CB2's basement could barely contain the fans, friends and family who turned out for Justin Grounds' homecoming gig on his UK tour promoting his latest album Love Is Strong As Death. After a rousing opening set from a trio led by rising local singer-song writer Tom Adams, the stage was set for an intimate and powerful set from a truly multi-talented solo artist.
Justin's album features intricate arrangements of guitar, piano, violin, vocals and other instruments. They may be unremarkable compared to the studio output of other solo artists but few are able to reproduce such tracks single-handed in a live performance to the extent that Justin does. Using a bank of pedals and some nifty footwork, Justin is able to play or sing a refrain on one instrument, set it playing back on a loop and then play another part over the top, building up his own backing band.
Over this self-made backing track Justin delivers his finely crafted lyrics. With unfaltering strength and precision his voice fills the small room. Throughout the hour long set Justin keeps pulling new tricks out of the bag; singing an empassioned chorus whilst bowing his violin, producing a resonant sound that could fill a concert hall, human beat boxing, new sounds and instruments constantly add to the rich texture of the music. It is often hard to believe it is all the work of one performer.
The reaction of the crowd could not have been more enthusiastic and they needed little encouragement to cheer for an encore. Cambridge has produced an artist to be proud of and he deserves the same warm reaction as he takes his music to the rest of the country and beyond.
Justin Grounds' latest album Love Is Strong As Death is out now on Exploding Tree Records.
Writer and photographer: Patrick Widdess