Broken Witt Rebels / Sonia Leigh /          The Villanovas - The Joiners, Southampton 27.11.17




There was already a substantial queue forming outside The Joiners when we arrived, which is impressive for a Monday night show a few weeks before Christmas!


The first band of the night were The Villanovas. I first came across this band earlier in the year when they opened for Tyler Bryant at the same venue. Playing their own brand of blues/rock with a distinctively retro feel but with a modern twist, they are a great addition to the current rock scene.


There was already a decent crowd gathered and as soon as they began their set, more people began wandering in to the main room from the bar adding to the numbers. It wasn’t long before the majority of the crowd were steadily bopping away. ‘Fortune & Fame’, their next single, which will be out in a couple of weeks, turned that bopping into bouncing. Even bassist Lewis Olsen couldn’t resist a bounce around the stage!


Their ramped up cover of the classic ‘Stormy Monday’ was a showcase for Brett’s vocals, which totally filled the room. His guitar skills throughout the set were off the scale; his fret work was lightning quick and seemed instinctive rather than rehearsed, there was even some Hendrix style teeth playing on show! The standout track for me was ‘Bitter Seeds’ from their debut EP of the same name. It’s a catchy little number with a hook that makes you want to move and it certainly got the crowd bouncing and woo-hoo’ing.


As always, I love it when a band enjoy what they are doing on the stage and there was no doubt they were, laughing and joking with each other throughout the set. Guitarist Jamie White seemed to have a smile on his face the whole time. The drummer, a stand-in, was only playing his forth show, but you never would have guessed; the on-stage camaraderie was fantastic and that vibe transmits to the crowd.


There were a handful of people who had seen the band before, and I have no doubt that many more will be returning to see them again judging by the cheers at the end of the set. It was mentioned during the set that all proceeds from EP sales would go to feeding starving students (the band). This is a stark reminder of why we need to be out supporting new bands.


The Villanovas are:

Brett Smith-Daniels – Vocals/Guitar

Jamie White – Guitar

Lewis Olsen – Bass

Dan Henderson – Drums


Check them out at:


I have to admit that I was not at all familiar with Sonia Leigh before the show, other than she was a country singer/songwriter from Nashville, so didn’t know what to expect from her set tonight. As she took to the stage, wearing a Broken Witt Rebels tee, cheers went up; there was a large contingent in the still growing crowd who knew exactly who she was. And it didn’t take her long to win me over either.


The set consisted of country rock tunes. Some, like ‘Jack Is Back’ veer more towards rock while others such as ‘Dead Man’s Sunrise’ totally turns up the country vibe and makes you want to yeehaw and do a bit of line dancing. ‘My Name Is Money’ blurs the line between the two and has the band and crowd dancing with its catchy grooves. This is Whiskey Myers spliced with The Cadillac Three, but supercharged with an extra kick for good measure. The tempo and beat continually shifting between the styles kept the set fresh and totally ticked all my boxes and the rest of the crowd seemed to be in agreement; looking around the room it’s obvious that they were completely engrossed in the music.


There’s a certain element of storytelling that accompanies country/southern rock and she totally nails it, both in her lyrics and the emotion in her vocals. This was never more evident than during ‘Shelter’ a beautifully touching track with a melody that has the guitars softly singing. Usually when the tempo drops you can pick up chattering in the crowd, but I didn’t notice any and that demonstrates how she and the band had captured everyone’s attention.


She talked to the crowd as if they were old friends; telling everyone how she is stoked to be on this tour and sharing how ‘Alabama Bound’ was inspired by her childhood road trips. She talked fondly about the other artist on the stage, and joked with the drummer about a broken drumstick. She has a personality that accentuates her music.


Sonia was joined on stage tonight by Katy Hurt, and her band, The Healers; who are with her on this tour with no fee – it’s absolutely fantastic to see artists supporting each other in this way. If this hadn’t have been pointed out, I would never have guessed that they weren’t a fully formed band; they were so tight throughout the set. Katy is an exceptional vocalist and the rest of the band are extremely talented musicians.


Check Sonia out at:


There was a lot of movement during the break with people jostling for position ahead of the main act; there was definitely a female majority along the front row. Moving became increasingly difficult as the room began to swell with people; if this wasn’t a sell out, it must have been near.


The band were walked through the crowd to loud cheers before taking to the stage and immediately hitting us with the sexy, sultry intro to ‘Low’, a track that hypnotises you into moving those hips. Vocalist Danny Core adds depth and feeling with his live performance of this track, dropping to the floor to emphasise the frustration in the lyrics; a move he utilised to great effect throughout the set.


Having played a string of festivals over the summer and toured with Whiskey Myers and The Cadillac Three, the band seemed more relaxed and at ease with themselves than the last time I saw them. James D, Luke, and James T were full of smiles and the latter two hardly stayed still all night; this was a total contrast to the guys who oozed cool when I saw them on the Roadstars tour. But it’s a change I totally approve of.


Danny took on the additional role of conductor as he orchestrated the crowd to join in. The Joiners was in full voice, singing “Oh yeah, Oh no” during ‘Bang Bang’, and they didn’t really need prompting to clap during the bridge in ‘Travelling Man’. Their enthusiasm was rewarded when he and James T, decided to leave the stage to play an acoustic version of ‘I Put A Spell On You’ amongst them.


Amongst tracks from their previous releases, they played the three new tracks from their self-titled debut album; ‘Breathless’ sounded even fuller live than it does on the album, with the rhythm section producing so much bass I’m sure the building foundations were vibrating. The crowd enthusiastically joined in with the “woah’ing” during ‘Wait For You’ and a section of the crowd could be seen energetically headbanging through this and ‘Loose Change’; which is something I never imagined writing about a BWR gig.


Crowd pleasers ‘Georgia Pine’ and ‘Guns’ had the crowd dancing, bouncing, and singing, whilst I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with goose bumps during ‘Getaway Man’. The blistering set was brought to an end with ‘Shake Me Down’. It was a shame the night had to end; I could have listened to them all night.


If Broken Witt Rebels were bourbon, they would be Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire (other bourbons are available).


There are still some dates left on this tour:


Thekla, Bristol                           7/12

The Ruby Lounge, Manchester   8/12

The Bodega, Nottingham           9/12


Broken Witt Rebels are:


Danny Core – Vocals/Guitar

James Tranter – Guitar/Vocals

Luke Davis – Bass/Vocals

James Dudley – Drums and Percussion


Check them out at:




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