AFTER many post-Commotions years as a lone ranger, Lloyd Cole has formed a band. Just a modest acoustic one, with an unassuming name: the Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble. Flanking Cole were two six-string slingers Matt Cullen and Mark Schwaber, making three thoughtfully plucked acoustic guitars for the price of one, plus some bonus mandolin and banjo.

It’s both a shrewd and an organic move. The man who once sang about Why I Love Country Music has found a way to bring about a subtle stylistic shift while still remaining true to his natural musical impulses. Cole has also taken this folkier template as his excuse to incorporate a number of Tim Hardin songs in his set.

While the arrangements were slightly different, the audience wanted to hear something they knew: the Commotions songs were received with much greater enthusiasm than the polite appreciation for the rest of the set.
The effortless makeover of 2CV suggested that there has always been a country element to Cole’s songwriting. The trio also had great fun with Lost Weekend, which is naturally suited to its new Appalachian setting, while Schwaber’s resonant, expressive mandolin playing almost stole the show on the likes of Rattlesnakes.

The Small Ensemble then became the Slightly Larger Ensemble with the addition of guest accordion in the encore, lending a pavement café feel to Man Overboard from current album Broken Record and providing bittersweet soulful embellishment on the closing Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

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Publication: Scotsman

Publication date: 29/10/10