One of the best shows I caught in 2017 was also one of the most low-key. Almost a year ago exactly, in the upstairs room at The Betsey Trotwood, a trio comprising Nelson Bragg, Anny Celsi, and Duncan Maitland, in what was somewhere between a songwriters’ circle and a fully-fledged ensemble, mesmerized the lucky attendees with a mixture of their own songs and choice covers.
To round off the night they were joined by Tony Poole, now feted once more as king of the twelve-string electric Rickenbacker, for a captivating set of Byrds and Byrds-related songs. In the interim Tony has done this quite a few more times as one-third of the highly-praised Bennett Wilson Poole trio but this coming Saturday he’ll be back with them at the Betsey again, as part of a significant tour running into September (dates here), and it’s an evening seriously not to be missed.
Just to give some background: percussionist Nelson Bragg was part of Brian Wilson’s backing band for many years but along with that he’s played with both The Quarter After and Cloud Eleven, and recorded two exceptional solo albums Day Into Night and We Get What We Want. For these he’s been able to call on sidesmen of the quality of Rob Campanella, Rick Gallego, and Probyn Gregory.
A pair of uniquely and richly rewarding albums where you may hear his influences – his main employer plus moptops, and janglers aplenty – but mainly him. Songs like ‘Forever Days’ and ‘Welcome To Nowhereville’ stick immediately, and are quickly greeted as old friends. He’s also adept at picking a good cover; for instance he revisits The Green Pajamas ‘My Mad Kitty’ as ‘She Used To Love Me’.
Nelson also produced Anny Celsi’s 2009 album Tangle-Free World. A divine collection of smart pop songs with distinct folk and psych tendencies, followed up by the Adam Marsland-helmed January from 2013. ‘Tangle-Free World’ itself remains a joyous track but she can also touch places of the heart in more keening cuts like ‘Ghosts In The Room’ and ‘Sank Without A Bubble’. It speaks volumes that she and Nelson can revisit standards like ‘Some Velvet Morning’ and ‘Sally Go Round The Roses’ and make them special. Worth pointing out that no less than Evie Sands both plays guitar and sings backing vocals on the latter.
Duncan Maitland meanwhile has a long history playing in renowned Irish bands Picture House and Pugwash, and has a timeless collection of his own in Lullabies For The 21st Century. Home-recorded over three or four years and featuring twenty musicians including Colin Moulding of XTC it has proved a keeper, if a little elusive. Certainly quirky and slippy with titles like ‘Terry The Toad’ and ‘Insect Under The Stone’ hiding the reality of smart sixties-tinged teenage symphonies. (Incidentally you can now get the album on vinyl from Sugarbush Records – scroll down the page a long way or do a Find).
So if you come to the gig you’d better bring a few bob. And I’m yet to mention the tour CD The Road To Glasgow which aside from a live take of ‘Insect Under The Stone’ doesn’t replicate a single track off any of their albums but does include both newer collaborations and readings of Peter Holsapple’s ‘Hollywood Waltz’, Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’, and – I told you Nelson was good with covers – Paul Kelly’s ‘To Her Door’.
You should certainly catch them if you can. It’ll be a riot.