Nashville Meets London: Twinnie and Robbie Cavanagh, Pizza Express Holborn, March 30 2022

Nashville Meets London is one of the loveliest nights on the UK country scene but the rubric has been disrupted by the pandemic. Thus we get two British acts instead of an American and a Brit, even though Twinnie spends many weeks a year in Nashville.

Before York’s self-proclaimed Hollywood Gypsy gave a star turn, Robbie Cavanagh offered 30 minutes of his understated songs, previewing his Tough Love album with songs that included the funky Helpless. There was also an extraordinary heartbreak ballad in the James Taylor mould and one called Thinking of Leaving (‘if you’re thinking of leaving, get up and go’). A Mancunian who won the Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the 2021 AMA-UK Awards, Robbie will be back down in London at the end of May. Beg or steal a ticket.

‘People are using their cutlery so quietly,’ Robbie marvelled at the diners who were still polishing off their pizzas in the basement venue of Holborn’s Pizza Express. There was a nice bit of banter about a vegan dish which, it transpires, can be ordered off menu, which surprised our humble singer/songwriter.

Twinnie released her long-awaited debut album Hollywood Gypsy in April 2020 but couldn’t tour it until the middle of 2021. The full Twinnie show delivers fireworks, high kicks and showstoppers with an amplified band but she proved she can impress with an acoustic set which felt like a soirée. She was dressed in denim bell bottoms which gave a Nashville twist.

Opening with her new single One Heart, Twinnie ran through old favourites like Type of Girl, Chasing and Cupid, which she wrote while ‘bitter and single, I still am’ and on which she hit a showstopping note. The setlist was as much a surprise for the band as for the audience, as our hostess played it by ear. ‘It’s just gonna be a jam tonight!’

Her songs ‘make people dance or break their heart’, which sounds like a chorus in itself: the former included Welcome to the Club and set closer Better When I’m Drunk, with the latter represented by the beautiful I Know A Woman. This single, which promoted Twinnie’s vital project which spotlights mental health in the music industry, was even more emotional for Twinnie as her darling mum was watching on.

As she displayed on the acoustic version of her album, Twinnie’s songs stand up without jazzy production, and guitarist Tommy and pianist Barnabus(!) were impressive foils throughout the soirée. Tommy’s leg got a workout on the toetapper Daddy Issues, banging a percussion block to provide the backbeat.

Something We Used To Say was the evening’s highlight. It was perfect for the basement dive: written with Barnabus and Laura Oakes, it was inspired by Carole King and its melancholy shone through. I hope it makes it onto Twinnie’s second album, which she was more or less auditioning in front of a lady from her record label.

Ditto Write You Out, a song about songwriting with a great lyrical hook, and future single Something or Somebody, during which Twinnie toured the room and was twirled around by a beaming fan. He wasn’t the only one entertained by a superstar who had complete command of the room. She doesn’t need high kicks when she has the high notes.

Nashville Meets London hosts a cruise on the River Thames on August 19. The next Pizza Express night is headlined by Jess Thristan on April 27.

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