Charlie Dore has enjoyed a fascinating career as a singer-songwriter. Back in the seventies she was briefly touted as the new British Emmylou Harris. It didn’t quite work out that way. She never quite seemed to deliver what the record moguls required.
It didn’t bother her loyal fans but didn’t boost her career either. Happily Charlie was left to develop her own distinctive style and recent albums have brought her a raft of new devotees.
And no wonder. At Forest Arts on Saturday she showed what a great performer she is. Her current band, The Hula Valley Orchestra, features the impressive line-up of Dudley Phillips on double bass, Jake Walker on fiddle and Steve Simpson on guitar.
With Dore as a confident and accomplished front-woman, their performance was truly exceptional.
The concert encompassed material that included the vintage Americana of Jimmie Rodgers alongside Charlie’s own astutely observed and cannily written material.
There was the hit of course - Pilot of the Airwaves - the enduring radio classic she wrote way back in 1979 - but most of the set came from albums like Cuckoo Hill, Sleep All Day and the recent Hula Valley Songbook in which she covered the American hillbilly and western swing favourites of the 1930s.
So we had great contemporary numbers like Mr Williams, Cleaning Out My House and Maximum Bob alongside Rodgers lost classic from a bygone age Prairie Lullabye.
There was also a tantalising taster of her forthcoming album Cheapskate Lullabyes. Whether there’s a theme going on here with all this sleeping all day and songs designed to send you into the land of nod seemingly everywhere you look, I’m not quite sure. But if there is I’m certain the dreams will be sweet.
An accomplished actress who has worked extensively on stage and screen, Dore knows how to deliver a show and deftly weaves engaging anecdotes into her gently informative and entertaining between-songs narration.
The only downside to this gig was that Simpson was clearly unwell and suffering from a heavy cold. The poor man had to retreat to the back of the stage several times for fear that a cough might eclipse some of the subtler musical moments.