BREVIEW: Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17

Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Review

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Words by Ed King / Pics by Denise Wilson

“We are a live act, that’s very important.”

God love the Kitchen Garden Café, but its ‘intimate setting’ can make crossing the room a fearsome journey. Mic stands, wires, pedals and feet. The world’s most tiny ukulele. There’s danger at every footstep. I’ve never fallen into a stage before (off, many times) but if it happens tonight I won’t be too surprised.Birmingham Review

Has to be… for the performers too, with even a solo endevour bringing you mere feet from the front row. No space for shrinking violets. No space. But Worry Dolls have an on the road confidence, embracing pan Atlantic production and a pretty relentless tour schedule. As their latest single, ‘Miss You Already’, opens their set tonight, the simple and stripped back country puts a sea of bobbing heads reassuringly in motion.

Lucky 13 on a 25 date UK tour, Birmingham is getting its second taste of the London based duo tonight – with Worry Dolls having previously played a support set across the road at the Hare & Hounds. Their debut album, Go Get Gone, was released through Bread & Butter Records on 25th January, with Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones jumping in the Worrymobile (Jones’ near airtight/packed out car) the very next day. Amongst other things the Worry Dolls’ debut LP is a litany of travel metaphors, with the pens behind it seemingly living every word they write, and as ‘Endless Road’ gets its dual delivery off stage (the first track on the LP and the third in tonight’s set list) I think of busy tour posters and the faceless stale smell of countless hotel rooms. ‘Where I am is where I call home’, and sometimes that’s all we have.

Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewIt is also at this point I really notice the vocals, with nuances in each voice both supportive and strong. This didn’t come across as clearly on the album – prompting me to wonder why the ‘love of harmony’ was so prevalent in their promo blurb. But as track four, a challenge to “stand up for yourself”, is beautifully belted off stage, I get it. The absurdly, almost dangerously infectious ‘Bless Your Heart’ is played next (ingraining itself in my brain by the morning) and nails the lid firm on the corpse of this question. Although I have a feeling there’s more to this song than just “a nice way of telling someone they’re an idiot.”

Worry Dolls are, according to them, “not country.” But to most of the world outside of Nashville they probably are. There is a deep folk root in their songwriting and an often beautiful lament you could refer to as ‘ballad’, but as Zoe Nichol sings solo on ‘She Don’t Live Here’ I am half watching her reflection and half looking for a beer and whiskey chaser to sink into. It’s not Shania Twain wrapped in a confederacy flag, but it feels pretty country to me.

Yet despite their undeniable affinity to the genre (and travelling to the home of the Grand Ole Opry to write and record their debut album) Go Get Gone was produced by Neilson Hubbard – a man with stronger rock credits than country, who was once himself signed to Adam ‘Counting Crows’ Duritz’s E Pluribus Unum imprint.Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Review

“If we wanted to make a country album in Nashville we wouldn’t have picked him,” explains Rosie Jones. “He’s really great at finding the thing that makes an artist what they are and stripping it back and simplifying it to only what is needed. He doesn’t do big country productions, ours isn’t a big country production by any stretch of the imagination.” It is by mine. “If you go to Nashville now and you hear what is considered country… we are not country,” adds Jones. “We are inspired by country, and love the more traditional instrumentation like pedal steel and fiddle.”

Hailing from various corners of the UK, and first meeting in Liverpool, both Rosie Jones and Zoe Nicols live, eat and sleep in London. Last time I looked there were studios in the capital, so if you’re ‘not country’ why travel over 4,000 miles to write and record your debut?

“Nashville was a dream for me when I was growing up,” tells Jones, “all the music that inspired me came from there. When I met Zoe she shared that dream, so we went out there first just to experience it and we ended up doing some co-writing out there.”

“It was like going back to when we first started writing,” continues Zoe Nichol, “like when we just kids, when you just have songs pouring out of you because you haven’t got anything else in your life that gets in the way of that. When we went to Nashville I got that feeling back. Living in a place like London it gets suppressed a little because of everything else that’s going on around you.”

Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewAnd that was strong enough to send you across the Atlantic? “That’s why we felt so drawn to Nashville and had to go back. It felt like such a natural thing to do, it wasn’t like ‘where shall we record our album’ – it was calling. We had those ten amazing days (on Worry Dolls’ first visit to the Tennessee capital) and wrote eight songs, then had to go back and finish what we’d started.”

Being inspired by a place and not the connotations of a place is something I can relate to, and I’m sure most people have corners of their heart that only they understand. But my initial response to Go Get Gone (and you can read my Birmingham Review of the album here) was that is lacked a certain identity; not that it was a badly produced record, and the songwriting is super in parts, just perhaps the studio didn’t give these peripatetic songwriters enough credence. When you’re half way round the world from your support network things don’t always go to plan.

“That’s completely not it,” cements Zoe Nicol. “We completely stayed true to the individual sound the two of use wanted. People were there and collaborated with us, but we made sure we protected the sound we wanted.” I feel Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham Reviewpresumptuous, rude and not 100% finished with my question. “A lot of our friends and family were worried because we’d put every single penny of our savings into the album and they thought it could go completely wrong. That we could end up with just a Nashville band playing a Nashville sound; more country, more commercial.”

So there was an element of doubt? “We were both certain it was the right thing to do,” continues Nicol, “we put a lot of research in and spent two whole months planning the trip ourselves. The producer (Neilson Hubbard) we found was completely opposite to what people might have expected.”

“Our producer was careful of that too,” adds Rosie Jones. “That was people’s fear, that we would go out there and get some Nashville band to play on our songs and it wouldn’t be us. We’ve both been instrumentalists for a long time, neither of us were ever just singers, so we were adamant we were going to do everything live together.”

I wrote in my review of Go Get Gone, ‘I believe live performances are where this body of work will really take shape’. This is the line that brought me into this room tonight. My crippling need for context is what has plonked me in front of the Worry Dolls, casting aspersions that are quickly shot down in flames. I am, at least, half right.

Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17 / Denise Wilson - Birmingham ReviewMy music tastes range ‘from Tori Amos to techno’ (a retort I’ve used many times before) but I will never be a country music fan, apparently. Or have the same yearning for hay bales and bluegrass that some old colonials still do. Jackson Browne is as close as I get. But by the time ‘Things Always Work Out’ gets aired, somewhere towards the tail end of the second set, I am singing along to a song I didn’t think I’d heard enough to remember. And whilst I’m writing this feature I’m listening to the album, and not for the reference points.

But Worry Dolls aren’t country, apparently. So I guess it’s a moot point. And as I squeaked out in defense, when my what-happened-in-Nashville assumptions were being fervently rebuffed, getting to see music played “allows me to understand” what’s being presented more so than on a recording. So as I began with a quote from one Worry Doll, I shall close with more pertinent words from the other.

“There’s an energy that you get live, the communication is just different.”

Worry Dolls are touring across the UK until 30th April, playing their final date at The Live Room in Saltaire, Bradford. For more on Worry Dolls, including their full tour dates and online purchase points, visit

For more from the Kitchen Garden Café, including a full events programme and menus, visit

For more from Bread & Butter Music, visit

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BPREVIEW: Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17

BPREVIEW: Worry Dolls @ Kitchen Garden Café 22.02.17

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Words by Ed King

On Wednesday 22nd February, Worry Dolls perform at the Kitchen Garden Café (Kings Heath) coming to Birmingham as part of their national headline tour.Birm_Prev-logo-MAIN

Doors open at 7:30pm with tickets priced at £7adv / £8. For direct gig information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Worry Dolls, aka Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones, met through the Liverpool music scene and a shared love of the lighter side to the Cohen Brothers. Although it may have been more about the Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Forming their own ‘contemporary bluegrass band’, Nichol and Jones started out playing covers and paying homage, with artists including Nickel Creek, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, Dixie Chicks and Gillian Welch cited as ALBUM: Go Get Gone – Worry Dollsinfluences.

But no Americana dream is complete without a road trip and the ‘almost telepathically linked songwriting force’ pootled across the pond, to Nashville, to record their debut album. Go Get Gone was released through Bread & Butter Records on 27th January – to read a Birmingham Review of the album, click here or on the sleeve artwork.

Having been on the (British) road since the day after the album’s release, Worry Dolls are quite literally living their dream – no doubt with all the dark turns and happy accidents you can expect from the unexpected. But Go Get Gone appears to have been a brave endevour from the start.

Birmingham get’s it’s chance to see Worry Dolls on tour date lucky 13, before Nicol and Jones continue their somewhat head spinning criss-cross of the country. And Kitchen Garden Cafe is arguably one of the better second city settings for some good ol’ fashioned stripped back, bluegrass and country.

But with 25 dates to play until this year’s summer festival season, when another significant wheel starts turning, there’s probably not too much time to notice. Life on the open road can be a cruel and kind mistress, so I remember. And save those diary blues for album two.

‘Miss You Already’ – Worry Dolls

Worry Dolls will be performing at the Kitchen Garden Café on 22nd February. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

For more on Worry Dolls, visit

For more from the Kitchen Garden Café, including a full events programme and menus, visit

For more from Bread & Butter Music, visit

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BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.17

BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review





Words by Steve Crawford / Pics by Denise Wilson

Thursday 19th January saw the return of The Blue Aeroplanes to a sold-out Hare & Hounds, promoting their 14th studio album Welcome, Stranger! Last seen at this venue in December 2013 it appears to be the exact same line-up tonight. Famous for their ever-changing crew (47, including today’s line up) is this period of stability something of a record for the band?BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review

The roar of aircraft engines fill the room and the stage lights go into search-light mode as all seven members of The Blue Aeroplanes take to the stage. Head aeroplane, Gerard Langley, in check suit and ever present wayfarer shades, clutches a folder of full of lyrics giving him the air of a cool college tutor. (In keeping with the hero-teacher role, and as way of introducing a couple of songs, he later gives a mini-lecture on the superstition associated with walking under ladders and pose a philosophical conundrum on the existence, or non-existence, of the future.)

‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’ from Welcome, Stranger! opens the set, followed by ‘Yr Own World’ from the 1991 album Beatsongs. “So far 50-50″, declares Gerard Langley, “but this is not a nostalgia exercise” he warns, alluding to the BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Reviewfact that over half the set will be comprised of new material with all ten tracks from Welcome, Stranger! being played tonight. Or possibly referring to the rumour that this album is something of a departure for the band sound wise? In a recent interview with Marc Riley, Langley said Welcome, Stranger! is “less of the leftfield, arty, poetry stuff and more of the riff-y, chorus-y stuff’.

This ‘riff-y, chorus-y stuff’ is evident in the songs ‘Looking for the X’s On A Map’ and ‘Here Is The Heart of All Wild Things’ – the latter including a My Bloody Valentine ‘You Made Me Realise’ extended aural assault section, as guitars and drums repeatedly pound away in the closing minutes. ‘Skin’ sees guitarist Bec Jevons adeptly fronting the band, taking on lead vocals whilst still rocking out foot on monitor style with her Fender Stratocaster. Played live this proves to be an absolute tank buster of a song.BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham Review

So not an exercise in nostalgia. But tonight isn’t just about the new stuff and there’s room for some more much-loved old familiars. ‘What It Is‘, slows things down and the crowd sway along. Gerard Langley is relieved of vocal duties for two numbers as first guitarist, Gerard Starkie, and then bassist, Chris Sharp, take on ‘Missy Lane’ and ‘Fun’ respectively. But it’s two of the big hitters from Swagger, ‘…And Stones’ and ‘Jacket Hangs’ (playing cards thrown into the crowd in unison with the opening lines), that are met with the biggest cheers of the night; pockets of the audience are dancing, throwing their arms around and generally swanning about.

Talking of dancing… it’s about time The Blue Aeroplanes’ long-standing dancer, Wojtek Dmochowski, was mentioned. He seems to have decided that middle-age isn’t for him; it’s just not his thing. In constant motion (and a sweat drenched red ‘#keepcorbyn’ t-shirt) he bends, leaps, weaves and free dances his way around fellow band members, pushing himself off the walls, eventually ending up in the audience for a dance along.  Earlier Langley had joked that Wojtek Dmochowski was only here to flog his new fitness DVD.

But Gerard Langley has some fine stage moves himself: dodge, step aside, swing, take cover manoeuvres that look a lot more manageable than a ‘full Wojtek’. The rest of BREVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes @ Hare & Hounds 19.01.16 / Pics by Denise Wilson © Birmingham ReviewThe Blue Aeroplanes engage in semi-choreographed mayhem as they joust, thrust, charge and entangle each other with guitar cables and, like Dmochowski, eventually spill out into the audience during one of the encores.

The first of which (we get two tonight) includes a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘Poetland, the last song played from Welcome Stranger! The second encore begins with a lone Bec Jevons on stage, starting up the riff for traditional set closer: Tom Verlaine’s ‘Breaking in My Heart’. Soon joined by the rest of The Blue Aeroplanes, plus support act – Leicester’s Michael Vickers, more cavorting ensues from both tonight’s musicians and audience.

As the final few bars are thrashed out, Gerard Langley collects his notes, walks to the side of the stage, and causally puts on his jacket. Lecture over.


For more on The Blue Aeroplanes, visit

For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full events listings and online tickets sales, visit