Caitlin Rose beams out across the Barfly audience with the beatific smile of one recently released from torment. "Did you guys know that in America you can't get pain relievers with codeine in them, without a prescription?" she says, marvelling at our liberal attitude to analgesia. "They work!" Sadly, by the end of the show, many of the audience feel similarly in need of pain relief, thanks to the most unpleasant sound balance afforded her band in the tiny upstairs room. There's no doubting the young country songwriter is qualified to headline this show in HMV's New Big Thing season, but when each beat of the kick-drum feels like being punched in the chest by a cruiserweight, it's hard to be swept away with enthusiasm.
Rose whips through a selection of songs from her debut album, Own Side Now. "Learning to Ride" and "New York City" are sweet, jog-along odes to being young and learning from your mistakes without too great a burden of guilt and shame, and by the end of the latter, she's loosening up and letting rip with the steelier edge of her vocals. The sound may be all to hell, but it's still possible to appreciate the neat interplay between the limpid fills of her red-jacketed lead guitarist and the lovely curlicues of her pedal-steel player. But "Shanghai Cigarettes", which should be one of the highlights, is killed by the overly enthusiastic, explosive drum intro.
Rose seems blissfully unaware of the problem, floating in a bubble of blithe bonhomie, telling terrible jokes that only work if you know thata Camaro is an American car, and playing occasional verses from a jocular work-in-progress called "Eating Myself to Death". At one point, she sheepishly offers to buy a spare beer off anyone in the audience for two quid, upping the bid to three when she gets no takers. "Four!" calls out someone, and sharp as a knife she fires back, "I don't have time to barter!" Clearly, the drugs haven't dulled her badinage.Reuse content