Harry Pane at Bird of Smithfield, London - 6 November 2015
Ridiculously talented artists who live in your hometown and, on first actual meeting rather than virtual tweeting, are genuine and affable don’t come along that often.
I first discovered Harry Pane when he opened Grillstock Festival back in the summer. It was a heady, boozy outing for the carnivores but as the token vegetarian I was mainly there for the music. Harry was the Lazy Jacks Cider competition winner and opened the Main Stage with a bluesy, raw and powerful voice and cheerful self-deprecation. 'Hello Wembley!' he said to the scattering of journalists/fellow bloggers/photographers and super-keen Grillstockers who, like me, were sipping cider at 11am and feeling a little bit smug about catching this brilliant artist while everything was still comprehensible.
I gabbed on about his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love for weeks after, playing it on repeat to my better half, my mates and basically anyone sitting still ('YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS GUY’S VOICE’) and risked appearing a bit of a stalker on social media. Unfortunately I was away for The Stow Festival back in September where Harry appeared twice on the bill so when the gig at Bird of Smithfield came along, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Bird of Smithfield is a plush little venue near the iconic Smithfield Market; in an area I consider to be 'proper Laandan’. It is modern and smart and the street level bar is cosy, offering a more intimate setting to its formal dining areas on the upper level. The staff are friendly and with cocktails, flickering candles and obligatory WiFi it was all very civilised. Don't get me wrong, I love a rambunctious London boozer but at the end of a busy week, it's quite nice to have a seat with your beer.
So, back to Harry. He’s a folk/blues singer-songwriter residing in East London, hailing originally from Brackley, Northamptonshire. Described as owning a ‘soulful and emotive voice’, he adds guitar riffs, plenty of slide-guitar action and a stomp board to the mix with brilliant results. He writes and performs his own songs and cites John Martyn, Damien Rice, Bob Dylan and Xavier Rudd as his influences. His first EP, Real Souls was championed by BBC Introducing London and Amazing Radio and swiftly gained approval online.
On the night, Harry kicked off his set with a bang and his expressive voice really is effortless; when you hear it live it sounds prerecorded. Thumping his foot, he created a hypnotic beat which, even if you're not the kind of person who's partial to head-nod in public places, made it impossible not to. I glanced around the bar; yep, there were definitely people who did NOT look like your usual head-nodders, doing it without abandon.
With Nina Simone's Feeling Good given a lovely rawness and depth it was soon evident he gives great cover - taking a track and effectively turning it completely on its head. In my humble opinion, Harry creates a more impactful version of the originals. (Case in point: Firestone by Kygo, performed by Harry as part of Reload Sessions).
Gnarls Barkley's Crazy followed which received the Harry treatment. 'There are absolutely no dud notes, everything is in tune!' said my hubby as I head nodded along in agreement. Not seeming the kind of bloke to let that undeniable talent go to his head, Harry exclaimed 'I'm lucky enough to be playing the O2 on Sunday before Van Morrison!' with a genuine glint in his eyes - in reference to Morrison's gig with Tom Jones at The Prudential Blues Fest - before playing Moondance in celebration. It was sublime, instantly reminding me of seeing Morrison at Love Supreme Festival earlier this year. Pane also played the O2 Priority Lounge ahead of Fleetwood Mac at the O2, so it was fitting he covered Go Your Own Way.
I'm a sucker for 90's R'n'b; an intro to a Destiny’s Child tune can fell me in one nostalgic swoop, so I appreciated Harry's cover of Backstreet’s No Diggity with an extra helping of funk. Throughout the evening, diners came down from the restaurant upstairs, passing Harry as they exited. Most would stop, listen and mouth 'He's really good!’ to their companion before hanging about the door for a bit not really wanting to leave.
Some more top class covers followed; a stomping version of The Lumineers. Hey Ho, Ed Sheeran’s Bloodstream, James Bay’s Hold Back the River, I’m Yours by Jason Mraz (‘it’s a bit cheesy but I’m going to play it anyway’ he quipped, effectively stripping away all the cheese and dishing out a corker) and James Brown’s It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World - all delivered with great intensity. He’s an engaging performer and hugely down to earth, with impressive staying power - forty-five minutes into the gig and there were and no signs of his voice, or him, faltering.
Clearly Harry does great covers, but his own material should also get the exposure it deserves. His own tracks had the most impact on me, especially the newly penned Cold Light of Day, influenced by artists like Jamie N Commons, The Bones of JR Jones, Seasick Steve and Rocco DeLuca and he used a slide to create a bluesy, glissando effect.
Right that’s enough from me. I'm going to let you discover Harry for yourself. Check out his website for upcoming gigs, including the new event at Brooklyn Bowl 'New Blood Live' at The O2, London on 26 November and his gig in the 02 Priority Lounge ahead of Mumford & Sons on 10 December.
Before do I close though, a final plea. Harry is crowdfunding his second EP and asking for help via the Pledge Music platform. At the time of writing, with 18 days to go he has reached 53% of his target. Good, but I'm sure you'll agree after checking out his stuff he deserves much, much better.
So, my advice is to get clicking, pledging and giving using the links below as soon as you can - it’s your chance, like me, to be part of the journey of this super talented artist.