Risa Hall & James Apollo
at The Met,
Bury, England
(30 April 2006)

Having met New-Yorker Risa Hall in the audience at various KT Tunstall gigs in northwest England since 2004, it was exciting seeing her onstage herself at last.

Heard live particularly, Risa's voice has a distinctive richness pointing to her background in musicals. Her songs have energy, originality and an alt-pop edge. Risa explained that "You Really Don't Know Me" had been written years ago, but the new version had been inspired by Tunstall: it certainly had the rocky vibe and vocal range reminiscent of KT's own gigs. As an actress, it is not surprising Risa has a strong stage presence and it was obvious she was enjoying every minute of the gig. As well as the upbeat songs, "Drama Queen" was more of a country number while "Roses" was quieter and reflective.

Risa played guitar towards the end of the gig and was well accompanied throughout by Brian Filson on guitar and James Duff on bass. "Blink Twice" was a lively and appealing number with which to end the set. We shall be hearing much more of Risa Hall I am sure.

James Apollo is an original American singer-songwriter with a style all his own. He paces the stage with his guitar like a caged animal wanting to unleash every nuance of his music -- at times he reminded me of the intensity of Ed Harcourt onstage. His material is wide-ranging from groovy bluesy songs to quieter lyrical numbers by way of a chilled vibe in songs like "Sweet Unknown."

James has an outstanding drummer/percussionist in Kevin Hunt who gave the set a real lift. My only criticism was that, although his performance was really polished, he needed to adapt his introductions to the fact that he was performing in front of a small studio theatre audience rather than in a big auditorium. However, James Apollo is a passionate musician and this was a varied and fascinating set.

It was an enjoyable night of Americana all round!

by Andy Jurgis
8 July 2006

[ visit James Apollo's website ]

[ visit Risa Hall's website ]