When East London four-piece Lahayna split up in 2009 three quarters of Lahayna (Matthew Edun (guitar & backing vocals), Chris Church (bass & backing vocals) and Rory Littlebury (drums & percussion) joined forces with Marcus ‘Tommy’ Thompson to create “the rootsy Americana and gritty British guitar” influenced Burning Condors. The Burning Condors achieved something Lahayna didn’t: the release of an LP during the years they were active called Round Our Way.
Live at Cowshed is neither a live LP nor a posthumous second LP, but rather an opportunity to bring together the Burning Condors “rawest and most exhilarating collection of songs” recorded live at Cowshed North London recording studio to tape in just one day. Live at Cowshed is the soundtrack to the Burning Condors hungry years; the recording took place whilst the band was putting together their debut Look at the Lights E.P.
Opening with “Twisted Kind of Bliss” Dylan fans will notice a resemblance to his 2001 Love and Theft LP opener “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum”; despite “Twisted Kind of Bliss” being less polished, it is a rawer, harder, faster, dirtier and rockier blast of Americana blues and rock conceived by unfiltered blood sweat and tears. With Tommy’s unique, passionate and powerful raunchy vocals with a pitch, a couple of octaves higher than Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon) with the energy of Pelle Almqvist (The Hives); the Burning Condors truly made a departure from the funk sound that increasingly came to define Lahayna.
With Tommy’s vocals bearing resemblance to Caleb Followill; the bands’ sound throughout Live at Cowshed is undeniably influenced by Kings of Leon’s early material. “Polka Dot Girl” one of Burning Condor’s original live favourites draws out the best from “The Bucket” and “Red Morning Light”. Whilst Kings of Leon influenced the paths taken; the Burning Condors (with Matt’s inviting and innovative guitar riffs and the bands’ tight collective cohesion) were always in the driving seat and decision-makers concerning the roads they travelled.
Whether it is because the majority of the songs except one are all three minutes and under, the energy throughout Live at Cowshed is consistent and unwavering. It is this energy that gave the Burning Condors their individuality and allowed them to continuously extract the nectar of the best of the Kings of Leon. “Love on the Rocks” for instance draws from “Wasted Time” and “King of the Rodeo” whilst “Burning Up the Town” celebrates “Four Kicks” but goes further by slowing down the BPM and turning down the volume without losing the adrenaline for rushing palpitations are invoked with deftly sinister, dark and heavy bass lines offered by Chris Church.
Live at Cowshed features two covers. The first being Elvis’ “That’s All Right” which stays true to the original whilst injecting a rawer, grittier and more up-tempo interpretation. The same treatment is given to Burning Condors live favourite cover “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. The Man in Black is done proud and the Burning Condors demonstrate they can innovate without using Kings of Leon as a reference point.
Live at Cowshed like the time it was recorded in is fast and quick but not rushed. Whilst there is less variety compared to Lahayna’s self-titled LP; there is a greater sense of direction, cohesion, discipline, collective identity and sacrosanct concentrated energy. Not having an abundance of variety does not mean that musical adroitness and deftness was not exhibited. On tracks like “Last Train Home” one can almost see and feel the fingers being bled from the intense guitar playing. Penultimate track “Killing Time” skilfully changes tempo and appropriately allows the best that Hendrix inspired guitar solos have to offer.
Lahayna showed that it’s actually what you know, not who you know that counts when they entered the Official Top Forty Single Charts with “In The City” despite receiving no airplay and their fan base being confined to Essex and East London. The Burning Condors refused to milk Lahayna’s success and built themselves up from nothing, and based on merit, blood, sweat and toil achieved airplay on BBC Introducing and tour support slots with Americana and roots Legendary Shack Shakers, The Dirt Daubers and The Go Getters. The Burning Condors also stayed true to their Essex and East London roots; the cover art for ‘Live at Cowshed’ was created by childhood friend of Matthew and Chris: graphic designer Sean Roper.
Despite there being several self-evident gems from Lahayna’s self-titled debut LP such as “Set it off” and “Passenger”; Lahayna’s highlight will always be their instant, commercialised pop-leaning single “In the City” (which entered the official charts at number 33) whilst the Burning Condors, with Live at Cowshed will be remembered for injecting a raw and hungry, yet sophisticated personalised blend of British guitar into Americana and roots.