Country rockers go down a storm

Jess and the Bandits
Jess and the Bandits

WIGANERS were transported across the pond as a corner of the borough was transformed into an outpost of the good ol’ USA.

The Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre welcomed music fans through its doors for a night showcasing two local roots musicians with one of the UK’s fastest-rising country bands, Jess and the Bandits.

Jess and the Bandits

Jess and the Bandits

Before the headliners Leigh country musician Gary Quinn warms up the crowd with a short set demonstrating his award-winning song-writing skills with melodic tunes and lyrics ranging from the humour of On Your Way Out to the tenderness of He Don’t Show Her Anymore.

He is followed by Springfield musician Chris Bannister, who clearly enjoys a rare hometown outing mixing old Americana classics with his thought-provoking songs about the legacy of the ’60s and Native American rights.

He also makes a thoughtful charitable gesture by donating a jacket for auction at the interval in aid of Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH).

After two acoustic sets Jess and the Bandits put the power down when they hit the stage, their electric country sound blended with plenty of rock elements and a pop melodic sensibility.

Guitarist Louis Riccardi switches between rootsy leads and wailing rock solos and even trades lead vocals with Texan frontwoman Jess Clemmons during a memorable cover which sees Tom Jones’ Mama Told Me Not To Come given a Deep South spin.

Steven Reid Williams’ keyboards provide everything from rippling accompaniment on the slower numbers to New Orleans and honky tonk riffs on the uptempo songs, while the inclusion of a steel guitar brings an extra melancholic and authentically American edge.

Singles from debut album Here We Go Again such as My Name Is Trouble (described as “a true story, written about me” by Jess), You Can’t Stop Me and Nitty Gritty, Jess’ homage to inner worth and rejecting conventional expectations concerning image, mix in the longer headlining set with tracks such as poignant power ballad What If.

As the set moves towards its conclusion the band plays a beautiful version of Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, with piano to the fore and the steel guitar chiming like backing vocals in the chorus, before finishing with sassy country-rocker Wanted Man and a storming cover of Bonnie Raitt’s Love Sneakin’ Up On You.

As CDs disappear from the merchandise desk and a long line of fans wait to get their albums signed and meet the group, it’s clear that Jess and the Bandits have stolen the hearts of music fans in Wigan.