Jenny Mitchell, Hastings New Zealand, 2022

Jenny Mitchell

9th November 2022
Te Awanga Community Hall, Hastings, New Zealand.

Review by Rob Harbers, photography by Andrew Caldwell.

Future “King of Country Music” (to use the words of the great Tami) Jenny Mitchell, and her sisters the Mitchell twins, have lit up the Small Hall Sessions all over again, as we all-too-rapidly approach the end of another year. Apart, and then together, the sororal trio provided beautiful sounds of guitar and voice that were genuine reminders of the power of music to lift and inspire.

As often as I say how good the Sessions are, it’s never enough, and the bar keeps raising higher! This performance gathering with new friends was truly one for the books, and leaves me feeling like I’ve run out of superlatives with which to adequately describe it. Perhaps the best way to do so is to quote photographer Andrew, who said to me “you can be a little jaded seeing so much music, and then something like this comes along and restores the joy”. Yes, it was that special!

Jenny took the stage first, sharing the endearing tales behind each of the songs she sang, which fleshed out the words all that much more. These tales reached back to the past, as in “Ends Of The Earth”, inspired by her grandparents’ journey from Ireland to Gore, while also engaging with possible futures, in the lockdown-haunted “Make Peace with Time”. Sung in a powerful voice of purity and intensity, accompanied by delicately played guitar, these are songs from the heart indeed!

In the first of the night’s mathematical twists, one then became two, as Jenny handed the reins to younger sisters Maegen and Nicole, aka The Mitchell Twins. These two upped the emotional intensity, singing songs that told deeply personal stories, revealing a genuine concern and empathy for the people at their centre. This was exemplified by “Margaret’s Song”, about a great aunty who fell victim to the cruelties inflicted by dementia, a song that had many of those present in tears, such was it’s power. As with many sibling combinations, their harmonies matched beautifully, flowing in and out of each other’s lines like the finest woven material. Inspired by an earlier generation of Aotearoa’s country music twin sisters, their tribute to the Topp Twins (“Find a River”) continued the theme of inspiring tears, its heartfelt lyrics expressing the profound nature of twinship.

After the mandatory intermission, the mathematical feats continued, two becoming three as Jenny and the twins took the stage together, taking things to a whole new level of heavenly harmonies, while also having some fun along the way! Their sheer joy in playing together was palpable, and this enthusiasm carried over to the audience as well, all deriving great enjoyment. The triple-thread approach allowed the songs to truly open out, three threads combining to form a cord of melody much stronger than the sum of its parts. This section upped the cover-song quotient also, the sisters revisiting some of the material they grew up listening to (while naively thinking that everyone listened to the same stuff!).

There’s so much more I could say, but deadlines and the need to honour the paid employment are the ever-present curse of the music reviewer. Take it from me, and I know I say it a lot, but this time it’s more true than ever: go to one of these shows if you can! If the “country” label deters you, just think of it as the other style of music – “western”! As Dolly herself said of such labels – “If it ain’t city, it’s country!”. Transcendent harmonies, sororal enjoyment, uplifting experience – let these be your selling points!

Were you there at the Te Awanga Community Hall for this intimate gig? Or have you seen Jenny Mitchell perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Setlist:
  1. Ends of the Earth
  2. Lucy
  3. Make Peace with Time
  4. So Far
  5. Twins:
  6. Mihi
  7. Margaret’s Song
  8. Mango Tree
  9. Reasons
  10. Alone Again
  11. Next to you [Little Big Town cover]
  12. Find a River
  13. Jenny and Twins:
  14. Fox and the Hound
  15. If you Were a Bird
  16. Local Farm Hand [Topp Twins cover]
  17. Snakes in the Grass
  18. Harper Valley PTA [Jeannie C. Riley cover]
  19. Somehow
  20. Tug of War
  21. The Boxer [Simon and Garfunkel cover]
  22. Wildfire
  23. King of Country Music [Tami Neilson cover]
  24. Traveling Bones
  25. Trouble Finds A Girl
  26. Hands of My Heart [Warratahs cover][encore]

Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this concert. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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