The Rails at the Lexington
The Rails have impeccable folk music pedigree and it shows. The duo consists of Kami Thompson (daughter of Richard Thompson of 60s band Fairport Convention and wife Linda) and guitarist James Walbourne, formerly of The Pogues and The Pretenders. Both take vocals and lead guitar, though the former leans more towards most of the singing and the latter the guitar solos. They are also a married couple, which shows in the banter and intuitive relationship on stage.
It was a sold-out comeback show last night: a supportive, friendly, older crowd turned out to welcome them back after a hiatus. Thompson was modest and polite, expressing surprise at the size of the audience. Walbourne was decked out in a jacket styled between rockabilly and country, with treble clefs embroidered on the sleeves and cheeky soundholes from guitar shapes on the back. Nice touch.
Thompson possesses a penetrating contralto with a distinctly folk feel. She is reminiscent of the wonderful and tragic Kirsty MacColl. Walbourne’s voice is pleasingly raspy with an unmistakably Celtic-influenced lilt and his playing is top-notch. The band was consummate and tight, with additional bass and drums completing the lineup.
The pair mixed new and old original material with some judiciously chosen covers. New song Mossy Well, a paean to heavy drinking as a natural reaction to the world, had a haunting piano riff that stands out. Folk standard William Taylor was rich in heritage and storytelling. Waiting for Something featured a lovely harmony on the chorus, while Something Is Slipping My Mind was moodier and dreamier. The rendition of Ball and Chain sounded rockier and more upbeat. Late Surrender showed off Song’s drumming on the chorus with another lovely harmony and a great guitar solo. The set finished with new song Cancel the Sun, where Walbourne let loose on the guitar, and an encore of a song written by his late friend Bap Kennedy.
The lyrics are not exactly what you would call uplifting (“Hello Armageddon”, “Save the planet, kill yourself”) and they can lean towards the repetitive, leaving a wish for more a bit more texture and precision. However, there is a typically Celtic melancholy infused throughout (especially on Cally) which mixes nostalgia and tradition with a socialist, agitating stance (“You built your power on a graveyard”). The camaraderie in the band was obvious to see and the playing and singing was superb.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit The Rails’s website here.
Watch the video for Mossy Well here: