Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood


 I suppose singer-songwriters would traditionally use either their birth name or a stage name for their musical career, but I do like the trend nowadays for more arcane or abstract stage names (more akin to band names) like Iron & Wine, Bat for Lashes and Weyes Blood. Natalie Mering’s project, pronounced “wise blood” (as in the first novel of Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor), arrived last month at the release of second album Front Row Seat to Earth, and the likes of Pitchfork and The Guardian have been raving about it. I feel like one of the lucky few to have the opportunity of catching tonight’s sell-out gig at a venue as intimate as The Castle Hotel.

In dark months like November, watching overseas solo musicians perform, I sometimes find myself hoping they are okay and not too cold and lonely on their travels. I have no such concerns for Mering tonight, though, because not only is she playing our friendly and cosy Castle but she has brought a full band of musical mates with her for this European tour. The set begins with ‘Diary’, during which Mering, in an attractive nocturnal jacket the likes of which I’ve probably not seen on a musician since Robert Pollard’s wizard cloak, is instrument-free, at least for this first song, to focus fully on her vocals. It’s a voice I like very much, and one that makes me think of singers like Joan Baez, Sandy Denny, Shirley Collins and others who sing in quite a traditional folk style.

But there’s something rather more cosmic and otherworldly, albeit subtly, about Mering’s use of keyboards and technology that navigate the Weyes Blood vessel into territory I’d not previously chartered. Whether the view outside is starry and outer-space-black or whether we’re floating on an earthly melody I usually cannot tell, but even if first impressions might meet a thin layer of sonic frost vocally, there is comfort and warmed cockles to be found from further listening, and soon everything soothes. Frequent intermissions by way of songs led by Mering’s guitar draw a medieval sea-mist towards us and acoustic waves lap up against our transportation as we refuel. Following the loose and energetic drum fills of ‘Do You Need My Love’, drums, bass and keyboards then take a rest while the easy-going and cordial Mering plucks her way through the longing of ‘Cardamom’: “In this world I am not what I seem to be/ I dare you to get to know me.”

I head home with the new record under my arm and look forward to future adventures with this interesting musical explorer.

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Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.