Live at Packhorse on Wednesday, 21st August 2002
James William Hindle's story reads like a classic rags to... er... slightly nicer rags tale. Originally from Leeds, things started to pick up after sending a cover of a John Denver tune to an American record label putting together a Denver tribute album. This led to a record deal which has so far yielded a couple of CDs packed with brooding intensity and lo-fo guitar acrobatics. And while he was able to hold the attention of the 40 or so people in the Packhorse, whether or not his brand of not-too-memorable (albeit emotionally charged) songs could command the same respect in a larger venue was in question. Still, an enjoyable enough listen which nicely set up the headline act.
Australian singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon has been touted in some quarters as 'the new Paul Kelly', a comment probably lost on those unfamiliar with that legendary Aussie songwriter. But when it comes to matching intensely hummable tunes with a stunning standard of lyricism, Hanlon is just about ready to match *any* of the great songwriters of our time, song for song. Tonight's set was drawn largely from his two CD releases to date, the 'Early Days' ep and his full-length debut 'Hello Stranger' (both available from www.candlerecords.com.au). Half of the set consisted of just Darren and his guitar, while for the other half he was joined by a bassist and drummer.
He managed to win over the crowd immediately with funny between-song banter and enlightening comments about the inspiration between certain lines in songs (e.g. a line in 'Operator... Get Me Sweden' being about a 300-year-old ship currently preserved at a museum in Stockholm). His affable Aussie charm had everyone smiling when introducing 'Cast of Thousands' as being about the 'good feeling you get when you visit an ex- in hospital'. As for the songs themselves, major highlights were the gorgeous 'He Loves You Too, You Know', 'Video Store', 'Punk's Not Dead' and a banjo-led 'Falling Aeroplanes'. An encore of 'The Kickstand Song' (about the inventor of motorbike kickstands: chorus - 'what joy it'll bring, a piece of metal and a spring') was enough to send everyone home happy.
An ability to mix the more comic elements of his songs ('Punk's Not Dead' suggests 'never mind the bollocks, here's your cup of tea') with real-life observation and heartbreaking honesty (as on the gorgeous lament 'The Last Night of Not Knowing You') makes the live (and recorded) Darren Hanlon experience something very special indeed. Anyone with a love of good ol' songwriting in the traditional sense will *love* this guy - go to www.candlerecords.com.au, buy his CDs and make him a star. You know it makes sense.