Baskery + Dave O’Grady @ The Ironworks, Oswestry – Saturday 25th August 2012

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Review by Will HarrisTo some, southern rock from Sweden might sound about as likely as midsummer snow in Alabama, but sure enough it exists, tonight manifesting itself in female trio Baskery, as part of the final leg of their European tour before returning to Stockholm.

Opening for them is Irish singer-songwriter Dave O’Grady, who, though faced with a room of only 40-odd listeners when he first starts softly strumming some bright chords, immediately fills every empty space with his warm voice as it glides in. As more punters arrive throughout his set, his utterly captivating brand of Americana and easy rapport with the audience win each member one by one, culminating in a willingly accepted invitation to everyone to join him in an a cappella closing chorus of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’.

The audience has doubled by the time Baskery take to the stage, and with it the volume, as an electric distorted banjo riff opens to a three-part country harmony, before the rhythm section tears into opener ‘Here to Pay My Dues’ for a toe-tappin’, foot-stompin’ thriller of a number. Following on with ‘The Washing Song’, a modern reinterpretation of the traditional drinking song, this bit of folky fun is met with big cheers from the audience.

By the time the trio are midway through their set, their versatility is something to be admired: from Dolly Parton-ish cries, to country songs with poppy hooks, to the most thrilling electric blues performances, there’s a little bit of every Americana songbook in here. That’s not to mention the musicianship: the banjo player really knows how to shred it, and those lilting country harmonies ring like a bell. What’s more, they’re clearly enjoying themselves, jumping around and heads rocking, and it’s infectious: on furious rocked-up bluegrass numbers like ‘One Horse Down’, it seems no one can help but clap, holler and wail along.

On the other side of the coin, Baskery’s music isn’t going to blow anyone away with its originality, and harsher critics might say that there’s little mileage in it. But the pleasure here is in the participation, and when you’re limping home on an aching leg, following over an hour of energetically stamping your foot, who cares?