The Black Feathers – Live at Stroud Subscription Rooms – Review

It was a very last minute decision to go out to see The Black Feathers last night and I am so glad that I did. The fact that I live two minutes away from the venue, it would have almost been criminal not to go. I love The Black Feathers, they are one of my best music discoveries and the fact they are local just makes it even better – how lucky we are to have who I would describe as one of Americana’s finest UK acts right here in Gloucestershire. Being based local to me, you would assume that I stumbled across them in my town or by word of mouth but in fact it was far from that. It was 2014 and my husband and I were in Nashville and chose to go to the Bluebird Café one evening. That night it was a range of musicians and songwriters as usual and the best act of the evening were introduced as a UK duo from Gloucestershire- of all places? I could not believe it and considering how small the Bluebird Café is it just goes to show what a small world we live in. Since that night, I have kept an eye on The Black Feathers and have caught a show here and there as well as purchasing their EP and debut album Soaked To The Bone on vinyl.

If you are unfamiliar with The Black Feathers then I recommend that you get familiar because this duo are one of the best acts that Americana have to offer and they truly deserve to be a lot more known than they are – that being said, they certainly have a large following as are always touring across the UK and America and have often been featured on various influential websites and publications as well as playing Bob Harris’ Under The Apple Tree Sessions.

Sian and Ray, who make up The Black Feathers are a married couple and are two of the loveliest and down to earth musicians that I have met.

It had been a while since I had been to The Subscription Rooms, years in fact so I was excited to head back. The hall was very well laid out with candle lit tables and chairs which made for a relaxing environment and a warm and friendly setting which certainly made my mood a lot better as I am at that stage where I hate standing at gigs. It was also nice for once to be pretty much the youngest person in the audience bar a two year old.

Sian and Ray always come out into the crowd and mingle before and after their shows, as a local act they clearly have many familiar faces in the crowd to them as well as new fans, fans from afar and family and friends and even with their current level of success they aren’t too egotistical to chat to anyone and everyone and you will often find them at the merch desk too. You know when Ray is around by his very loud, infectious and friendly laugh.

Sian and Ray always have such great stage presence and address their crowd often with many stories whether they be funny, sad or strange but everything they say is always very interesting. When they came on stage last night it was just the two of them, one mic and Ray’s guitar. Sian addresses the crowd with “We love you Stroud, you make us feel like a real band”.

The Black Feathers music is beautifully poetic and wonderfully emotive with a melancholic, dark twist. Their voices are flawless, powerfully strong and passionate and Sian has a highly impressive vocal range.

I don’t think that The Black Feathers have a bad song, everything they sing is always spectacular and very captivating and I find myself instantly hooked. They played many songs that I was familiar with such as Down By The River, Homesick and All For You as well as some new ones. Sian has a brilliant sense of humour, her wit comes so naturally with very little effort, she is just so quick and always has me in giggles. Together, Sian and Ray’s personalities make the evening brilliant just as much as their music does and you feel like you are watching friends as they make you feel that comfortable.

This week The Black Feathers released their new song Holy Water which is the first single from their second album which is to be released in the spring of 2018. Ray tells us they played this song recently in America in a rehabilitation centre which he jokingly says would be a tough crowd but they were very good. We also learn that the show in the rehabilitation centre marked six years to the day of Ray’s sobriety – congratulations Ray! The song as many of theirs is hauntingly breathtaking with moving lyrics and a style of old folk blended with a modern sound which makes it incredibly stunning.

When Ray and Sian sing, their voices alone are powerful instruments that they don’t need accompaniment but Ray’s guitar skills are so good that for me, he reminds me of just how beautiful an instrument a guitar really is. Another new song which I didn’t catch the title of they described as their take on Romeo and Juliet but skipping the nice part. “Basically everyone dies” Sian explains.

Spending much time in America, Tennessee especially, The Black Feathers perform a new song that they called Three Stars as the Tennessee flag has three stars. Ray tells us that when they performed this in Scotland they were asked why they didn’t call the song five stars as the person assumed the song title was rating Nashville out of five stars.

Sian and Ray ended their set with Open Book a song they explain was the first they wrote together that they agreed on. Open Book is one of my favourites and it really shows off Sian’s vocals.

Returning for an encore they sing a cover of Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell and a gorgeous version of it it was too.

The Black Feathers are a must-see live act for anybody and everybody, it is always great to have a phenomenal performance but when it is combined with wit and great personalities then it makes a show even more worthwhile.

Holy Water – Single by The Black Feathers

Soaked to the Bone by The Black Feathers


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