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The Head and The Heart – The Lexington, London 24/01/11

27 January 2011, 10:00 | Written by

Click on any image to enlarge | All photographs by Steven Walker

With the ink still wet on their deal with Heavenly Records, The Head and The Heart seem more than a little excited to just be on London soil, let alone playing to an almost uncomfortably full Lexington.

Hailing from Seattle (and definitely not Texas), The Head and The Heart are over in the UK playing a few headline shows, supporting the Walkman, and, most importantly, “pillaging your heritage of the Beatles”, aka going to Abbey Road and posing for that picture.

Despite the infancy of the band’s career – so far they’ve a debut EP to their name, released last summer in America – one of the most striking things about The Head and The Heart is their quiet, unassuming confidence, and how comfortable they are in their music. This is a band that sound like they’ve been playing together for aeons , finely honing their sound for years.

With six members, plus a copious amount of handheld percussion, (rarely have I seen a shaker used so effectively), The Head and The Heart are certainly not into sparse. The full band sound is big, warm, and baked in an American country folk glow. Their songs are journeying, but in a meticulously planned out day trip sort of way, deftly spanning across ideas, tempos, and instrumentation. From stunning four-part harmony a capella sections, to glorious full band cacophony, on paper their songs may seem like a hotchpotch of ideas and sounds, but in practice they’re fully formed, deliberate and complete.

Comparisons are easily drawn – Ryan Adams, Fleet Foxes, Death Cab for Cutie, Crosby Stills Nash and Young – but The Head and The Heart didn’t set out to be groundbreaking, they set out to be good at what they do, and worth listening to. Interestingly vocalists Josiah and Jonathan both have the same Rufus Wainwright-esque tone to their voices, but verging towards the richer rather than nasally end of the scale. Violinist Charity’s vocals wouldn’t be out of place in a 1920s jazz club, and when she takes lead vocals on the odd line, the results are dazzling.

There’s a timeless quality to some of the songs, ranging from the gospel inspired plea for atonement of ‘lord have mercy on my rough and rowdy ways’ in the bluesy ballad ‘Down in the Valley’, to the seventies alt rock of ‘Sounds like Hallelujah’.

Set-closer ‘Rivers and Roads’ is a near to perfect slice of feel-good folksy, sun-drenched Americana, with a wonderfully soaring, heart-melty chorus. It rounds off a triumphant gig from a refreshingly accomplished band, who will no doubt be back on UK soil and pillaging our heritage again before too long.

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