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The Dovetail Trio Debut

The summer house at the bottom of the Jones family garden, known variously as the 'Wheelhouse' and sometimes the 'Cabin' but more often than not simply as 'Hedley's Shed', tonight became the chosen venue for the first live appearance by the brand new English folk ensemble The Dovetail Trio. Formed in the summer of 2013 the trio, made up of Wiltshire-born singer Rosie Hood, Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist Matt Quinn and Barnsley's own Jamie Roberts on guitar, have spent the last few months rehearsing a repertoire of mainly traditional English material, whilst simultaneously 'dove-tailing' their slick arrangements and developing their own distinctive sound.
The choice of venue for such an occasion was just right in this case. One of the region's best kept secrets, The Wheelhouse in Wombwell (near Barnsley) has provided an intimate stage for many guests over the years, including notable singers and musicians from the UK (Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, Rory McLeod, Jez Lowe), Australia (Chloe Hall, Emily Barker), South Africa (Laurie Levine), Europe (Claude Bourbon, Flossie Malavialle) and countless visitors from the United States and Canada including Devon Sproule, Madison Violet, Anna Coogan and The Good Lovelies to name but a few. More often than not, each of these visiting musicians are made welcome not only from the hospitality of their hosts, Hedley and Lynn Jones, together with their family dog Rory, but also by the fact that Hedley always tries to fly his guests' national flag above the shed, providing a more personal gesture of welcome.
The size of the band has never really presented Hedley with a problem. From solo artists to duos and trios, the venue has also been known to squeeze into its intimate space full bands including Atlanta's Larkin Poe, Chicago's JT and the Clouds and multi-national The Outside Track. Even the full 6-piece Albion Band, complete with drum kit and double bass, has been known to fill that little stage. If the full-on folk rock presence of the Albion Band wasn't enough to rattle the cabin's walls and raise the roof, then the natural elements have also attempted to leave an indelible mark on the structure with one or two devastating floods over the last few years. There's not many English garden sheds that have witnessed such a range of diverse activity in such a short space of time and The Wheelhouse has survived to tell the tale.

Tonight, the atmosphere seemed to be of eager anticipation as the new trio prepared to go onstage in order to make their long-awaited debut. Surrounded by wooden walls plastered in signed promo posters, the audience soon took their places, leaving no chairs, settees, stools or beer barrels unfilled. The 'jungle drums' once again attracted a full house (usually around 40 people) all of whom gathered for this, the first event of the New Year, featuring headliner Phil Beer, who drove up from Exeter to check out the venue. His Show of Hands band mate Miranda Sykes would no doubt have mentioned the cosy little venue to Phil, having already sampled the place a couple of years ago when she appeared with her other musical partner, the mandolin wizard Rex Preston. Although most of the attendees, including folk legend of this parish Dave Burland, had come along specifically to see the Devon-based singer and multi-instrumentalist, The Dovetail Trio's debut appearance gave the evening some additional excitement and there was a sense of expectation running quite high.

After a warm introduction by The Wheelhouse host Hedley Jones, the trio opened with their own arrangement of When I Was a Young Maid, a version of The Female Drummer, which proved to be an ideal opener, not only for the trio's maiden voyage, but also as the first Wheelhouse song of the year. With the stage deliberately uncluttered by instruments due to the trio's economical use of instrumentation (just one guitar and duet concertina), their strength was demonstrated through their unified voices, which together served to illustrate the band's choice of name; it all did indeed fit together like fine carpentry.  

The short set also included a version of the old favourite John Barleycorn, featuring a lead vocal by Matt Quinn, a version of The Bold Grenadier renamed The Lady and the Soldier and an arrangement of Poison in a Glass of Wine. Just as our ears became accustomed to the trio's 'sound', Jamie, Rosie and Matt surprised the audience with their a cappella version of the Dixie Chicks' caustic Goodbye Earl, with some of the most delicious three-part harmonies.

Throughout their set, it soon became apparent that it wasn't just the music and songs that endeared them to the audience, but also their engaging and playful charm. It would be difficult not to like them. And just to ensure the new trio were completely on their toes tonight, fate delivered one or two surprises, not least the power failure during the count-in to their final song, committing the room to complete darkness for a few seconds. Handling the situation remarkably well, by joking with the audience whilst Hedley fixed the problem, the trio went on to bring their set to its completion with a rousing version of Two Magicians.

The remainder of the evening belonged to Phil Beer, who acknowledged The Dovetail Trio during his set, for which the trio received another round of applause. I feel it's important to note that the trio stayed around to enjoy the rest of the evening, where others have been known to flee once they've done their bit. In fact, the only noticeable absence during the evening was when they sneaked away with me to do a quick interview. Suitably impressed, Northern Sky can only recommend that you see the trio at one of their forthcoming gigs or catch them at one of their festival appearances; it just might be the start of something good.  
Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky
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