Walk The Line' about the singers young boy or the brilliant 'Bring You Pan' that reminds me of a bit of a T-Rex classic in one part. Doomsday Outlaw will got far! Be sure to see these boys where and whenever you can!

Set List: Kerosene Clown/Hungry Like The Wolf/Most Wanted/Ain't No Use Being Good/Last Hymn/Molotov Sister/I Need A New Salvation/Half Cut/Bad Son/Dirty.

Gorilla Riot are a band who I have kept hearing about but had not personally heard them until recently via the EP's of Steve Cooper and after the 1st few seconds I was a fan. They have that real-deal deep south sound and groove about them and you wouldn't think for one second that they came from Manchester, UK.

If you would have told me they were called 'Louisiana Gritz' and crawled out of a swamp in Shreveport, Louisiana I would have believed you. They've got gutsy delta slide-work going down so, so good and took it straight down into the dirt – perfect – getting acoustic on us with a song or two as well.

They set the place alight straight away with the opening 'Kerosene Clown' and then took us down the delta with songs like 'Hungry Like The Wolf' and 'Ain't No Use Being Good' that really saluted the sounds of the South.

Then there was also the cool laid back slidey-boppin 'Last Hymn' or rather excellent 'Bad Son' with its straight to the point sing-along chorus. To say I dug them would be an understatement.

Set List: Scarecrowing/Who DoYou Think You Are/Like A Hammer/Dig Deeper/Gotta Get Home/Got A Good Thing Going On/Ordinary Blues/Prince/Oh Well.

Matt Pearce & The Mutiny were very much slick blues and some funkiness thrown in and put me in mind of guys like Joe Bonamassa and Kris Barass. Entertaining but like Lol Goodman, I was a bit baffled why he was on this bill and not the HRH Blues.

That said the set was great with standouts being the opening funk-blues of 'Scarecrowing'; the slower tempo'd 'Like A Hammer'; the delta coolness of 'Gotta Get Home' or 'Gotta Good Thing Going On' with some killer sax soloing, finishing off with a mind-blowing rendition of Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well (Part 1)'.

Set List: Birra For Lira/Black Chair/Bad Girl/Dirty Occupation/Dark Angel/Drink Jack Boogie/Guitar Boogie Refried/Ineathel Ruff/Heaven Or Hell/Keep Your Head Above Water/Stolen Heart/Hey Joe/Baby, Please Don't Go/Jim Bean Blues.

Encore: Shadowplay.

Well the closers of the night or should I say headliners were meant to be Molly Hatchet but since Phil McCormack passed away earlier this year and probably not ready yet with their new singer, the task was left to the Australian Bluesman, Rob Tognoni – The Tasmanian Devil who was very confident and cocksure up their with exquisite, guitar chops and makes his mark immediately.

Standouts of the set include the opening 'Birra For Lira'; the fun-time 'Bad Girl'; the boogie of 'Drink Jack Boogie' funnily enough or the following 'Guitar Boogie Refried' and the beefy 'Keep Your Head Above Water'.

He came across like a white Hendrix from down under meets Rory Gallagher and did tricks such as playing the guitar with his teeth on his head or behind his back. A nice take of 'Hey Joe' and awesome to see he encored with a personal Rory G fave in 'Shadowplay'. A decent act but way more in common with HRH Blues than HRH Crows.

For whatever reason this was the last HRH Crows to take place in Sheffield since it amalgamates with the Blues Weekend in Great Yarmouth next year.

Review & Photographs By Glenn Milligan

Set Lists By Tonito Bermudez