Back to The Outhouse for the first OOTB of 2017. Backdrop left at home and no guitar tuner to be found but with a bit of soft lilac lighting and a few good musical ears and the night got underway.
Line-up: Tina Louise Avery, Sam Brown, Tau Boo, Nyk Stoddart, Jack Blimey, Freeloadin’ Frank, James Igoe.
Tina Louise Avery
Compere for the evening James Igoe introduced Tina Louise Avery to the stage. Tina was to play the Danny Kyle stage at Celtic Connections the following weekend – very impressive – but withheld this information from us on the night, possibly to manage our expectations. No need, we expect Tina to be great and she didn’t disappoint. Tina started with ‘Travel Writing’ featured on The Listening Room Volume 1 and it was a very pleasant version with the refrain “I will sit by the fireside tonight” staying in my head long after the night had ended. ‘Tea Amongst The Birds’ is possibly my favourite Tina song: a haunting, beautiful piece of melancholy reminiscent of late ‘60s Judy Collins and mid ‘80s Suzanne Vega. ‘Diving Under Water’ was written after the Victoria shootings and is possibly one of the nicest sounding songs about mass murder that you will ever hear with some impressive guitar picking.
The first, and only, debutante this evening was Sam Brown. We were lucky to catch Sam this evening as he is off to India for three months. Song 1 was about taking the wrong path, featured the refrain ‘Sleight of Hand’ (his first two songs didn’t have titles) and was accompanied by some funky guitar playing. ‘Wisdom Teeth’ seemed to be about growing pains and had a descending guitar phrase which reminded me of early Cream. Keeping his best to last, ‘24/42’ had some impressive slap-jazzy guitar playing, reminiscent of local guitar genius Graeme Mearns. A very promising debut, I hope Sam comes back soon after his trip.
The vocal ranges this evening descended from alto (Tina), tenor (Sam) to the deep bass of Tau Boo. First song ‘Daydream’ featured his trademark vocal: like Paul Robeson if he had been primarily influenced by early ‘90s shoegazing bands like Chapterhouse and Slowdive. Seriously epic and full of Zeppelin-esque time signature changes. The atmospheric Song 2 featured the lyric “catch the wind in your sails my friend”. ‘Your Eyes’ was slightly more upbeat than the previous two (lyric: “beautiful, then fade away”) and Tau had an interesting trick of making his 6-stringed guitar sound like a 12-string without any effects pedals.
Nyk Stoddart showed his more serious side tonight with a trilogy of reflective songs written for an intriguing new musical project. ‘Out in the Sun’ was a romantic song about a warmer time of the year and featured some excellent guitar picking from someone who knows his way around a fretboard. ‘Fly Away’ – no relation to the Lenny Kravitz chart topper – was a mellow love song with the lyric “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be with you”. ‘Mystery in the Universe’ featured some demonic picking and seamless strumming with sample lyric “there is a mystery in the universe that is love”. A heartfelt set from Nyk.
After the break, Jack Blimey ventured from behind the sound desk to the stage with his Schecter electric guitar and showcasing his very original style of songwriting. His opening song had a sound that could be described as pleasantly psychotic English folk, while showing an understanding of the blues. ‘Wherever You Come From’ was in the murder ballad tradition of Nick Cave with a deeply poetic conversational lyric. ‘War on Terror’ talked about the beginning of World War 3 which we might be in already. I wonder if this was written as a poem? I can hear this going down well at a performance poetry session. Cracking chords and excellent guitar playing from Jack.
Freeloadin’ Frank played just before an operation on his nondominant hand so we valued his contribution even more than usual. ‘Butterfly’, written in his back garden (currently being developed by dodgy builders), is a conversation with “Smithers” about a sunny day in May. The epic ‘King Kong’ was a love song written from the perspective of the colossal ape. This sounds like a song The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band could have written in their late ‘60s prime. The open mic classic ‘Magic Cornflake’ took us on an imaginary tour of the world – both inner and outer – or maybe it was just a song about a nice breakfast? Classic Frank.
Like Frank, James Igoe played a three-song set that would be familiar to open mic goers over the last few years. Starting with ‘Inga’s Eyes’ a “song about lust” and taboo hair-stroking. ‘Braveheart Beggar’ followed, written before his belief that Scotland should be an independent country it is a critical account of hypocritical Scottish culture in the mid-late 1990s. ‘Cowboy Song 2’, a song about travelling, was dedicated to Sam and imminent his trip to India.
Due to a slight dearth of acts this evening, those who had played earlier had another opportunity.
Sam Brown played ‘Meet The Bones’ (a play on words with “meat on the bones”?) in his jazzy style – very pleasant.
Tau Boo played again, but unfortunately this reviewer had to spend a penny so this song will remain a mystery.
Nyk Stoddart played ‘Aeroplanes’, a mainly-instrumental, acid-drenched song closer to the style of the songs when he first made his name at OOTB in the Canon’s Gait.
Jack Blimey played ‘Desolation Street’, a dark tale of a dysfunctional neighbourhood, with a chord that impressed the aforementioned local musical genius Graeme Mearns some years hence.
Freeloadin’ Frank played ‘Rupert’, his “leftie” song, noting that the protagonist Mr. Murdoch helped put the incumbent President Trump in the White House. Lyrics were updated to reflect recent political changes in the USA and UK.
Plenty of great stuff this evening, if perhaps not a classic, well-attended OOTB. A promising start to 2017 and hopefully there will be many great OOTB nights to look forward to this year.
James Igoe (review)