Thomas Tripp, Christchurch

Southern Companion

Tonight Christchurch’s premier live music venue, the Thomas Tripp plays host to the first night of the Southern Companion tour. The tour will take founder member Darren Hodson and his band on a 10 date jaunt all over the UK. The band released their third album “Shine a Little Light” in January and so far it has received lots of positive reviews; along with its first single “Songbird”, which reached number one in the iTunes chart. Darren has been a well-respected member of the local music community for a long time and has taken his music to the next level, winning several awards in the process as well as performing with many notable stars from around the music world. Despite all he has achieved there is no big ego or rock star bravado; he is the same grounded person he has always been and as people arrive in the venue, Darren welcomes them with a friendly smile and a handshake.

Opening the show is New Forest band Clockwork Carousel, a band who themselves have recently released their long-awaited self-titled debut album. This collective of five friends get things underway with the opener “Lucy Ann” and immediately the packed crowd seem to warm to their Americana influenced tunes. They combine acoustic and electric guitars; coupled with some impressive pedal steel and mandolin work from their virtuoso Ben Finlay, who adds some really special atmospheric sounds. Vocalist Martin Gregory has great vocal range and ably shows this off with relative ease. The audience is treated to a rarely played album out-take in the form of the powerful ‘Risky Waters’, as well as the band’s popular single “Into the Fire”. You cannot help but be impressed by the sound tonight and much praise must be given to soundman Steve Loader, who is certainly getting the best out of the band tonight. The band step up the pace towards the end of the set and throw all their energy into the excellent “Heat Seeking Missile”; which gets them plenty of positive noise from the crowd who clearly want more, but sadly there is no time.

Clockwork Carousel
Clockwork Carousel 12

The headliners take to the stage and immediately get started with one of their most popular tunes from their last album “Feels like Years”. A song which details the frustrations of juggling being a full-time musician and a family man. The Southern Companion is made up of six seasoned musicians with Darren on acoustic guitar, Simon Johnson on electric guitar, Stuart Ross on bass, Olly Richmond-Jones on drums, Stephen Barlow on Pedal Steel and Lee Maycock on keyboards. Together they all create a delightful modern country-based sound with plenty of RockIer style moments. You cannot help being impressed with the lyrical content with each tune telling its own story – sometimes fictional and sometimes in a really subtle personal way. The tunes from the new release such as “Great American Mistake”, “Last Rays of the Sun” and “Lie To Me” transfer really well to the live stage and as always the band do a really impressive job, effortlessly recreating their unique sound. The live instrumentation and vocal harmonies are just a joy to listen to and honestly, I have not seen such a polished performance in a long while.

Southern Companion
Southern Companion 123456

We are treated to a tune called “Factory Girls” which is to be featured on the soundtrack of a new film called “Wild Rose” about a musician from Glasgow who dreams of becoming a Nashville Country star. Darren tells the audience about an important moment in his career; when he was in a blues band called “Blackberry”, where a sharp-eyed reviewer commented that he was “too Country” to play the blues and after further experimentation he clearly found this to be the case. One of the standout tunes of the evening is “Billy’s Brother”, a passionate song detailing the destruction alcohol can cause. The band save a few of their fast-paced numbers for the end of their set and this sees some members of the audience move into the tight space at the front to dance. The audience gives the band a fantastic and warm round of applause at the end of their set and of course demand an encore. They willingly return with a trip back in time with a great rocking version of “Maryanne”. If this is only the first night of the tour then the rest of the cities are in for a real treat.

Set List
Southern Companion
Feels like Years
Great American Mistake
The Leaving Kind
Waiting on a Corner
Last Rays of the Sun
Factory Girls/Cigarette Row
Can I Get a Witness
And in The End
Already Gone
Lie to Me
Can’t Get There From Here
You Are Not Alone
Billy’s Brother
Dirt on My Strings


Clockwork Carousel
Lucy Ann
Risky Waters
Old Man
Into The Fire
Hey Hey
Country in G
Heat Seeking Missile




Words, Pictures & Videos by Dave Chinery (Chinners).

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