My Shrewsbury reviewer James Warman enjoys a little bit of Texas in Shrewsbury at a Jarrod Dickenson gig 'Live in the House' at St Mary's Church. Picture Credit: Jon Morris.
When you think of churches and music, you probably conjure up images of heavenly choirs, stirring organ recitals, and charming chamber orchestras, but for a while now St Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury, and Shrewsbury Abbey have been playing host to a very different style of music, thanks to Graham Jenkins at “Live In The House”.
Concert promoter Graham, his business and his legacy over at the music and comedy venue Henry Tudor House is worthy of a whole other article (watch this space!). For now, I'm keen to share my experience of a gig I had the pleasure of watching last night in St Mary’s Church.
Jarrod Dickenson is a Texas singer-songwriter and, yesterday evening, he and his band entertained us in this magnificent town centre church, with songs from his new album 'Big Talk', as well as songs from his two previous albums and a beautiful cover of a John Lennon / Beatles song as part of his encore.
Before the gig I had a chance to speak to Jarrod, in the vestry which was doubling as the green room for the evening.
Jarrod hails from Texas but is now based in Tennessee. His current UK tour kicked off last week in Brighton, taking in Norwich and London before reaching us here in Shrewsbury, his fifth time performing here. After which Jarrod and his band head north to Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin.
“Belfast is a sort of homecoming gig, as my wife Claire, who is also in the band, comes from there," he tells me.
He admits his four-piece guitar-based band are hard to categorise or label: "If I were playing my songs in the 70’s I’d be called Rock n’ Roll, but today? I guess Americana is something people have associated me with, but I don’t write for a particular style or genre, I just write.
“I think audiences here in the UK are more musically informed, and attentive. They are at my gigs because they want to listen to my songs. Back home, for most people, it’s just a night out with a bit of background music thrown in."
Jarrod says he has his dad to thank for most of his musical influences: “I grew up listening to my dad’s music, the Beatles, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones, James Taylor, and later Tom Petty. Although I’m not a Blues singer, the Blues have also influenced me, people like Howlin’ Wolf and BB King to name but two.”
On stage, Jarrod’s charm and easy-going personality ensured the audience quickly warmed to him and the interaction between him and the crowd soon became a two-way thing.
The music itself was a mix of slow, tender pieces and upbeat, foot-stomping good old Rock n’ Roll. The band are all very talented musicians in their own right, with JP Ruggieri (on guitar) and David Ford (keyboard, bass, percussion) providing the support before the whole band got up on stage. And Claire’s vocals added an extra dimension to the songs with her beautiful harmonies and solo pieces.
For me, there were a number of standout songs for the evening. 'Buckle Under Pressure' is a rip-roaring two fingers up to Jarrod’s former record company from whom he has just emerged from a year and a half legal battle with (Jarrod won).
'If You’re Looking' was co-written with Claire during the first COVID lockdown and is probably my favourite of all his songs. It’s upbeat melody and optimism is catchy, and I defy anyone not to be tapping their foot along to it on the first listen.
'Bamboozled' is a bluesy commentary on the state of American society under the Trump administration. It’s opening guitar lick precedes a bass and drum intro and is as hard hitting as a hammer striking an anvil with the whole song evoking the sense of oppression and chain gangs.
'Goodnight' is a beautiful waltz telling the story of Jarrod’s grandparents. This song, played as part of his encore, moved the audience, both physically, as we swayed in time to the music, and emotionally, with its touching lyrics.
To hear Jarrod’s music head over to his website jarroddickenson.com but I have a feeling this won’t be the last time he’ll be in Shrewsbury, so check out Live In The House for details of when he’s likely to return and more exciting music at St Mary’s Church and the Abbey – www.liveinthehouse.com