Hannah Woof & Levi Washington and Friends at the Open Arts Festival

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Hannah Woof & Levi Washington and Friends at the Open Arts Festival

Review

After the pleasures of catching The Old Flames at last week's Open Arts Festival gig on Leamington Bandstand, the weather was even more glorious for this week's instalment.

I was privileged to catch two superb "Hot Music Live Presents" featured artists this week, on form as fine as the sunshine.

As I walked down, not only was I aware that I'd not had the very considerable pleasure of attending a Hannah Woof live performance since COVID19 struck, but that as far as I could remember, I had seen her in smaller, intimate indoor spaces where the power & intensity of her original work & performing styles had always hit home hard.

Outdoors, she is just as compelling I discovered: her music doesn't need shadows to inhabit as it includes all the psychodrama needed within the material. Nevertheless, she clearly appreciated that the audience included people new to her music & favoured covers a bit to draw the families etc in before hitting them with her own powerful songs.

I always write something along the lines of Hannah not knowing what compromising her art might mean, and if there was today some element of adaptation, the uncompromising stuff soon kicked in: possibly eschewing the songs including the more taboo words, but nevertheless having the courage to include ones involving adult situations far beyond the experiences & comprehension of the toddlers there.

The one which really grabbed me this time was an unrealised one, "Rendezvous" which will appear on the forthcoming EP she's currently recording in Bristol. Quintessential Hannah Woof, it pulls no punches with its mordant wit & look forward to me describing it to you as "Hannah's best to date" probably sometime in July (she tells us). She still has her eye on playing Wembley in due course & isn't prepared to drop her narratives of hurt, betrayal & retribution in order to do so. Personally, I think she deserves that level of success….

Levi Washington plays so many gigs that I suspect he can only roughly estimate a number without checking. He gets round the danger of his audiences becoming complacent by never repeating himself. His vast repertoire (which grows almost daily) helps, as does his penchant for reworking the songs in it continuously. However another strategy (though he did use the first two as well) is to collaborate & today's set was billed as "Levi Washington & Friends", the latter of whom were Lorie-Lanie Shanks on vocals & Joshua Rydell on saxophone, both I gather being members of his Phoenix Collective which has transformed grassroots local music so much in the last couple of years (as we've reported in the magazine). It would seem that one of the many effects of his work in this area is the opportunity to forge now on stage collaborations & you can tell at once the calibre of the musicians involved: they seem to not only play together so seamlessly, but improvise & drive individual songs forward into new directions on the hoof. As ever with Levi, there is a previously unplayed track (I didn't hear him give it a title, so I can't tell you what it was called I'm afraid), funk, reggae, rock & lots of summer groove whatever the starting genre was.

Credit again to the live sound: Chris Field & Jeff Morris worked to help make Hannah's intimate songs work just as effectively in a park and melding together the actually rather disparate elements of Levi & Friends's arrangements so that one part did not overwhelm the others.

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