Manchester has always been fertile ground for blossoming songwriters, both on their way to fame or penning their name into the history books in indelible ink. Whether drafting ditties to curl up to as the nights draw in or setting a scene of hazy homeliness at live venues across the city, their charm is widespread and November sees Manchester’s gig calendar crammed with the cream of the crop.
This weekend, there’s a reawakening show for Will Sheff’s reshaped clan of melody makers, Okkervil River (Sat 12 Nov). His latest record, Away, sees the alt-folk songsmith on melancholic form, deep in creative emotion that comes from making sense of loss and change. The Gorilla gig is a perfect opportunity to dive in.
Riding the wave of his 2015 epic, Birds With Broken Wings, Ben Caplan (Mon 14 Nov) has won fans and critical acclaim alike for his gutsy, gargling vocal grit set against bawdy bluesy boogies. Joined by his Casual Smokers backing band, expect Caplan’s tones to transform the Deaf Institute’s attire and sound into a chamber of burlesque.
Nathaniel Rateliff’s rise and rise has seen him visiting Manchester several times since supporting Delta Spirit at Ruby Lounge back in 2010. It’s his transition from solo acoustician to leader of the Night Sweats live band that has turned heads, recently on record with A Little Something More and plugging into folk rock soundsystems across the EU-US circuits. And after enchanting the Ritz back in March, he returns to the city’s Apollo Theatre this month (Fri 18 Nov).
As a graduate of the Canadian underground post-hardcore scene, heartfelt acoustic lilts were perhaps an unlikely change of direction back in 2009 for the trad folk craftsman Matthew Daniel Goud. But when he adopted the moniker of Northcote (Wed 23 Nov), that’s exactly what he did. Tugging on the heartstrings while lending that warm hand of support, his Springsteen-esque gravel will be heard shimmering through Gullivers.
A more upbeat option is Felix Riebl (Sun 27 Nov), whose role as chief singer-songwriter with Aussie ska jazz gang The Cat Empire has set him up for his current solo guise. By contrast, he uses his own own for more refined melodies, and his Deaf Institute show in part of his Paper Doors album tour.