ILona |Kelley McRae with Matt Castelein | Saturday 29th October 2016

Following this end of year double headliner featuring ILONA and KELLEY MCRAE, 2016 will go down as another classic year in the history of Little Rabbit Barn.

Editor: Totally amazed at the quality of artists performing LRB, such a privilege to host.

Ten gigs and 23 acts from Jess and the Bandits headlining our first show of 2016 with Honey Ryder; summer gigs featuring Anne McCue, Eve Selis, Belle Roscoe, and Amanda Pearcy; top UK country bands The Rosellys and The Redlands Palomino Company; Canadian award winners Catherine MacLellan and Christina Martin; UK country award winner Sasha McVeigh with Loveless Effect band and the wonderful talent of American Young , top US guitarist Janet Robin and Don Gallardo; superb emerging artists Dexeter, Hannah Rose Platt, Orfila, Megan O’Neill, Lisa Wright, Stevie Jones; multi British Blues award winners Babajack; British rising star of blues/soulful Americana, Lauren Housley with her full band then brilliant Ilona and sublime Kelley McRae closing the year. Many more amazing artists and performances planned for 2017.


We are so fortunate to have a large number of guests who come to every gig and a good number who came to more than half. It’s great to see so many supporting live original music at LRB and we know that tonight they were not disappointed.

 First up ILONA with her band 

Ilona, originally from Bulgaria is now London based. Joining her on stage, Tony Moore on keys and acoustic guitar (ex Cutting Crew, Iron Maiden). KT Parker on electric bass and Luke Bowman on electric guitar.



J&L and Terry were in hot pursuit to bring Ilona to LRB having seen them perform several times including The Brooklyn Bowl at the prestigious C2C festival earlier in the year. Ilona is without doubt one of the most impressive emerging artists breaking through.

From the opening bars we knew this was going to be special. The band were tight and Ilona’s vocals, and stage craft simply superb. 

Early into the set, off came the necklace as it was just getting in the way of her expressive delivery.

 “I’m going to play you some love songs tonight, I don’t know about anything else.” she tells us. “Love comes in different shades, this one, I Still Fall For You, is red”. 


‘It’s the opening track one from our latest EP, FRAGILE HEART’. A great way to introduce the band and get the LRB audience singing the chorus. Luke playing some blistering lead guitar.

Clearly Ilona wants to dance on stage as she prefers a radio mic but stage room is tight, nevertheless she made the most of the space and never looked restricted.

They played Loves Out The Window, which is now on iTunes and YouTube for streaming and well worth checking out.

Luke breaks an A string on his guitar (the first time this has happened in three years he tells me later). He plays the last song with five strings, but ‘Seasick Steve’ plays with three, it still sounds great.

Well, we couldn’t let it end there. The audience ready and wanting an encore. Ilona duly delivers an unplanned song which she and the band improvised and everyone loved it. It’s live, it’s vibrant, it is exciting. 

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ILONA is a name you should be looking out for as she has wide cross genre appeal with songs that lend themselves to commercial delivery. We will be following closely and hope to see them again at LRB in the future.

Time for the food and Lyn served up a lovely chicken curry for us all with plenty of ginger to fight off the winter colds. A quick head count and Trump and Hillary the chickens were still intact!

As for the raffle, a friend Brian, who was at his first LRB gig told me of his reluctance to buy a ticket as the only raffle he had ever won was on his 30th birthday – a bottle of whisky.
Well tonight, some 35 years later he won again – a bottle of Jack Daniels (thanks Mark and Diane for popping this into the raffle).

So remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

J& L also presented a bottle to all the LRB volunteers as a token of appreciation for help during the year.  

Now back to the music and for a second time we were privileged to welcome Kelley McRae and Matt Castelein back to the LRB stage (he with the beautiful resonator guitar and ceramic slide and Kelley with the most beautiful voice and crystalline delivery).


This was the end of a six week tour across Europe, 10 years after they first met at Pete’s Candy Store. ‘The couple who made it’.


We enjoyed tales from the road, how they spent two years traveling in a VW camper van calling Walmart carparks home. ‘They are all the same, you forget where in the world you are,’ Kelley tells us. So they found a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to call home.

 The tale of their gig at a biker bar. The audience looked scary and they had to go on and play tentatively the three Neil Young songs they knew, to gauge the audience reaction to some American folk.

Surprisingly to them, things went well and a biker came up after and gave them a much needed $100 saying he loved to see people following their dreams. 

They promptly went to New Orleans and spent it on food and drink and wrote a song about it.

 ‘I have a tendency to just run off a cliff and say, it’s gonna be cool, ‘ says Kelley.

Matt says, ‘as we travel around the world we find we have a lot of commonalities and John Prine is one of them,’ and so we were treated to a lovely version of John Prine’s song, Speed Of The Sound of Loneliness.

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The sound on the night was just sublime, Kelley and Matt are a master class in quality Americana performance as they played through their superb 2016 album THE WAYSIDE with some new songs and some older classics too.

 A favourite being Johnny Cash that was played following an audience request. ‘I saw some huge graffiti on a wall two weeks after Johnny’s passing that said Johnny Cash died of a broken heart – well crap if that’s not a title of a song!’ Kelley says, ‘so I took the next day off work and wrote it.’


In Your Loving Arms uses the words of Elizabeth Taylor (would you believe it) from Cambridge. Apparently if you email people every day they eventually respond.

As the set reached its end with All The Days That Come Before from THE WAYSIDE, fireworks exploded outside, as if on cue to bring an end to the evening.

 Yes, we had an encore, a new song, When I Hope. ‘If you are the praying kind, spare a thought for America,’ says Kelley, ‘although this song has nothing to do with the election.’

These evenings end all too quickly as has the whole season of 2016. We have to let it go as we look forward to 2017, and so in the words of Kelley McRae in her great song, If You Need Me….’everything worth holding onto, is worth letting go.’

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Editor: As we reflect on 2016 and this last night was no exception, feedback from the artists performing has been an endorsement for all the effort and attention to detail that has gone into evolving LRB and hosting our music evenings. We thank you and will never become complacent and take it for granted. It is always a privilege to host you at LRB and we endeavour to make the night memorable for you as you do for all the guests.

The wall of fame catches the eye as you enter the barn and artists comment that they love to play here where many have played before, becoming part of the history of LRB. 

Editor: We should also recognise the sound engineers that have taken the helm over the year. Simon Allen, Tom Fairbairn, David Booth and James Partridge. Thanks guys for all your skill mixing a well-balanced and dynamic sound that makes live music so special for us all and gives confidence to the performers.

We also hope you are enjoying the YOUTUBE videos we post.

Much attention to detail goes into filming, recording and mixing the audio and video to capture a lasting and enjoyable reminder of the events. These are great to watch – especially when there is nothing on the TV! so keep an eye out or subscribe for more additions as J gets time to edit and mix the backlog through the closed season.

The performers are always happy to receive this material and often use it as a promotional tool. I don’t believe there can be many commercial venues that include this service.

It has also been great to watch the progress of performers who have previously played Little Rabbit Barn.

Ward Thomas (appeared in 2014), made history in September 2016 by becoming the first UK country music act to have a Number 1 album in the UK Official Album Chart  with their second album CARTWHEELS.

Jess and the Bandits (2 appearances) 2016 British Country Music Association award double winners for Band and Entertainer of the year

Sasha McVeigh UK Country Radio Awards, Female Vocalist of the year and nominated in the British Country Music Association awards 2016 for best album and best female vocalist .

Dexeter post LRB appearance in April 2016, garnered national airplay on BBC Radio Two and performed a live studio session for Bob Harris on his Radio Two Country show.

Lauren Housley (3 LRB appearances) playing Bluesfest at the O2 alongside Jo Harmon and Van Morrison for the second year running as well as BBC Radio Two play listings.

Baskery collected an international music award followed by a tour as Robbie Williams band across Europe and Russia.

Janet Robin had a four page spread in Guitar and Bass magazine 2016 and was chosen to coach actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (Grammy nominated) working with acclaimed American director Quentin Tarantino on The Hateful Eight.

Amy Wadge (2 LRB appearances) won a Grammy for co-writing Thinking Out Loud with Ed Sheeran.

Three previous artists have appeared recently in the Guardian list of the best country and Americana albums of 2016. Amelia Curran, Annie Keating and Don Gallardo. 

The list of artists who want to play LRB grows. Unfortunately with limited dates it is not possible to host everyone, which means 2017 is looking to be another exciting year.

Editor: On behalf of all the artists who played during the year and us folks at LRB, thank you for your support. Back on Saturday 04 March 2017 with Ben Glover + Elles Bailey

Credits: Chris Kyan: Review| Video | Photography | Facebook
Peter Males: Photography
Andy Sheard: Photography


Posted in Gig Reviews