Country front and centre at Aeolian on Friday night

It was an evening of sweetheart heartbreak at Aeolian Hall Friday night as a double-bill of two musical couples ran through an evening’s worth of country laments.

London’s Tom and Tara Dunphy of the Rizdales and Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish of UK’s My Darling Clementine made for a quietly dazzling night of pure country music straight out of Nashville by way of both Londons.

The Rizdales were not in full-force that night as the Dunphys were accompanied only by guitarist Blair Heddle. Despite that seeming drawback, all three of them revelled in the sparseness, allowing the songs to stand front and centre and the sound to rumble evocatively throughout the Aeolian. Taking full advantage of the relaxed yet atmospheric backing, the trio tackled material they admitted they hadn’t played in years. As such the mournful title track of How The Marriage Ended and Radio Country’s This Is My Story were marked by an aural expansiveness and starkness rare for the usually boisterous Rizdales. Although there are few country pleasures that top that of a Rizdales barroom gig, their Aeolian Hall performance revealed a more relaxed yet pensive side that the venue and an attentive audience allowed them to explore. It was a different Rizdales on stage. They should do it more often and soon.

For their part My Darling Clementine showed why they’ve become a critical sensation across the pond. Michael Weston King has been described as a cross between Nick Cave and Rodney Crowell while his wife Lou Dalgleish is a superb country heartbreaker with a voice that has elicited comparisons to Tammy Wynette. Although their acclaimed CD How Do You Plead? boasts a backing band with a liberal smattering of British vets of bands like Graham Parker’s Rumour, and Nick Lowe’s touring outfit, they took the Aeolian stage armed only with King’s guitar, Dalgliesh’s tambourine and a liberal sprinkling of Brit charm and droll wit.

Their show focussed fairly tightly on their new CD How Do You Plead? with a few covers tossed in for both good effect and occasional tribute. In particular Dalgleish’s solo take on Elvis Costello’s Indoor Fireworks was both hypnotic and moving in a way made Costello’s take sound rote by comparison. The Costello tribute continued with their cover of George Jones’ A Good Year For The Roses, covered rather well by Costello on his Nashville record some years back.

At one point in the evening King shouted out a quick survey of how many audience members were ‘real country fans’. The strong applause reassured him that they were in front of the right audience.

The reverse was also true of course. The satisfied Aeolian patrons knew this was a night of real country music. That it was also superb was a given.

Bob Klanac has been scribbling about music since he was young enough to know better. For more, go to Watch for his Reviews  online at and his Sound Bites columns in The Beat.

The Arts Project - Studio