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Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, the all-female trio that is Underhill Rose joyously fuses elements of Americana, Country and Bluegrass together to create a sound so pure that it can’t fail to move at soul-level.

Initially formed around the songwriting partnership of Eleanor Underhill and Molly Rose (who met at college), the band has been around for the best part of ten years, the addition of double bassist Salley Williamson having completed the lineup.

Touring the UK in promotion of their “Live” album, their date at the gallery constituted the band’s second visit to the venue, a venue perfectly suited to their gorgeous melodies and soaring harmonies.

Performing a couple of hour-long sets, they presented a flawless cross-section of songs from their three studio albums, songs such as the beautiful “Love Looks Good On You” and Country-drenched “Helpless Wanderer” sounding as divine as could be. Wearing their spirituality on their sleeves, they subtly touched on themes of immortality with the unforgettable “When I Die”, their oneness with nature shining through the themes of many of their songs.

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Explaining the stories behind their songs, Eleanor and Molly proved to be natural storytellers, Eleanor confiding that her “Whispering Pines Motel” was a lust (as opposed to love) song about the man she’s now with, written back when he was merely an object of her desire.

Their own songs aside, Molly, Eleanor and Salley enthusiastically threw in a smattering of covers for good measure, Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and Kim Carnes’ cleverly reworked “Bette Davis Eyes” included, yet it was the original material that had the most impact, the autobiographical nature of the band’s songs helping to engage the listener by default.

Molly introduced “Montana” with a story stemming from a gig they’d played in Wyoming where a cowboy had helped carry their cable-case a short distance, a case so heavy that he’d dubbed it “The Black Box of Doom”. “Who Brought the Sun” proved just as lush, the interplay between the three musicians note-perfect.

Returning for an encore to rapturous applause, the trio dove into “Not Gonna Worry”, one of their catchiest and most inspirational numbers.

With Molly playing acoustic guitar, Eleanor on banjo, and Salley laying down a succession of strong bass-lines, there was no need for a drummer – indeed, no need for any other accompaniment whatsoever beyond Eleanor’s occasional blasts of harmonica.

In a nutshell, what you get with Underhill Rose is consistently brilliant musicianship and sultry vocals, sumptuously wrapped in utterly spellbinding songs. What more could a music-lover want?


(Steve Rudd)

Heading to Asia this year? Be sure to pick up a copy of Steve’s “Pulse” before you go!

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