Spanky Van Dykes, Nottingham

Rob Heron

In a world where chart music has become spectacularly over produced and almost impossible to replicate in live performances, we can find sanctuary in bands like Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra, who have gained a reputation over the last few years for their eclectic brand of Western Swing, Blues, Gypsy Jazz and Country, or “North Eastern Swing” as they’ve coined it. Known as one of the hardest working bands on the touring circuit, the band are on a quest to showcase their take on 20th Century American music to the world.

Opening affairs are local outfit, The Most Ugly Child, a six-piece outfit whose country inspired melodies and smooth harmonies provide an ample welcome to the Deep River Revue, a relatively new night of American roots music, founded by this very band themselves. Their sound boasts punchy skiffle rhythm, with delightful fiddle breaks and stunning pedal steel swells, but also shows a tender, dreamy tangent of country ballads. It’s an impeccably tight performance all round, as their lush male-female harmonies coincide with a consistently solid rhythm section. Ultimately, their delivery is virtually faultless, but the only concern is their originality. If you’re replicating the work of your influences with the utmost precision, you’ll be unlikely to muster anything more than a worthy recreation of what has previously been done. The Most Ugly Child need to channel their hair-raising ability into something that will spark a sense of invention and distinctive quality. Nevertheless, the band provide an exquisite start to the evening in a polished, toe tapping display.

Sometimes, bands quite frankly blow your minds. In this case, Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra launch a missile into my cranium through their distinctive array of eclectic sounds, channelling the energy of Swing, Blues, Gypsy Jazz and Country to craft a sound beyond comprehension. Touching on various topics, including coffee, whiskey, trains and love, Rob Heron and his entourage of blindingly talented, well dressed musicians stun the venue with material from both of their albums, offering an effortlessly tight and utterly faultless display full of character, razor-sharp solos and infectious melodies. The clarity behind Heron’s vocals allows the narrative behind every lyric to remain crystal clear throughout, as their music rejuvenates the sounds of a golden era whilst steering through a modern departure into their own interpretation of American music.

Rob Heron
Rob Heron 1

The intricate detail of their craft stems from organic instrumentation, as the jaunty melodies of accordion, mandolin, guitar and harmonica blend perfectly alongside the deep aroma of a rhythm section fuelled by double bass and skiffle inspired drums. It’s a display of pure perfection, as the baffling talent in the bands performance underpins Heron’s defining song-writing ability. Without a doubt, they possess one of the most exciting and impeccably well-woven sounds I’ve ever come across. Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra are arguably the finest live act I’ve ever seen. Faultless, charming and electrifying; they are a world class act to behold.


Words by George Fullerton
Photos by Emma Courtney

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