Posted 22 January 2017 by Adz Carter
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One of Newcastle’s most eagerly awaited releases, Cornstalk’s debut album ‘Pennies Fall’ had it’s official launch last night at The Cambridge Hotel, with Cornstalk headlining one hell of a triple bill that included Kenny Jewell, and The Ride Ons.

Since performing professionally since the age of 10, singer and guitarist Kenny Jewell is now well and truly something of an institution in the Newcastle music scene. After many years playing bass for many gigs with The Screaming Jets and Nat Col and The Kings (led by fellow guitar prodigy Nathan Cavaliri), Jewell has now shifted his focus back to guitar, and towards solo performances. Within a few notes, it seemed that this was a natural fit, and that Jewell was the perfect choice to kick off proceedings in a big way. After a bluesy stompy instrumental intro, Jewell took to the mic like a man possessed by Satan himself with some gravelly vocals that would make Tom Waites jealous. Jewell made the 1975 Bad Company classic ‘Feel Like Making Love’ sound like a blues standard, and put a John Lee Hooker type of treatment on The Doors classic ‘Love Me Two Times’, giving it a big kick in the guts, making it sound grittier than Doors guitarist Robby Krieger ever did. Right throughout the sweet sounding set, Kenny Jewell pulled out countless killer blues riffs, utilising his instrument like he was brandishing a weapon (especially with the use of slide guitar on the pre Stevie Nicks era Fleetwood Mac song ‘My Baby’s Good To Me’) setting a great tone, and standard, for the rest of the night.
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After hearing a big buzz around The Ride Ons for a while now, I was looking forward to seeing them, but didn’t know exactly what to expect. Sometimes I’m skeptical of bands without a bass player, but even from the first song, this trio had such a catchy swing and such an infectious familiar sound, that being bass-less was something that could be overlooked. There was an Eagles meets AC/DC feel to all of it, with some damn fine drumming, great guitar work from both guitarists, and perfect rock n’ roll style vocals from all three members. The rapid fire tunes were played with such gusto it was very hard not to get caught up in it, but a few songs in, the band really hit their stride, with some even ballsier beats and riffs. It seems they took the advice of their following song ‘Man Up’, which was a distinct standout from this set. From this point on, The Ride Ons seemed determined to keep upping the ante and the tempo, and as the lead singer sung a song giving the instruction to  “Go where the money is”, this band were starting to seem pretty money themselves. To start with, there were enough toe tappin’, head noddin’ melodies to keep the momentum going in fine fashion, and keep the crowd well and truly warmed up. But by the end of the set, there was a lot more of a fast pace in proceedings, as the blistering set didn’t just warm the crowd up, it left them in a hot sweaty mess.
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Upon suddenly appearing onstage as if by magic, it was immediately clear that something was very different about Cornstalk. It seems that this beast of a band had got wet and multiplied like gremlins since the last time I saw them, as this live incarnation had turned the six piece into a twelve piece. This meant that Chris Hamall (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Shayne Hamall (vocals/percussion), Kane Starkey (lead guitar/vocals), Dave Carter (bass), Ben Pettett (keys), Lyle Goodman (drums) were joined by a trombone, trumpet, and sax player, two backup vocalists, and a third guitarist, which not only gave the whole show a bigger look and feel, but of course an unmistakably bigger sound. This meant that the simply hypnotic ‘One Chance’ sounded even more grandiose and epic than ever before. It was apparent right from the get go ­that this non-dirty dozen had come to The Cambo to play clean, and were so polished that they were in sync at all times. This big band made the night more like a big event, which was very fitting, as this was the launch for Cornstalk’s debut album ‘Pennies Fall’. 

Most of the numbers played were off the album and translated extremely well live. The title track showcased some killer keyboard in this live version, and ‘Travelling Song’ also highlighted the songs beautiful keyboard melody. Although it was magnificent multi instrumentation all round, the musicianship from each and every member of the band was flawless. Great examples of this were ‘Intuition’, which featured special guest P.J Kevo on harmonica (and also perfectly showcased the horn section), as well as ‘Like You’, which made excellent use of the backup vocalists. All of this complimented the extremely emotive songs exceptionally well, and the passion in the performances of ‘Forgive’, ‘Shut My Door’ (about a disfunctional family), ‘Great Love’ (which lead singer Chris Hamall wrote about his niece), and ‘Brother Is’ really made the lyrics leap out and head straight to the heart. 
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Cornstalk also showed a grittier grungier side with ‘Back Off’, then in a stark contrast, played the very aptly titled ‘Sweet Song’ that lead guitarist Kane Starkey wrote about his wife. Throughout the entire set, there was an incredibly great response from the crowd, and it was obvious that the band fed off that energy throughout, as all twelve members looked like they were having an absolute ball. The set was rounded out in a suitably grand fashion with a very faithful version of ‘Remedy’ by The Black Crowes, who clearly have an influence on Cornstalk’s sound. Just like the original studio recording, this take on the song featured breathtaking backup vocals, and was quite simply white soul at it’s finest. 

This incredible cover saw the band go out on an undeniable high note, and after leaving the stage, it would’ve been completely understandable if they’d called it a night right there and then. But being true showmen (and women), and using the old showbiz maxim of “Always give the people what they want”, Cornstalk came back to appease the loud and proud crowd who were all screaming out “MORE!” in unison. The encore consisted of just one song, but hearing the heartfelt tale ‘Come Together’ (Cornstalk’s newest song) was a definite delight. This saw Cornstalk go out on a high note for second time around, and made sure that the entire band, and the entire audience leave with big toothy grins from ear to ear. Due to the response that Cornstalk got from the opening notes of the first song, right through to the last crash of the cymbal on the last song, the band are no doubt more energised, and will follow this momentum up with many more regular shows (hint hint guys...).

Oh, and what’s the album sound like? Watch this space...

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