Madison Violet

Review Date January 28, 2012

Review By Alan Harrison

Location Cluny II, Newcastle

I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find a queue stretching down three flights of stairs to the basement of Cluny II following Madison Violet’s fantastic performance last year at the tiny Central Bar. All of the seats were full and people were still filing in when Rebecca Pronsky and her guitarist Rich Bennett took to the stage, with the New Yorker chatting non-stop as she tuned her guitar. The duo filled the 45 minute support slot very well with a quaint mix of folk and country-noir that was missing “something;’ possibly the rest of her band. Bennett’s slick guitar playing lifted most of the songs, but a few still felt as if they needed padding out a little bit. Perhaps that was just me. Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac aka Madison Violet made their North East debut last year as part of the Jumpin’ Hot Clubs 25th Anniversary Celebrations and “stole the show’ when they performed before 150 or so people in a room designed for 80! Looking around the room everyone who had been there that night appeared to have brought along two friends tonight. The set opened with a gorgeous version of “If I Could Love You” from the recent THE GOOD IN GOODBYE album which was followed by “The Ransom” from 2009’s NO FOOL FOR TRYING. As the evening progressed I soon became engrossed with the girls’ skills with their instruments as I was already in love with the songs anyway. Lisa’s fiddle and mandolin playing could easily win her awards at folk festivals and Brenley’s guitar skills would be shouted from the rooftops if she was a man; but she isn’t so I’ll not mention it again. Already impressed I was open-mouthed when Lisa managed to swap her mandolin for the fiddle without missing a beat during “Never Saw The Ending.” Come on-that’s impressive! It always amuses me when “pretty young things’ write “heartbreakers’ but McEachan’s story leading up to “Stuck In A Love” made it actually sound believable; but I still think she was using some artistic license in there too. Madviolet then managed to delight me with a pretty radical version of one of my favourite songs-“Come As You Are” which, with Brenley’s slightly gravelly voice and raspy harmonica had a bit of a Neil Young vibe to it tonight which is no bad thing in my book. By this stage in the show Mrs H would playfully nudge me whenever the girls implemented their very own Shadows step-over/dance during the quiet bits in songs. It took a while and I was even starting to think that they might be going to keep it for the encore as it’s so good; but when Lisa started telling a story about a grandmother who used to be a lighthouse keeper I began grinning like a ninny. On first hearing “Christy Ellen Francis” last year it instantly went into my Top 10 songs of all time and after tonight’s magical version it will stay there until my memory finally gives up. For some reason I’m a sucker for a love song and this ode to a 100-year-old grandmother makes me come out in goosebumps every time I hear it; so seeing and hearing Madison Violet perform it only feet away from me was a delight I’ll never forget. The girls performed another couple of songs but they paled into insignificance compared to that opus; until the final song of the evening-“The Good In Goodbye” which was the perfect finish to a wonderful performance. Following a noisy standing ovation Madviolet returned to sing a delicate song about another tragic relationship; “No Fool For Trying” then turned the gas right up for the bluegrass foot stomper “Cindy-Cindy” that had the crowd clapping along with delight. Brenley and Lisa left the stage and were immediately swamped at the merch table by happy fans congratulating them in the best North Eastern fashion-buying stuff!

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