Canvas, Bournemouth- 21st February 2016

Freestyle Showcase

Featuring: Drew Allen, Will McNicol, Tom Clements, Rich Gawler, Lou Whalley, and Charlie Woodford

Top new music hub Freestyle are reaching out into the musical community to get some new regular events going to support the local scene. Tonight at “Canvas” Mark Patrick and his merry men have put together a mouth-watering line-up of local talent, to kick off the first of their regular showcases.

The first act to take to the stage is the very talented Charlie Woodford, a young singer/songwriter who seems to have already been around for ages and he’s not even 18 yet!! He has a very likeable manner and can entertain a room of people with ease. As well as a selection of reworked covers Charlie delivers a new original song that shows he is more than capable of producing his own music. We look forward to the much anticipated first release from this rising local star.

Next up from the Isle of Purbeck is Lou Whalley, another youngster who seems to be giving the older musicians reasons to up their game. Lou; despite seeming a little nervous, sang with a powerful voice that impressed all of the audience in front of her. A self-confessed Ed Sheeran Fan; she delivers a mash-up of a couple of his songs, while competently playing her acoustic guitar. Lou leaves the stage with an enormous confidence boost in the form of huge applause from the impressed audience.

Lou Whalley
Lou Whalley 

Rich Gawler has been away from performing live music for a little while now and tonight’s show is his first for a long time. It seems there has been no loss of desire and passion as the first few songs accompanied by cajon and bass are sounding great. There is a song featuring a true story about the failure of a local church, due to a hurtful theft of trust. Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” was given a makeover and embarrassingly Rich had not a clue who the song was by! The whole set was topped off by a jaw-dropping emotional song called “Pieces”, about a failed marriage. As the words were delivered the audience shared in the pain that was suffered during this very difficult time. A good solid set that sees Rich’s return to the music fold most welcome.

Rich Gawler
Rich Gawler 

My old friend Tom Clements takes to the stage next and after having a short break since becoming a Father for the first time, he is back on his mission to perform more gigs than anyone else in the area. Tom’s stage presence is always warm and welcoming, in his West Dorset accent, he always gives little stories to introduce his songs. His set is full of highlights; such as “New York City Dreams” and the fantastic “Sum It Up”, which features some clever layered loop pedal sounds created live in front of our eyes-no lap tops of synthesisers here! The thoroughly enjoyed set ended with “Road” and Tom left the stage with the guitar line still cleverly rolling through the PA system.

Will McNicol continues to keep the benchmark high with his unique instrumental-only style of playing guitar. He also uses a loop, but this time he has two guitars set up on stage and plays a tune on one then puts it together with another played live. His fingerwork is just astonishing to watch, with his fingers delicately going up and down every inch of the fretboard. The audience are treated to an instantly recognisable version of “Ain’t no Sunshine”. This as well as a few of his own compositions including the atmospheric “Harare” inspired by a trip to Zimbabwe”, and the uplifting “Emma” which has a very Scottish feel to it. Will’s amazing talents are rewarded with plenty of loud appreciation from the Canvas audience.

Will McNicol
Will McNicol 

This evening’s headliners are Drew Allen and his band who have continued to progress writing new material for the next stage of their musical journey. Drew’s well documented rise to fame in the local press has started to open a few doors for him, with plenty of new gig invitations being offered all the time. The band have a welcome addition of Joe Smith (lap steel guitar), which compliments the other two guitars perfectly. The new songs come in the form of “Never Felt So Far Away From you” which has a distinct Country flavour, along with a very catchy chorus. Also another about ex-drug smuggler turned writer Howard Marks called “Mr Nice” and a song about an old timer stuck in his ways (A Bit like Me!!) called “Just like the Old Days”. The whole set was a joy to watch, a well-rehearsed band that all deliver to a very high standard. I’m sure bright lights beckon for Drew if he and his band keeps up the positive progress like this.

Drew Allen
Drew Allen 12


Words & Pictures by Dave Chinery (Chinners).

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