Country never looked - or sounded - so good.

Words by Nikki Baumann Photos by Simon Laube

I must admit, I certainly had my doubts about this gig. I mean, seriously, Country music? On a Sunday afternoon? It sounded more like something my parents would like to attend. My initial impressions upon arrival were similarly dubious, with the majority of the waiting crowd sporting either grey hair or several small children in tow. However, I had heard nothing but glowing reports about The Sloe Ruin and, once settled in with a pint of the Wheatsheaf Hotel’s finest, I was inclined to persevere. I soon discovered that all my doubts were completely unfounded.


Kicking off the afternoon with a cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic These Boots Were Made for Walking was Adie Haines, a local singer-songwriter, alongside guitarist Emily Smith. Sounding at times a little like Lanie Lane or Missy Higgins, Adie capably worked her way through a variety of tracks ranging from the light-hearted and ‘happy’ (such as Looks Like I’m Happy Now) all the way through to old-fashioned rock and roll (e.g. My Man). It is on her darker, slower and slightly twisted tracks, however – “Choose to Be Kind” being a particular standout - that Adie’s song writing skills truly shine through. Slightly awkward on-stage banter aside, it was an enjoyable start to the evening.


While the first set was happening, the venue had slowly filled up and there was now not a spare seat in sight. While I had yet to hear any of The Sloe Ruin’s music, I was aware that this was only their 5th gig together and so the sheer number of people now crowding into the space was impressive. As soon as the music began, it was immediately clear how they had managed to develop such a fan base in such a short space of time. Regardless of genre, it is unusual to watch a band that play so well together and have such a stage presence after so short a time performing.


The Sloe Ruin is comprised of Hana Brenecki on lead vocals and rhythm guitar (who you may recognise from local rock band, Ricochet Pete), Ryan Underhill on vocals and bass guitar, Jessie-Lee Zubkevych on Fender Telecaster (also seen in The Villenettes), Matty Carter (another Ricochet Pete native) on drums, Stef Krcmarov on piano, organ and accordion and Kev McGloin on banjo. With such a reputable musical lineage, it is no surprise that they can deliver the goods. Whether you are in the mood for slow, heart-rending ballads, or a raucous, foot-stomping drinking song, The Sloe Ruin has you covered. And before you go thinking that I’m a secret Country music fanatic, I will admit that the closest I have gotten to this kind of music in the past is an occasional drunken rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene at karaoke (don’t judge me!). My preconceptions of Country music have now been well and truly destroyed - I haven’t had such a good time in ages!


If you missed this gig, do not worry. You don’t have to wait too long for a second chance as they are playing at the ‘Rock vs Country’ gig at the Grace Emily this Thursday, 2nd April. While I have no doubt that Country will - in this instance - take out the title (yes, you heard it here first folks!), I know that Koral and the Goodbye Horses and The Last Supper will put up a good fight! If honky-tonk and whiskey sounds like a better time than chocolate eggs and the Easter Bunny, I advise you not to miss it.