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Fringe review: Hayley Cass – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

This high-energy, tightly professional and foot-tapping slice of soul, jazz, blues and more blends rich melodies, driving rhythms, and global and local talent for a lively hour of captivating music. ★★★★

Feb 20, 2023, updated Feb 20, 2023
Hayley Cass is performing a number of shows at different venues throughout the 2023 Adelaide Fringe.

Hayley Cass is performing a number of shows at different venues throughout the 2023 Adelaide Fringe.

Hayley Cass is an emergent singer-songwriter with a wide musical range and connections across the United States. Originally from New York, she is now based in Nashville by way of Philadelphia, where most of the recording for her soon-to-be-released concept album was completed. The relaxed, cocktail lounge Atrium of the artist-run Warehouse Theatre, tucked away down two inner suburban laneways, proved a suitably intimate space to absorb the rich melodies and driving rhythms of a passionate and commandingly polished performance.

Reflecting everything from a Baptist family background steeped in church singing, to her time as vocalist for hip-hop group Red Martina, Cass wove the sounds of soul, jazz, blues, country, gospel and funk throughout this sharp 60-minute set.

She was supported by expert backing from a band of three exceptional Adelaide musicians whose ensemble energy and cohesion is made even more impressive considering the group’s limited rehearsal time together before this run of Fringe shows. You might have assumed they had been playing in perfect sync for years, easily capturing the room with liveliness and precision.

Things began with a quiet build into the lush, mid-tempo shimmer of show and album title track “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”, then pivoted into jaunty, pop-inflected “You & Me” before settling back into the blues-rich, sticky-slow and faintly ominous “Ain’t Gonna Knock Me Down”, which echoed the haunting notes of a murder ballad or Bob Dylan’s fire and brimstone period. Guitarist Django Rowe showcased his skill here, and in the following “How Long”, helping guide these darkly evocative songs with steely poise and soaring riffs.

The well-deployed and welcome variations in texture, tempo and tonal vibe continued through “Down by the River”, which escalated pace to an epiphanic crescendo before the more relaxed jazz of “You’re Not Mine” and then a looser jam number giving both Ben Fuller on double bass and drummer Craig Lauritsen the chance to break out some frenetic but controlled solo skills.

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Cass rounded things out with the debut performance of a slow, reflective ballad written on her last visit to Australia, a suitably moving meditation on love and longing, missing home and returning to it. Luckily, she’s not heading back to Nashville just yet and each of the remaining gigs with her adopted Australian troupe will only, undoubtedly, build on their formidable impact.

Hayley Cass is playing a number of shows throughout Adelaide Fringe: her remaining gigs are at The Gov on February 26, March 12 and 18, and Arkaba Hotel on March 19.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

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