“Good evening all. We are The Grahams from Nashville, Tennessee” Alyssa Graham told us clearly from under her wide brimmed hat.
She was in the Errigle Inn, Belfast, with husband Doug and drummer Mike Meadows, playing the Real Music Club. It was the penultimate night of their tour.
Alyssa and Doug Graham have known each other since they were children, became sweethearts in their teens, husband and wife later on. Indeed their 18th wedding anniversary is on the cards. To look at them you wouldn’t think it. She’s a dark haired beauty and he’s all handsome with one of those magnificent beards. ( Mike – you’re lovely too.)
Mr. Meadows fully utilised those drums in “A Good Man.” With a drum brush in one hand and a broomstick in the other he helped turn the song into a good sing-a-long, which was no mean feat on this rainy cold night with a quiet Belfast audience. “Blow Wind Blow” from their recent Glory Bound album on the other hand was more a number to be listened to. A woman looks in the mirror and sees the faces of her family staring back at her. Her mother, her father, a much missed brother “In 2003 he went to Iraq, I still feel him place his hand on my back”. There was quiet in the room as it ended, before the deserved warm applause kicked in. Nobody wanted to interrupt this.
With all those years behind them, they can be known to bicker a bit on stage she told us. They did a wee bit actually. “No honey I can’t turn my sound down…”, “what are you doin’ over there Doug, that’s so strange.” It reminded me of the Handsome Family’s Brett and Rennie Sparks. With all that touring together, all that writing together, all that living together. It brings a certain element of home to their show, albeit the home of a touring band.
“Revival Time” from their debut album Riverman’s Daughter was another sing-a-long. “We need your help” Alyssa told us. “Will y’all join in?” The room responded with a resounding silence. Doug assured us it was easy, he started to tell us the lines we were to repeat. “Get in line, get in line, put your hand in mine … what’s the next line Alyssa?” Alyssa looked up from her guitar. “It’s revival time Doug” she shouted out. The dye was cast. They launched into this humdinger of a number, appropriately heavy on revivalist zeal, raucous harmonies and some superb guitar from Mr. Graham.
They were kind; they told us we were great. To be fair we did try, as they bashed and shook and slid and hollered and picked and played up there; we joined in. They told us we beat Galway’s crowd from the night before. Crushed ‘em apparently. To be honest though I’m still hung up on Doug Graham’s guitar in this song. I could listen to that all night. But yeah, Galway, you suck.
They gave us one cover, Alejandro Escovido’s achingly beautiful “Broken Bottle”, and they did it justice. Their harmonies were rich and warm, while Alyssa’s big passionate voice carried the feeling right through to the back of the room.
Then they came off stage for “Glory Bound”, the title track of that new album. They wrote the song inspired by Woody Guthrie and rightly brought it out to the people. They made us sing again, but it was OK because there were train noises involved and that made all the difference. It was the loudest yet, with audience clapping, laughing, chair dancing and the occasional holler. Excellent, excellent stuff.