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:: King Street Hobo :: The Unfortunates ::
09 September 2006 / Fuel, Withington / Manchester
By James Hinchcliffe

The quaint, charming music-loving people of Red Deer Folk Club seem to be building up a head of steam both locally and beyond - for now they're still low-key enough to remain upstairs at Withington's tiny Fuel Cafe, combining live acts with the latest sounds to prick the ears of affable, enthusiastic label head DJ Dunk Le Chunk. Best of all (for those of us lucky enough to be in the know) they still don't even charge an entrance fee for the pleasure of their company. The venue is perfectly suited and, well, perfect - wood-heavy, softly lit, candles on tables, label banners draping the windows....there's even a sofa. The MEN Arena this isn't.

All eyes turn to the corner of the room where the unassuming and marvellously named King Street Hobo (assuming he refers to the posh Manchester shopping strip where you've an even money chance of spotting a Man U player or Coronation Street favourite, should you be flush or voyeuristic enough to venture that way) has taken his place. He's quickly impressive, conjuring up lightning-quick picks of his guitar and with a voice just the right side of hushed expertly complimenting his tough (yet never ragged) folk style. The quality just comes and comes right from the get-go - indeed, from such close quarters it's difficult for me to imagine I have ever seen anyone play the acoustic guitar quite so well. The songs - quick, emotionally-charged acoustic ballads - are more than capable of keeping in touch with his dazzling playing. This is something a bit different and the glut of male singer/songwriters currently doing the rounds shouldn't faze this guy one iota; he's quite clearly ready for lift-off. I'll wager this particular hobo will be dining out aplenty in no time.

The Unfortunates either took different routes to the venue or are using artistic licence as by the time we're ready for kick-off there is just one of them (of course it's the latter). The gig flyer hinted at a Smog-a-like act and this seems on the money right down to the affected American accent that begins the first tune unaccompanied, before fierce acoustic strumming joins the party. It isn't original but his impassioned playing and slightly more nasal Mark Eitzel-esque-but-without-the-range voice do enough to carry what are engaging songs/stories. A diversionary foray through Tom Waits' "A little rain" on the organ initially seems either brave or foolish in the sense that it could prove fatal to the remainder of his set, shining as it must a powerful, unforgiving torchlight on his own material. Happily it stands up pretty well to this scrutiny. He's clearly got something to add to the perpetually congested Americana canon but just how much remains to be seen. I'll be watching with interest.

(pic - KSH website - by Shirlaine Forrest)

King Street Hobo Web
Red Deer Club / MySpace
The Unfortunates

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