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The Rails: On Track in Hebden Bridge

One of my favourite albums of all time is 'I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight' by Richard and Linda Thompson, a timeless classic from 1974 which still sounds as good now as it did then, and which is still a source of inspiration for musicians today. I went to see the Thompsons back in 1975 at Manchester's Free Trade Hall during my student days and although I have only vague memories of the evening, the music has always been a source of pleasure.

I was reminded of that gig the other day when I went to see The Rails, featuring Richard and Linda's daughter Kami, perform at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge. I first came across them last year when Mark Radcliffe played 'Jealous Sailor' on the Radio 2 Folk Show, and from there I bought their debut album 'Fair Warning', co-produced by Edwyn Collins, and featuring fiddle from Eliza Carthy. And in another throwback to the past, it was the first album released in the Island Records pink imprint since the heady days of Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and John Martyn back in the 1970's. It ended up as one of my top albums of 2014, and I did a mini review in a previous blog, writing:

"It must be the genes. With Richard as your dad, Linda as your mum, and Teddy as brother, it was probably no surprise that Kami Thompson had some great music in her. Here it was apparent in the first album by the band she formed with husband James Walbourne (who's no slouch either). This is a fine mix of the traditional and the new, with echoes of bands like Fairport Convention and inevitably Richard and Linda's 'I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight', but at the same time it is clearly their own. A marker has been put down for the future, of that The Rails have given us fair warning. Favourite track - Jealous Sailor."

The night opened with a great little set from Zak Hobbs, who, it turns out, is Linda's grandson. Some well-crafted songs and some excellent guitar playing started the gig off on a fine footing.

The Rails came on, treating us to some of the great songs from their debut album, such as 'Bonnie Portmore', 'William Taylor', 'Panic Attack Blues' - and  'Breakneck Speed'. Interspersed were tracks from their excellent limited edition 7-Track EP 'Australia', which is only available at gigs, and the odd song from their next album due out in 2016, the name of which I think James mentioned but escapes me now! The quality of their musicianship stood out, James in particular coming over as a superb guitarist, but both of them fastidious about getting the sound right as they repeatedly tuned their guitars between songs. The on-stage chemistry between them made for an entertaining evening, which ended in a final flourish with Zak coming on stage to join in on the final track.

Despite only having recorded an album and a half together, Kami and James have pretty lengthy CV's. Both have released solo albums, Kami was in her mum's backing band, and worked with the likes of Bonnie Prince Billy, whilst James had been in the Pretenders and worked with Edwyn Collins and the Pogues. So it was two experienced and superb musicians who kept us all entertained, and it was a pleasure to meet them and Zak after the show when I snapped up a copy of the 'Australia' album.

The Trades Club was far from full, which was a shame, but playing music of this quality which is traditional in feel and yet at the same time of the moment, it is inevitable that next time they play there it will be much harder to get a ticket, so I urge you to catch up with them sooner rather than later if you get the chance.

40 years from seeing Richard and Linda Thompson, whilst they are both still producing some superb music, it is great to see that the next generations are carrying on the tradition....

The Rails are playing dates during October.
The album 'Fair Warning' is available on Island Records
Visit the band's Facebook page for more details.


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