Willie Watson & Joshua Hedley Tuning Fork July 7, 2016


Willie Watson 28It was a dark and stormy night…but that didn’t keep the music lovers away from Auckland’s Tuning Fork as Joshua Hedley and Willie Watson each brought their distinctive takes on what can loosely be called Americana to New Zealand.

Both artists have been here before, but never on their own.  Hedley has accompanied Justin Townes Earle and Jonny Fritts while Watson was a member of Old Crow Medicine Show.

If fact, as Josh noted when he took the stage at about 8:20, this was the first show of his first ever solo tour. And despite a few pre-show nerves, Hedley held the crowd spellbound for the 37 minutes he was on the stage.

Willie Watson 13Abandoning his fiddle, Josh accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. His stock in trade is traditional country music. Whether he’s singing his own tunes or old classics by the likes of Johnny Paycheck, Hedley’s music is all about loneliness, despair, betrayal and, sometimes, revenge.

Dark stuff indeed, but he pulled it off without coming across as too maudlin…and his own songs, particularly No Song To Sing and Broken Man, were highlights.

I’m looking forward to hearing his first album when he eventually finishes it.

Willie Watson’s style was considerably more upbeat. Rather than singing his own songs, Watson has been focussing on old folks songs from the first part of the 20th century.

The lanky musician took the stage sporting a wide-brimmed white hat, a denim jacket and a big grin. Alternating between acoustic guitar and banjo, he played tunes he recorded for his first solo album, Folksinger Vol. 1 and he tried out a few  for its inevitable follow-up, Folksinger Vol. 2.

His reedy voice pierced through the venue as he reeled off tunes written by the likes of Leadbelly and Memphis Slim, all the while keeping up a lively banter with the crowd.

Highlights included the ominous Mother Earth and the poignant Always Lift Him Up. He also led a singalong to Stewball…and after presenting Davey Graham’s The Leavin’ Blues, commented, “I guess I’ll put that on the record”.

After a rousing Midnight Special, he left the stage, but was quickly called back for two more closing out the night with the gospel sounds of Dry Bones.

After that, somehow venturing out into the pouring rain didn’t seem so daunting.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karzcewski:

Willie Watson Set List:

  1. Take This Hammer
  2. Hills Of Mexico
  3. James Alley Blues
  4. Long John Dean
  5. Keep It Clean
  6. Bring It With You When You Come
  7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground
  8. Grey Goose
  9. Mother Earth
  10. Stewball
  11. Always Lift Him Up
  12. The Leavin’ Blues
  13. John Henry
  14. The Cuckoo Bird
  15. Rock Salt And Nails
  16. The Midnight Special
  17. My Baby Left Me
  18. Dry Bones


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