James Apollo: Sheffield Grapes

This is another quality bill brought to you by the good people at Wagon Wheel Media. The Clench are a local 6-piece who play Southern-fried boogie with a Northern twist. Their unpretentious, unfussy rock is dominated by lead guitar and slide guitar with a workmanlike rhythm section chugging away below. They dedicated ‘Road House’ to Patrick Swayze and it was another good example of their good time music for good ole boys.

Within 10 seconds of starting their first song Killing Fields of Ontario reminded me of Bright Eyes (which isn’t a bad thing) and as the set unfolded further dashes of Ry Cooder and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy were heard. The frontmen swapped between guitar, banjo, mandolin and keyboards to produce a sumptuous set rich in variety, texture and nuance. On a couple of occasions all 4 musicians sang beautiful a capella breaks which tingled the spine. Their debut album is slated for release early next year and should be on every discerning music lover’s wish list for 2010.

Looking like a cross between Jack Nance and Crispin Glover, Brooklyn resident James Apollo creates a suitably cinematic mood full of Cinemascoped songs and Vistavision vignettes. Brushed drums and stand-up bass provide a sympathetic base onto which James paints his bruised and broken tales of loss and guilt. The majority of the material was culled from his latest album ‘How Hard A Heart Of Gold Can Be’ and, although it won’t catapult him into the Premier League, it does deserves a much wider audience.