Tuesday, 9 April, 2024 in Music

Into Live Music Review: Brown Horse

Concert: Brown Horse
Venue: Glasgow Hug & Pint
Date: 6 March 2024

Like the original Cavern Club in Liverpool, London’s Hope and Anchor and Glasgow’s own King Tuts, Stereo & Broadcast, The Hug & Pint is a basement venue, and for some reason, this always adds an extra sense of adventure to any gig I attend at such a room. 

The two bands that played tonight only added to that sense of anticipation.

First up were Puppy Teeth. If having a unique sound gives a band a better chance of achieving success, then the Edinburgh four-piece are already halfway there. Playing a short set to an increasingly attentive audience, they looked cooler than a polar bear in an ice bath. Every song they served up was worth a listen, no duds at all though A Tune and their first single Black Honey both deserve special mentions.

And the sound? With the virtuoso guitar work, variable speed time signatures coupled with high pitched female vocals, Puppy Teeth are what King Crimson would have sounded like if Julia Jacklin had been their lead singer. No, really…a band to watch out for. 

Next we had Brown Horse with Glasgow being the first date on their first UK headline tour, following the recent release of their excellent debut album Reservoir.

They hail from Norfolk and while I’m not sure what a typical Norfolk band should look or sound like, I suspect they wouldn’t look or sound like Brown Horse. Imagine The Band, with two additional female members, and you are getting there. It’s a great look.

More importantly, the sound that the band creates is wonderful. From the opening song Stealing Horses, those around me were captivated by their world-weary playing which aligned perfectly to the vocals of Patrick Turner.

Much has been written about the alt-country sound and ’70’s country rock influences in their music – and you can clearly feel the spirit of The Band, Dylan, and Gram Parsons, as well as more up to date artists like Silver Jews & Uncle Tupelo in their music.

It may be that my Celtic ears have become tuned by years of listening to some of the best Scottish artists – however on songs like Reservoir there are also definite nods to Paolo Nutini. Moreover, throughout the gig, Turner has the look and vocal delivery of Mike Scott, which is never a bad thing.

You can tell when you listen to the album that these are guys that care about the music they are making. When you see them live, what also comes across is how attuned they are with each other, almost like a musical sixth sense. In addition, I can’t remember the last concert I was at where there was so much interchanging of instruments on stage.

Turner plays guitar & violin, Rowan Braham piano and accordion, Emma Tovell was on lap steel and bass guitar, Nyle Holihan bass and lead guitar, and Phoebe Troup on bass, acoustic guitar & banjo. The only band member who didn’t swap instruments was percussionist Ben Auld, and I’m pretty sure he would have done so had the stage layout had allowed him to!  There is always a danger that this much rotation could affect the overall flow of a performance. Thankfully it didn’t.


There were a couple of new songs played which sounded excellent, particularly Holy Smokes with its distinct hoedown feel.  However, the majority of the setlist was drawn, understandably, from the band’s impressive debut album.

The highpoint of the set for me was the track Paul Gilley, written about the songwriter who despite passing away unheralded at the tender age of 27, was later credited with writing the words to a couple of Hank Williams finest songs, including I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. There aren’t that many ‘perfect’ compositions out there but I reckon Paul Gilley is one of them. The lyrics are both a homage to Gilley and a cry for help for him to help the writer (Braham) get to a better place.

“If Paul Gilley wrote the words to the saddest song that Elvis ever heard/Maybe he could’ve worked something from the feeling that I’ve got”.

Well crafted, a beautiful co-vocal between Winter and Troup, and an aching musical performance from the band, particularly the Stetson wearing Braham on accordion, & Tovell on lap steel. The song is so good, it would sit very comfortably on The Band’s debut album Music From The Big Pink or Dylan’s Basement Tapes.

Although it was a gig that was all about the songs, Turner did find the time for a bit of inter-song chat with the crowd, informing us that  “This is our first trip to Scotland – and before tonight’s gig we managed to take in a few of the local landmarks, namely the Asda store in Dumbarton”.

What did you buy?” asked a member of the audience. 

Turner replied, “Some Lemsip and a blow-up bed for the touring van.

Rock & Roll or what?

If anything, the songs got stronger as the set progressed. There was another excellent new tune called Wipers (very alt-Americana) and then a couple of their best album tracks to end the set.

The band have indicated in interviews that, in addition to their 70s country rock & alt Americana influences, UK indie rock of the ’90’s was also an influence on their sound. Shoot Back has a feel of The Bends era Radiohead and there were a couple of lead guitar solos throughout the set that had the distinct notes of Cast, Longpigs and Oasis.

Their final offering Outtakes on the other hand, very much nodded towards lo-fi/country Springsteen, with a feel of Evan Dando at his slacker best also in there, especially in the lyrics.

“I’m the outtakes of an actor trying to make herself cry, I can’t sleep unless I’m weak from work/I can’t sleep unless I haven’t slept in days”

We thought that was that, however after leaving the stage (not easy for a six-piece band at The Hug), they returned, much to the delight of a very receptive audience. Turner mentioned that, as there was a very loud air-conditioning unit in the stage exit room, they had no idea whether the crowd were cheering for an encore, however they decided to come back on anyway!

To put the band’s mind at ease, the audience were very pleased to get one more song. “I hope it’s Bloodstain” someone next to me whispered and indeed it was.

Bloodstain is like The Waterboys at full pelt, with bits of Crazy Horse thrown in for good measure. A perfect way to sign off for the evening.

It might have been Brown Horse’s first gig in Scotland, but if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be their last.

For more on the band, head to their website here

Brian Davidson





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