The Loose Salute, Borderline, London
Wednesday 02 April 2008
The Loose Salute are one of the few country-style UK bands who might leave a real Southern honky-tonk dive alive. Where most alt. country fellow-travellers favour songwriting styles of stark desolation, this band communicate pleasure at the sheer good luck of being alive, through danceable, steel guitar-heavy pop.
Main songwriter Ian McCutcheon, ex-drummer with Mojave 3, is the only member with much previous form, but where his old band had hushed reverence to their sources, The Loose Salute look back to Nineties Brit-country pioneers The Rockingbirds.
The added ingredient that may shoot them to success is singer Lisa Billson. Exuberantly physical and flirtatious, her sultry, low country moan on "Why'd We Fight" grows into a climactic bellow on "Turn the Radio Up". This upcoming single sees Charlotte King enter the action. Whether running on the spot and literally shaking a leg during "Death Club", blowing kisses at the crowd, or singing haunting mermaid notes and tapping xylophone chimes, she is the loosest cannon in The Loose Salute, and a perfect foil to Billson. They interact as if on a great girls' night out, and are clearly excited by their own music, providing bubbling energy on stage, without ever quite losing control.
When McCutcheon steps from the drums to sing the lead himself, there is a contrasting diffidence in his soft voice and manner. But as a counterpoint to the women, this works. Songwriting is new to him, too. But promisingly, a new song not on Tuned to Love is among the night's best. "Karate Chop" is a ballad clear as glass in its pure construction, which Linda Ronstadt would have been begging for back in Laurel Canyon in 1971, when such things were last in vogue. "Ship on the Ocean", too, has the lush craft of an AOR radio favourite.
But it is when The Loose Salute let themselves go that they look like stars. "Through the Stratosphere to the Bars" sees Billson arch her back and half-close her eyes like a country chanteuse, before letting that lung-busting bellow out, as lap-steel guitar notes bend around her. "Nudie", about a soulful stripper, sees the band swirl noisily round its whisky-soaked narrative. The big time beckons.
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