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OOTB 314 – 18 Sep 2008

Posted 18/09/2008 By admin

OOTB 20080918

Calum Carlisle, Mick & Jeff, Tica Douglas, Broken Tooth, Hughes & McQuade,
Pan Am, Craig Hood, John Fink, Nyk Stoddart

Calum Carlisle
Calum sports his new baby; a lovely 12(oops 11)-string guitar. His set
tonight shows Calum at his most chameleon-like. ‘Piper on Princes St’ is a
nationalist song along the lines of Flower of Scotland. (I would argue
that Scotland IS a nation although sadly it may not currently be a
nation-state. Discuss)
This is followed with no transition by ‘Superglue’ which I rather liked.
It is in Placebo territory for the most part with an unnerving chromatic
section which is more like Nirvana. And if this wasn’t enough of a change
his third is the perennial favourite ‘The Sound of Falling In Love at
First Sight’. This is more a mellifluous indulgence in guitar sonority
than anything else, but on a 12-string all those rich chords are even more
so. Drop-D loveliness.

Mick & Jeff
If you haven’t seen them for a while, Jeff & Mick are just back from Peru
and Portobello respectively. M&J had an average age of 15 in 1953, and if
you imagine what they must have listened to as teenagers it will give you
a fair indication of their style; blues/boogie/skiffle with Everley
Brothers style harmonies. It may not be cutting edge but it has with
plenty of entertainment value, and I for one would be well chuffed to
sound this good at their age, and obviously still enjoying it – and we did

Tica Douglas (debut)
Tica has just arrived from Portland, Maine. I’ll admit it’s going to take
me a few listens as its soo different to anything else around, but a warm
welcome to a very distinctive performer. Yep, so she’s younger than a lot
of us and has therefore been exposed to very different music – its
acoustic and it ain’t R&B, but it is certainly Hip Hop ‘aware’. Imagine a
big saggy kick sample behind everything and you won’t be far wrong. She
has a conversational style with considerable charm and wit. This music was
the topic of much of the evening’s discussion during the breaks.

Broken Tooth
It is another confident and competent performance from BT, but not on a
par with a few weeks ago when I was doing sound and he looked really
pissed off at me (probably something to do with my last review) and put
all that energy and anger into his performance. So I guess my aim with
this review has to be to get him sufficiently riled to put in a better
show next time. Here goes.
The blues is (musically speaking) all cliché. Not a good or a bad thing,
that’s just what it is. It’s what happens within that framework that
counts. Do you have to be black to sing the blues? No, but it probably
helps. The power of the blues is in the performance, and is magical when
the emotions are and upsurge from a deep personal well of oppression. I
just don’t feel this from Jim tonight – sure I bet he does have an
impressive knowledge of this genre, I’ve never agued against that, but
when you use clichés without that level of passion it always feels like a
cover version: competent, but not exciting and not personal. Are you mad

Oh, by the way, ‘what’s a boy supposed to do’ is the best of the set. It’s
a 1920s/30s pastiche along the lines of Queen’s ‘Good ole-fashioned lover
boy’. It needs a few chord corrections to make the harmony believable, but
it made a refreshing change from the blues.

Hughes & McQuade
I’ve only seen this paring with acoustic guitars before, so it’s a nice
change to add a bass. Anyone who can play fretless has my admiration, and
always seems to attract looks of admiration and hate in equal measures
from the audience who can’t imagine life without frets. Too talented by
half. This is uplifting sing-along music along the lines of Del Amitri.
The problem with performing sing-along music in a pub is that sometimes
drunks start singing along. And that was the case tonight as a rather
pickled local periodically interrupted the proceedings. Hope you weren’t
too put off. His voice has that Travis-like quality of getting better as
it goes up. Lovely songs: ‘Walk on’ had everyone reaching for their

Pan Am (Debut)
A warm welcome to Pan Am on their first performance at OOTB. The songs had
an in-yer-face swagger and stomp much like an acoustic Arctic Monkeys. I’d
like to see their performance grow to match their material – they seemed a
little nervous tonight (we’re really not that scary people) – best keep
coming or drink more beer in future. After a few weeks it’ll seem like
child’s play. This is the whole point of OOTB giving new performers a
platform and dragging fresh material out of hiding. So please keep it up.

Craig Hood
It has been a long time since Craig last played here – too bad, its
interesting material you have. Again, playing in public will really help
your nerves and help you to perform. 3 interesting songs: ‘Swing’ had an
ostinato pattern over pedal notes – it was a little cookie or perhaps
psychedelic, ‘Travel House’ had nice classical harmony – this time it was
very like Bach. His last song also had nice harmony, this one a more
fragile song. Great set overall.

John Fink
John apologises for his finger-picking and has a couple of false starts
and I’m wondering if he is too nervous to play, when he reverts to his
strumming songs and plays a blinder. His third song ‘You stand to loose’
is the best of the set, I was wondering if it was a Nickleback cover,
whilst Calum thought it was Incubus – but no it was a Fink original. John
has possibly the best voice of the night; if all his songs are of this
quality I’m sure he’ll be due a main slot soon.

Nyk Stoddart
Well it wouldn’t be a OOTB night without Nyk’s presence – he starts by
instructing us to ‘listen to my new direction’ and playing some random
notes – we all fall for it, be fore he says ‘only joking’ and tears into
some favourites. A good way of identifying the OOTB debutantes in the room
is by observing their reaction to ‘Gimp Boy’ as they try to ascertain
whether Nyk is mad or a genius. Of course, we all look on with nods and
knowing glances.

Compere: Jim Whyte, Review: Daniel Davis, Sound: David O’Hara

OOTB 313 – 11 Sep 2008

Posted 11/09/2008 By admin

Well, playing a little bit of catch-up here. There’s so many people
signing up to the mailing list, you see, it’s taken us two weeks just to
type their email addresses!

Anyway, enjoy Johnny Pugh’s review:

OOTB No 313

Jim White, Francis Hayes, Sophie, Ross Nielson, Bill, Ben Young, Yogi, Calum Carlyle, Alan, Kevin O’ Neil, Rob Sproul-Cran, Nyk Stoddart, Pip Robinson

Jim White Our compere kicks off the night, with ‘I Found Love’. The rhythmic strumming, and ‘ba-ba-ba-ba’s in the chorus lend the song a happy-go-lucky feel, a motif which serves to highlight the change in mood of the lyrics as the song progresses. Having ‘lived on chocolate and red wine’ previously (oh the decadence), the song finishes with a break-up, as Jim sings ‘I set my love free’. A poignant start to the night. Also, massive respect has to be given to Jim as he manages to fit the word ‘polystyrene’ into a song.

Francis Hayes Francis begins with ‘All about You’, a song about following dreams and the consequences that it can bring. Triumphant strumming is coupled with the power of Francis controlled vocal, questioning ‘Are we so blind?’. Its an honest song, tinged with frustration, but also hope, as Francis surmises ‘Its all to do with fear’. Following this, we are treated to the recently penned ‘Skinless Wonders’, which explores the way in which different people can have such contrasting experiences of life. The structured verses each give a different perspective, over anguished minor chords. This one seems slightly pessimistic, particularly with the memorable line ‘I lose so much each time I try to give a little more’. I believe Francis’ final song was called ‘Mocking Time’. Here the strength of the vocal gives the song a prophetic air, slandering those ‘waiting for salvation’, both in the lower and higher ranges. Really enjoyed this last one, again some great lyrics, ( Is it hatred if its you that turns the knife). Another, varied and thought provoking set from this versatile songwriter.

Sophie In what must have been one of the most confident and memorable debuts at OOTB, the audience were treated to some wonderfully unique song writing and skilled musicianship, with Sophie. ‘Over the pavement’ is an observational piece, with the gently picked nylon string guitar evoking a ‘lullaby-esque’ feel to the repeated words at various points in the song. What is more there is a whistling interlude…marvelous. This sounds like one of those kooky acoustic songs that adverts seem to use at the moment. ‘Facing Your Demons’ allows Sophie to showcase her vocal dexterity, using her voice almost like a classical instrument. The lyrics are enticing and poetic, putting me in mind of a female and happy version of Leonard Cohen. Not sure he would have put ‘snickety-snack’ in his lyrics, but mores the pity for Leonard Cohen. Another really enjoyable piece. Didn’t catch the name of her last, but it was my favourite of the set. Here, the song writing was really natural , as she sings of insensibly rejecting love: ‘if there were any sense in my heart, I would feel for you as you feel for me’. Again the sharp stabbing vocal sounds like an instrument line. A really enjoyable set which had the audience hanging on every note. What’s more she has only been writing songs for a year, so we can expect even more from this talented and unique artist. Hopefully we will get to hear the fruits of this at OOTB again soon.

Ross Nielson starts with the angry ‘If I can find my change of heart’, a particular favourite of mine from his repertoire. The lyrics explore inner demons taking control, (‘have you ever felt the darkness slip inside your soul?’), and the pain that the snarling vocal expresses sounds completely genuine. His second was ‘Playing Games’, which is about the mind games which love can engage people in, especially when it is unrequited. First Ross maintains that ‘Nobody knows her quite like me’, before denouncing ‘Yeah she burns tonight’. The occasional spoken words have real attitude and add variety to the acoustic rock sound. His last has a different, modal feel given the Fmajor – Dmajor chord progression, which underpins the sustained vocal. Again the lyrics are angry, but in this case slightly more general; ‘With the smell of success you shot your God’, is a disturbing line delivered wonderfully by Ross’ gritty vocal. Ross has a CD coming out soon I believe, so watch this space!

Bill Bill takes to stage to treat us to some performance poetry. His first is a thought provoking exploration of the subjective nature of time and its restrictions. These philosophical meanderings were paired with some rendering descriptions of the problems time can bring, or not heal, which give the piece a great deal of pathos. His second I can only guess is called ‘intermission’, and includes some good old fashioned audience participation. This poem discusses the trials and tribulations of being a performance poet on a music scene, and there is an anger when Bill claims that the real performances are actually occurring in the conversations during the intermission. Bill’s poetry is rooted in real life, and is relatable yet challenging.

Ben Young The good news…tonight is Ben’s CD launch! (cue loud cheers). The absolutely devastating news… This is Ben’s final OOTB before he leaves us all for Turkey, (cue moans of despair, and outrage…a few people faint). Unfortunately, tonight will be the last time we get to hear Ben play the Canon’s Gait for a long, long time. Good thing that he treated us to a magical featured slot tonight, as well as free CDs by way of a farewell. In order to establish where he lies in the guitarist pecking order, Ben’s first song exhibits some mind boggling guitar work, including finger picking bended strings and some great inter – chord licks. The lyrics demand that ‘I must eat before I go’…an admirable sentiment. Next we hear ‘Drown’ following some horrendous drunken heckling, which Ben seems particularly adept at dispatching with aplomb. Anyway, returning far more importantly to the music: the song begins with one of those wonderful blues licks that would make anyone want to pick up a guitar and start playing blues, before reverting to some syncopated finger picking to provide a basis for the vocal. Ben’s lyrics tell a story, as he is told ‘that you can’t fix what you’ve done with more words’, while he asks ‘hold me down…until I drown’. ‘Bottle Bottom Specs’ has an almost Kinks like quality to some of the lyrics, with its witty observances: ‘I never change my mind as well you know’ captures the tension that can occur between couples in a whimsical but heartfelt manner. This attitude in fact sums up the song nicely. Again the guitar is complex, but not to the extent that it focuses the listener’s attention away from the excellent lyrics. ‘Leicester Forest East’ is a song about the eponymous service station. This song I think can be taken at face value, in that Ben’s musicianship makes even the banal wonderfully entertaining. On the other hand the lyrics are ambiguous, and could be taken as metaphorical (he writes novels don’t you know). ‘I should have done this so long ago/ What does it say about me?’, could be about leaving any place or even relationships. What really impresses about Ben’s music here is its adventurous nature. While many proficient guitarists are content to play the basics as quickly as possible, Ben’s chord voicing and progressions are both original and engaging. Quality stuff. Next up is ‘Battle of the Bands’, one of my favourites. The guitar work is dark, mirroring the bitter resentment of the lyrics. Again the narrative lyrics are peppered with other ideas and challenging observations: ‘And now a girl band sings of sisterhood/ as her sisters turn away’. Like Dylan, Ben is skilled at creating pictures of his story in the listeners mind. The chorus slams the bands who sing ‘with nothing to say’. ‘Lost in Englandland’ is a nostalgic tale about the place ‘where we first fell in love’ where Ben sings high at the top of his voice. It seems to be a happy memory, tinged with a sadness that those days have passed. The music is almost jig-like, using quick runs between the chords, and octaves which make the guitar sound almost like a 12 string. Ben’s last is a fantastic, sophisticated blues number lamenting that ‘My Baby don’t like my Music’. Clearly his baby is either an idiot or deaf. Again, this gives Ben license to roam freely on the fretboard. A really polished set, and as one member of the audience stated, ‘Wherever he’s going, it’s our loss, and somewhere else’s gain’. Thanks a lot Ben, and the best of luck with whatever you end up doing.

Yogi Next we have Yogi giving a quick squashee slot, with ‘Can’t go on this way’. The quick changing palm muted chords sound urgent and foreboding, as Yogi sings ‘I can’t believe that I didn’t see it’. This is song of desperation and a convincing performance is given, the words seemingly wrenched from within.

Calum Carlyle Tonight Calum plays us a song from all the way back in 1993, called ‘Computer’, a poignant assessment of societal placement. ‘I want to kill myself, I don’t want to play computer anymore’, grieves Calum, over his trademark intricate guitar work. The song is moving, and troubled, describing the frustration of trying to find a ‘shoe’ that fits you in society, (in a purely metaphorical sense). If we thought 1993 was a while back, Calum now takes us back to a few hundred or so years BC, singing a Torah inspired song in Hebrew…as you do. The minor key chord progression gives an Arabic feel to the song which I can only guess is probably well suited to the lyrics. Whatever the case, Calum adapts his voice to this style of music well. I think his next challenge should be a little number adapted from the Qur’an…just an idea. Back to the 90’s next with ‘Don’t Go Away’. This one is slower, with gently strummed chords, which echo the sentiments of Calum’s belief in the song that he is ‘safe here’, and ‘I want to tell you everything’. This is a million miles away from his first song, and this set has shown great versatility.

Alan Alan begins with a song called ‘A million miles’. However, instead of being a love song, as I expected, Alan bitterly proclaims that the titular distance ‘isn’t far enough away’. It is an astringent song of resentment without remorse, and was all the more refreshing for it. From this, we then hear a song at the other end of the emotional spectrum, as Alan plays us a song written about a friend who passed away called ‘Stay as you Are’. Really heart rendering stuff of raw emotion, as Alan imploringly asks ‘will you pick me up tonight?’, and states ‘I’ll stand with you tonight’. Tear jerking material, especially with a performance as personal, and powerful as this. To finish we are treated to the best song written ever, (according to one of Alan’s friends) ‘Walking in Circles’. This has a commercial feel, with Alan singing ‘How many times have we been here?’, and describing the way in which people fall into the same traps over and over again, sometimes against their will. There is defiance towards the end however, in the line ‘I will not fall into your arms anymore’, the words counteracted by his delicate falsetto. A roller coaster through the emotions tonight from Alan, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.

Kevin O’ Neil Following Laura’s dramatic win in the raffle (did she win the personal radio, or was this some light handed cheating to avoid winning the binoculars? The investigation continues…) Kevin takes to the stage. Didn’t hear the name of his first, but it had a quirky minor feel to it, which mirrored the philosophical lyrics (‘a mirror inverted absorbing the soul’). The philosophical theme continues into his monism influenced second ‘What is Everything?’. This is a darker, inquisitive number, again with some poetic lyrics over some intelligent chording. Inspired by Bill earlier, Kevin delicately sings that ‘all time is the same’. As one member of the crowd so eloquently stated it was ‘totally great’. To finish, we hear ‘Looking Back’, which sees Kevin depart into more familiar singer/songwriter territory, which he handles equally well. ‘I know this is as good as it will be’ he sings, as the song descends into a sense of powerlessness, and regret. The first time I have seen Kevin play, and on the basis of tonight’s evidence, I certainly hope it will not be the last.

Rob Sproul-Cran The evening is brought to a close by three squashee slots, beginning with Mr Sproul-Cran. Tonight he plays a recently written one, which in spite of hearing a couple of times now, I have no idea of its title. Whatever the name, it is a dark, funereal song of apathy, as Rob whispers over the deep chords ‘Her tears confuse me, I forget she thought she knew me’, and the chorus line ‘Trust in me she should never have done’. The lightly strummed power chords offer a scant backing, allowing Rob to really whisper the words, and create an atmosphere of soullessness, as he continues to purge his conscience throughout the song. Nice one.

Nyk Stoddart Nyk plays an old favourite tonight with ‘Mutant Zombies from planet X’. Not only is this a great crowd pleasing song, but a really enigmatic performance, as Nyk playfully chuckles, or adjusts his specs in the brief silences between lines. The chorus has the bar shaking, with the audience joining in the (all together now) ‘na na na na na na na!!’. Pure psychedelic Stoddart gold, and another great performance. I believe he too has a new CD out and about, so again, watch this space.

Pip Robinson Tonight, there seems to have been real versatility in the performances, and what better way to finish this evening by moving from the tub thumping singalong of Nyk, to a beautifully delicate song from Pip. The fingerpicked arpeggios replicate the subject matter (time) cleverly, and she conveys a sense of inevitability masterfully with lines such as ‘Couldn’t stop it then, and I can’t stop it now’, and ‘She strikes again on everyone and everything’. Amidst this, the song also reflects on loss and missed chances (‘Would we do it all again?’). A great end to a really enjoyable evening from one of my favourite voices at OOTB recently.

Compere: Jim White, Review Jonny Pugh

OOTB 312 – 4 Sep 2008

Posted 04/09/2008 By admin

In the mean time, last week saw our long-awaited return. Here’s how that shit went down.


Calum Carlyle, Fraser, Machar Granite, Broken Tooth, Two Carved Stones (Featured Act), Nyk Stoddart, Ben Young, Colin Milne, John, Chris.

Calum Carlyle ‘Living Proof’ is a genius ode to those smelly, hairy people…yes, the hippies. Calum is in danger of becoming a comedy performer, but on this evidence, that may not be so bad. ‘Superglue’, talking of the inseparability of those in love, is more metaphor than Farrelly brother’s silliness. Thank goodness. He backs it up with some heavy riffing. He ends with perennial favourite, ‘The sound of falling in love at first sight’, which I’ve decided to call ‘The Sofilafs,’ in moment of over-excited acronymisation. The song is good, too. There’s a string orchestra in my head.

Fraser He lets us know after his first that it was meant to be uplifting, and I’m glad he did – I thought lines like ‘I keep on walking towards the light’ were about near death experiences. He then brings out the Parisian hobo in all of us with a take on life on the streets that is fiercely finger-clickingly funky. ‘It don’t mean a thing without a dog on a string.’ He ends with a humourous but compassionate look at inner city depravation. It is harsh enough to make ‘Shameless’ look like ‘Dallas’ – ‘battery acid smeared on a tricycle.’

Machar Granite I never tire of Eddie’s stuff. Although the lyrics could be about anywhere, they feel unmistakably rooted in rural Scotland, and are all the better for it. This is in small part down to him singing in his own accent, but more than that, melody and performance build a mood which transports the listener. On ‘Cost them dear’, he sings ‘The kids standing at the monument have no idea.’ His second is supposedly an electronica track in the making. The fact that his acoustic arrangement is already something most of us would be delighted with is testament to the quality of the writing. His last, saying there’s ‘something lurking under the water’, is minor, moody, and menacing. I think it’s about the oil industry.

Broken Tooth ‘For too long I’ve been chasing my tail.’ Maybe he means ‘tale’, because Tooth’s lyrics veer between Nietzsche and Nashville. This one, though, is actually a fairly conventional ballad, with a good deal less philosophy or yelping. I think it benefits. ‘Mojo Ham’, supposedly about Hoodoo, brings us back into more familiar gothic blues. But there’s always time for some heavy prog rock to finish. This is my favourite by a long shot – it just shows way more ambition and originality. ‘My head is spinning’, he whoops. He’s not the only one.

Two Carved Stones (Featured Act) Following a fine showing at the Fringe, it’s a pleasure to have these guys playing. Johnny and Chris Pugh have only recently begun writing songs together, but you wouldn’t know, mostly down to the sheer number of hours they’ve clocked up performing since. They begin, fittingly, with ‘Starting Blocks.’ Harsh lyrics being sung sweetly is effective – ‘with daggers in my eyes, and a look that could kill, I’ll be waiting for you,’ on ‘Don’t You Dare’, and ‘I’m bruising your body,’ on ‘Alias’, stand out. Difficult subjects are wrapped in music which makes them more digestible. On ‘Rubix Cube’, the harmonies rise above a rich guitar. It builds and builds, and it’s a relief, perfectly timed, when they drop the tempo for ‘Don’t Panic’. On this, they layer harmonics and harmonies until the sound is consuming. ‘On Fire’ washes over us. It’s a recollective tale of the finest times of a love lived – ‘the way you loved me then,’ and it finishes the set on a positive note. A class act – look out for more from these guys in the future.

Nyk Stoddart I’ve never seen this before. Nyk is one of our most regular acts, which has honed his performance to the point where he was the Featured Act not long ago. He is known and loved for his charismatic, haphazard and simply loud sets. But tonight, he offers an altogether more peaceful character. ‘Quell’ is serene and meditative – ‘Surrounded by trees’. It is so gentle, I almost think he’ll break into hard rawk any second. But ‘Even Now’ continues the theme, featuring quiet introspection. ‘Lamplight’ finishes the set, with chiming 60s folk country – ‘Girl got the blues down to the floor.’ Honestly, it will take some time for both Nyk and the audience to grow into this style, and his voice arguably suits the louder stuff more, but its still good to see someone attempt to expand their genre.

Ben Young Having been the most vocally encouraging member of the audience all night, the room is well aware of him before he takes to the stage. His songs, by contrast, are delicate and subdued. ‘There’s a pile-up on the motorway,’ opens ‘Leicester Forest East’, which talks of escapism, ‘I left the car and walked away.’ Whether it was there or not, I took an ambiguity between this being his imagination or actual happenings. ‘England-land’, on the other hand, clearly does paint a mythical country where he falls in love, but there is the suggestion that the girl comes second to the country in the admiration stakes. ‘Bottle-bottomed specs’ is a brutal telling of a relationship unravelling – ‘You look at me through your bottle-bottomed specs; looking for proof that I still love you.’ Its harshness has definitely had an impact on my lyrical output. Ben is Featured Act this week – don’t miss the chance to see a full set from him.

Colin Milne Colin is arguably just as harsh, but only for the sake of humour. Having only started writing upon his retiral, his lyrics play mostly on the funny side of growing old(er). As it is with ‘Separate Bedroom Blues’ – ‘What I saw is what I used to know’. ‘Klesterol’ (yes, he spells it like that) takes on the impact of bad diet on a relationship – ‘as back tae yer wumman ye crawl!’ This is another performer who has benefited hugely from more performances. Audiences are now enthralled and appalled in equal measure – he looks a far nicer chap than his lyrics belie. ‘Old Bugga’ is a fine example. ‘Maybe when I’m dead, I’ll be glad.’

John It’s just as well that John chooses to write stuff that uses his voice properly, because he’s got impressive range and power. He soars on lines like ‘If it makes it better, I’ll turn my head and walk away.’ His style hits hard American rock, and his lyrics are generally on the dark side – ‘Things will turn bad outside’ – so its surprising that this, his second song, is fairly uplifting. His third, however, is full of menace – ‘Get out, run now.’ And his opening line is a cracker – ‘Come in, leave your soul at the door.’

Chris Almost a debut, but he’s played a wee while ago, Chris spends the first five minutes assembling an array, the like of which I’ve never seen. We’ll wait for the third song before all is revealed. He sings in a Scottish accent, and evokes memories like sepia film – ‘scrape my knees and tear my clothes.’ He changes time elegantly, into what I think is a new song, but turns out to be a lengthy coda. In fact, each of his songs evolve similarly, and it’s debatable whether such formats suit a short set, but in themselves, they are no doubt enthralling. Best lyric on his second: ‘There’s nothing worse than losing touch, when it works as well as us.’ His final song is all bells (as that’s what the apparatus turns out to be) and whistles. ‘You’re knitting a scarf,’ he sings. It’s about knitting a scarf, I think. We want more.

Sound: Dave O’Hara, Review+Compere: Rob Sproul-Cran

OOTB 310 – 17 July 2008

Posted 17/07/2008 By admin

For now, last week’s review. Rob himself pens the first three acts, before
handing over to the anarchic Nyk Stoddart. Enjoy.
OOTB 310 – 17 July 2008
Gordon Imrie, Cate McDonald, Broken Tooth, Chris Mossop, Ray Kenny, Ben Young, Calum Carlyle, Tim Holehouse, Robbie Sprout-Cranberry, Johnny & Chris (Two Carved Stones)

Rob pens the first three acts, before handing over to the anarchic Nyk Stoddart. Enjoy.

Gordon Imrie Brings with him the comedy heckler of the night, but more on that later… ‘Homesick’ was written half here, half in Oz, and benefits from seeing it from both sides. Lovely observations of the little things that change, or don’t, from travelling, My brother will be 10inches taller, and he’ll tell me he could have me, and I’ll tell him not to bother  . On his second, ‘Broken Bones’, the jaunty tune clashes (effectively, I think) with the harsh subject matter of a dying relative, and I ask you, are you scared? You say you’re terrified.   His last, ‘Cheerio’, tells of a break-up in progress, Will you miss our pantomime?   It’s told with satisfying bile. This is the best set I’ve seen from him, great stuff.

Cate McDonald

Ethereal ‘oohs’ (from Cate, that is) beckon in her first, ‘One foot in my grave’. Taking a familiar premise, of wasting our own time and potential, and raising it with good lyrics: Got my teeth sunk into the hand that feeds me.   Cate still seems panicked on stage, but more visits should sort that. ‘Return to exile’ is about returning to a home country that doesn’t feel very homely anymore. More of a lament than objection, it’s come creeping. It’s just a shame that it did.   It’s OK, though, she’s back now. ‘Djembe Man’ is billed as a Dylan tribute (d’you get it?), but I doubt Dylan came up with such fine chords. Good stuff.

Broken Tooth I though this first one was called ‘Who da man?’ Turns out it’s called ‘Hoodoo Man’, but I’m not sure which I prefer, the first certainly suits him. Got a mean old hell hound  , he sings. Cerberus been pissing on his trousers again? (Which classics geeks got that one?) ‘Title Song’ is his best by far because he actually injects some personality. I saw him play this with weird time signatures once, and hope he does so again at some point, it really lifts the song. He can overcook the vox a bit sometimes, a bit of balance would help, but on this one, it’s good. ‘Hold Fast’ mixes the nautical, have faith in old timber  , with the Biblical, They write [their message] out with blood and sword.   Funny mix, but he’s got ambition. And now we hand you over to our outside broadcast unit. Nyk Stoddart takes up the story… The ghost of Calum Haddow stalks these corridors (well, this bar anyway) – infecting all souls wiv a reverie bordering on lunacy. Unfortunately i have become one of his victims, and now must bear the mark of the insane…it’s all his fault (apart from me own lunacy of course) A wee competition: How many random phrases can you find in this review ? The prize will be the social stigma of admitting you were looking for them…good luck!

Chris Mossop Not sure if i’ve seen him before, so apologies for not remembering. His performances was assured wiv catchy and very streamlined, focused songs. ‘Blue Moon’ ‘How can i possibly resist when i have friends like this’ he states in his song about drinking and stuff in South-West Scotland. Apparently. Ba da la la la la etc. That’s what comes of not having a backing band wiv you…one need’s to vocalise the other instruments! ‘Step by step’ Poppy and catchy with nice handmuting techniques & unusual chordings. Sounds like the music could take off if electrified (i mean by electric guitar obviously!) ‘My little protest’ Strangely this song reminds me of the Waterboys. A most tight, well-performed song.

Ray Kenny Remember Kenny Ball and his jazz band ? yeh, well i do…can’t fink of anything mair witty to say so i’ll just murmur somefink aboot the songs… ‘Life’ ‘Slowly i’m slippin…living for today…Turn back time…everything was OK…we must carry on’ states Ray…nice lyrics…memorable tune that had everyone enraptured, or somefink wiv a similar metaphor type thing. ‘Soul searching’ Seems to be about the desire for fame and the trappings thereof – with a nice central riff, with handmuting (maybe this is an indie thing, it seems to be catching on) Elephants make good skateboarding champions. ‘Star in the clouds’ The central riff seems familiar, with a hendrixy tinge. ‘Wall of sound’ About a performance that didn’t go down too well, in his opinion – although his stuff sounds good to me. Could be me old cloth ears, but i couldn’t make out his words too clearly though, which is a shame as there has obviously been a lot of love and care put into his lyrics. ‘Don’t stop clapping’ he says encouraging the audience to participate, which is what it’s all about innit ?

Ben Young I’ve been looking forward to a performance from this personage for some time, as he is one of me favourites – and for good reason…Like Calum Carlyle (who plays next) he is a seriously impressive guitarist, with a fluid playing style that complements his subtle songwriting abilities. ‘Drown’ Evocative wiv witty lyrics, modal chordings and fluid playing. Ben states: ‘I know you don’t say much when you’re having one of your days…that don’t bother me much’ – this song, like many of his, infuses jazzy stuff wiv blues (or i could say something more erudite but i won’t!) ‘Daniel Cuchamber rip-off’ Ben states that Africa is the birthplace of the blues, specifically Malawi, but strangely this song seems to be about his old headmaster (or maybe my 15th pint was starting to take effect – only joking – 12.507391th pint – metric of course!) ‘These are your halcyon days…this is a lie he’s paid to sell…’ Nice wan Benny. ‘Battle of the bands’ is one of me faves, with some truly moving/lovely chordings. A bitter rant at the futility of the cosmos – but mainly about these lame ‘Battle of the bands’ competitions where a ‘singer thinks he has a chance’ but horribly, ‘no-one will remember what you’ll play’ – especially as most acts are ‘…singing… with nothing to say’. He quips to the audience at one point ‘no recording here – it’s copyrighted’. Overall, a brilliant set from one of Edinburgh’s finest performers. Come back soon! or more often! please! etc.

Calum Carlyle Another one of my favourite performers – currently on tour with Tim Holehouse,starts wiv an instrumental entitled ‘ridiculously long introduction’ (ridiculously long title mair like!) Like Ben Young before he is a seriously impressive guitarist, with a fluid playing style that complements his subtle songwriting abilities. ‘Walking through the shallows’ taken, apparently, from the gospel of Luke in the bibble (yes, i spell it like that!) which was apparently written when he was 14. Impressive parrots. ‘Living proof’ A very funny wee song. All about hippies. ‘I’m living proof…that you can be a hippy and still look good’, which was heard in a pub apparently (didn’t know hippies went to pubs, thought it was coffee houses, and places wiv dodgy catering) ‘They might not have the answers…but at least they look good’ ’nuff said. ‘The sound of falling in love at first sight’ has always been one of me fave disco-calypso pieces, and turns into more of a comedy performance when a member of the audience answers his mobile phone during the song: Calum sings ‘When i saw you in the morning…’ (very beautifully) ‘not much mate, yourself ?’ says the bloke on his mobile as he leaves. Great comic timing. Genius.

Tim Holehouse ‘Vessels that sail in the night’ has mellowed arpeggios ‘as the waves crashed down’, which has a nice melodic lifting thingy –  wiv slurry, but evocative vocals. ‘Wild horses’ – not the famous Stones song but a song about youth & how it passes away and makes you feel crap after you reach your 30s etc. Strange, i felt that way when i was 90 – but that’s just me i guess! ‘Young and so free’ ‘We were like wild horses’ sings Tim. This isn’t a reference to the famous Stones song (although i suspect he probably likes it) He also sings that ‘all these days are gone’. He finishes us off by introducing some muso jokes for the audience: ‘How do you get a muso off your porch ? Pay for the pizza’. How we laughed. His last song is a paean to the great Kerouac novel ‘On the road’, oddly enough, entitled ‘On the road’ which reminds me of Leonard Cohen for some reason…without the hat, advanced years, fake frenchness & general air of misery obviously…

Robbie Sprout-Cranberry The ‘voice of an angel’ compere of the night introduces himself…it’s explainable as he’s a clone of himself, therefore there’s two of him…but only one can be concussed by hitting the back of his neck… I didn’t get the title of the first song as his voice suddenly became too soft for microphones to pick up…This set is meant to be a sampler for his feature slot next week… He sings ‘Out of sight or so you thought…i saw you cry the day he died’ and ‘You curse his name…but your embrace tells another tale’. This person, Rob, did this happen after they died? does this person embrace dead people? Please tell me it is so ! Weird. ‘One day soon’ The song starts wiv the interesting and evocative lyric ‘this is going to be a bit louder, Dave…’ which Dave? Is this a metaphor? And for what? This song has fluent jazzy playing wiv a more up-tempo mood…like all the best songs it sounds familiar, but isn’t…Rob is fantastic when he lets rip and sings louder, wiv a more soul edge..The false ending to this song also has a familiar feel… ‘F**k it, let’s do it’ states Rob before launching into his heavy-metal classic ‘The Father’, which is also a semi-poem…’Quietly he takes a scalpel…’ Then his personal heckler pipes up ‘f**king cracking night by the way…’ Rob is a superb talent, subtle of beard and of voice, his jazziness confounds those that expect the expected – AND he’s headlining 24th July…so don’t miss it…or else! Enough soundbites for your myspace now Rob ? hehehe…

Johnny & Chris There’s two of them… ‘Bigger things’ written on the night of their last performance (maybe i should say previous performance? last sounds so, er…fatalistic) ‘it’s the whisky in the water that makes it worth the drink’ great line. nonsensical idea. Water doesn’t get you drunk, obviously…..although it would be cheaper! ‘put a bullet in your gun & hide behind the door…so you can shoot me in the back and call it a war…’ which reminds me of James Taylor. Nice harp. In ‘Don’t you dare’ the other bloke takes up the vocals, which has a more mediative feel. ‘On fire’ has the lyrics ‘Don’t fool yourself you’re still the underdog’ – an optimistic reality-check, apparently. Calum Haddow likes stapling fings. Well, Hecklers, clones and Dalek porn aside, this was a mellow end to a varied and interesting evening at OOTB. And probably my last ever review (hurrah!) Meanwhile back in reality…the US government murders people in the middle east to get catchy news headlines & lots of oil, people starve to death in poor countries because most of us are more interested in watching ‘Big Brother’ than doing anything about it, oh and we’ve elected a load of complete tits to ruin our country, and our prime minister is an Aberdonian. [Kirkcaldy, actually, but that was probably the joke, ed] Yes! we’re THAT stupid! Goodnight, this was Nyk And now the weather…well, rain of course!

Review: Rob Sproul-Cran & Nyk Stoddart; Compere: Rob Sproul-Cran

OOTB 309 – 10 July 2008

Posted 10/07/2008 By admin

OOTB 309 – 10 July 2008
Stephen Harrison, Pip Robinson, Calum Carlyle, Eddie and Ivor, Nyk (Featured Act), Colin, John (debut), Barney, Dave (debut), Chris Bull.

Stephen Harrison Unusually electrified for OOTB, Stephen’s songs are sparsely populated around his bass voice. After the soundman remembers what an electric guitar looks like, Stephen’s second is more latin-jazzy, but with the odd twist of being nihilistic latin jazz, Meaningless…the emptiness  , he sings. His last is enveloped with warm chords, and the lyrics concur this time, I’m not alone.

Pip Robinson It’s great to see Pip around a bit at OOTB these days, not least because her songs are difficult to get tired of, not an easy trick to pull off. She opens with ‘Corners.’ Her resting timbre is very soft and intimate, but she likes to raise the volume for effect now and again. She finishes with ‘Time’ – a tale of hindsight and loss. If only we had known   Slow mournful arpeggios build, as she turns time into a character,She strikes again.   Striking stuff. Look out for Pip doing a Featured Act slot very soon.

Calum Carlyle For such a sweet-looking boy, his onstage lothario is an unexpected, but entertaining twist, perfectly summed up by his opening line, It’s not a question of getting laid; I just can’t be bothered.   Love it. It’s a lick-driven blues, and funky as… He ends with his newest anthem, ‘Living Proof’. As a comedy song, it only works because the musicianship is very fine indeed. I’m living proof that you can be a hippie, and still look good.   Apparently a quote, it must have been said by some pretentious bastard!

Eddie and Ivor Two parts of Broken Lights, who headline on 31.07.08. These guys evoke a barren and windswept Scotland with their brooding songs peppered with personal flecks. On the first, Eddie sings it will cost them dear  , and you can hear lives falling apart behind the words. Ivor breaks up the set with an instrumental masterclass, showing he can do almost everything a guitar is capable of. Eddie rejoins and a throbbing guitar underpins the vox – We will leave them in no doubt.   They don’t. Come see them later this month.

Nyk Resplendent in a red herringbone shirt and PVC (yes, really), Nyk opens with the classic ‘Scarecrow Man’. He plays loud and fast. A backing band would turn this into heavy rock, but you feel that the sheer impact this one man can make might be diluted. As example, ‘Gimp Boy’. I think Political Correctness just cried and ran away. The panting at the end is a beautiful touch. ‘Tombstoning’ is a coruscating attack on daredevil stupidity. ‘Bad Blues’ is bad, and bluesy – Got nothing to lose  , he says, and you believe him. ‘Green Monkeys’ sees Broken Tooth join him, and give the soundman nightmares by singing through a pine cone. Not sure it would have sounded better without the feedback. ‘Another Song’ continues Nyk’s unerring ability to get the audience in on the joke. ‘Booze and Drugs’ is another deeply ironic one,I need to get my kicks before it all comes down.   We close with the stadium epic a la Fratellis of ‘Mutant Zombies’, complete with na na na na na chorus. Except its better than The Fratellis… they don’t wear PVC.

Colin The older he gets (and he’s already pretty old), the more risqué the songs, it seems. As it is with ‘Alphabet Soup’, in which an island population shag each other silly in a month by the A to Z of first names. Debauchery. It’s hard to find an X  , he observes. ‘The Farmer’s Wife’ is a tale of spousal devotion in a rural setting. His final is about the (seemingly innumerable) chances at love he has let slip over the years, you get not the one chance as it floats by.   I had thought this was a poignant tale of loss, and maybe it is, but mostly just another dirty song sung beautifully.

John (debut) Antipodean elegance. John’s got a voice that’s as round and full as an Aussie-rules football…hang on a minute… No, he can sing, and has lyrics to match– If we reach our use by date, don’t pretend just to save face.   The guitar, particularly on his second, is kept unfussy, but for a few opportune and accomplished flourishes. Things will turn bad outside,   he warns. The vox could do with a few more outings, but more practice is all that’s needed. He can yell too. His last is like funky grunge with threatening lyrics, Come with me, come now  , and This won’t hurt, don’t make a sound.

Barney The hardest thing I heard was the sound of a breaking heart   Barney does a folk-tinged country. It would be perfect stuff for driving through the night, the kind that just simmers away. ‘Parallel Universe’ is probably more metaphor than Star Trek reference, but I don’t know, Didn’t know at first that you come from a parallel universe.   His last is more contemplative, and I was moved to write the words, French Jazz  . I hope that’s not a massive insult. I see what they mean about windows to the soul.   Seriously proficient stuff.

Dave (debut) Unusually rock for OOTB, he should really be called Splintered Spleen, or something, given the ferocity of his performance. There are no half measures, as he tears into ‘Invincible’. His voice quivers with the emotion of the music. ‘Hack it’ talks of life outside the goldfish bowl, there’s no goddamn safety net.   MTV would snap this guy up. He’s got a great range, in both full voice and falsetto. ‘Question’ confirms that there’s no lack of emotional investment in his performance. As the drop-D fuzz bass in my head subsides, I think OOTB needs an acoustic metal night.

Chris Bull Love is on the way, if you believe what they say   Chris is just up for the summer, and stretching his acoustic legs away from his regular band in Manchester. He specialises in a sort of Band-esque epic country. ‘As the summer fades and dies’ typifies this. Stretches the no-covers rule, as a friend penned this, but I think he co-wrote, so we’ll let him away with it. It’s a mellow and affecting piece. Now, then people, lighters aloft.

Compere: Calum Haddow, Sound and review: Rob Sproul-Cran

OOTB 308 – 3 July 2008

Posted 03/07/2008 By admin

Out Of The Bedroom 308 (3rd July 2008)

After the round-the-campfire quietness in the Canons’ Gait basement last week (I was there!) it was back to the familiar combination of amplification, soundman, compere and audience.

Line up: The Weather Underground, Kate McDonald, Ross Neilson, Nyk Stoddart, Calum Haddow, Calum Carlyle, Broken Tooth, Paul Hughes, Ray Kenny, Rob Sproul-Cran, Lisa Paton.

The Weather Underground, actually just one man and not a band, popped up first.  Looking like a young Kris Kristofferson, his second song (sorry, TWU – missed the first song) was about kissing 16-year-old girls.  There were some nice guitar chops in there, with his quick fingers and frantic strumming being a feature.  ‘Just Like the Rain’ was a pleasing love song with a blissful chord sequence and he poured out his heart on this one.  A good set – TWU is one to watch out for.

Kate McDonald made her debut the last time I was reviewing and she has clearly improved in that short time.  ‘Hate’ was about being an immigrant, hating where she was.  Kate sung this with her lovely, warm, smoky voice, though she rushed the song a bit through nervousness.  ‘Handsome man’ was about someone she met at an open mic night and I wondered if any of the males in the audience thought it was about them.  Stu Clark accompanied on cajon; more of him later.  ‘The Republic Affliction’ was about the troubles in Northern Ireland, which is a brave topic for a song.  Kate added a marching beat in the middle eight (lyric: ‘we hear the drums of war’) to add a touch of drama.

OOTB regular Ross Neilson started with ‘Running Faster’.  Tidy guitar playing, with some nifty picking leading to strumming (getting faster, you see).  ‘Free’ featured Ross’s hoary vocals giving full vent to the theme of bitterness and pain.  The way he sang the line ‘gotta free your mind’ reminded me of Britpop, specifically Cast in their mid-90s heyday.  Ross’s rockin’ finale was more grungy and featured an interesting descending vocal sequence.

Introduced by Jim as the uncomparable (sic) Nyk Stoddart, this unique performer played three songs new to my ears.  ‘Lamplight’, available on Nyk’s MySpace page, was subtle, quiet and mellow – not normally three adjectives you’d include on a Nyk review.  This had an epic feel with a touch of early 70s folk/pop.  ‘Even Now’ confounded expectations even more as it was close to being a love song.  I loved the discordant first chord, Nyk.  The topical ‘Gimp Boy’ focussed on a recent news story about a woman who married the Berlin Wall.  This was a lighthearted tale with a bit of simulated heavy breathing thrown in to end an invigorating set from the Mutant Lodge man.

Calum Haddow 18 October 2005

Calum Haddow 18 October 2005

_No break tonight, so straight into the maelstrom of tonight’s featured act, the mighty Calum Haddow.  Big Jim introduced Calum as ‘utterly mad but strangely beguiling’ which sums Mr. Haddow up pretty well actually. ‘Slow It Down’, featured mouth-ed brass section and rhythm section played on his guitar.  The striped Adam Ant face paint was… interesting… the phrase ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’ sprung to mind.  Calum’s only song this year ‘Bug’ was a 100% committed performance with the screamed line ‘I will not stand for this filth’ and a primal, animalistic middle eight thrown in.  Talking of animals, the mellow and thoughtful ‘Death To The Animals’ was dedicated to ‘anyone who enjoys melodrama’ but not necessarily vegetarians.  ‘Tetsuo’ featured classical guitar and veered towards the prog (dangerously?) and was invigorating, quirky and very dark.  ‘A Simple Plan’ featured some seriously good riffing and continued the dark, twisted lyricism.  Calum then threw me completely off guard by playing a quiet, heart-on-sleeve number featuring the line ‘all I want is for you to stop crying’.  The finale was Calum’s greatest hit – the Acoustic Idol runner up ‘First Aid’ and Calum got some of the crowd singing along to the refrain ‘no one gets left on my watch / not anymore’. Quite a rollercoaster of a set from the unique Mr. Haddow – it’s well worth looking up Calum’s MySpace page for the songs and to hear the unusual lyrics.

What?  Another Calum?  Yes, Calum Carlyle this time.  Calum started with his entertaining first song ‘I Am Living Proof’ which was written after a recent experience at The Listening Room.  ‘I am the living proof you can be a hippie and still look good’ was the laugh-inducing refrain sung by Calum in his soaring high baritone.  ‘Shirat HaYam’ (translation: ‘Song of the Sea’) was sung in Hebrew, which was impressive.  ‘The Sound Of Falling In Love At First Sight’ was a mellow, mainly instrumental, John Martyn-esque number which featured some POL-like guitar slapping. Thought-provoking entertainment from Calum.

The newly-bearded Broken Tooth warned the audience that he wouldn’t be ‘talking about or introducing his songs as Jim Igoe will put them in the review’.   Mr. Tooth couldn’t help himself, though – silly chap (heh, heh).  BT started with a hollerin’, rootsy 12-bar which brought us back to basics after the complexity of some of this evening’s songs.  ‘Hearts and Spades’ was an old song recently rediscovered by BT and it was played with more than a hint of soul.  A Led Zep-esque new song, ‘Title Song’, was given the heavy guitar treatment with Stu on shaker.  Watch out for Broken Tooth this Sunday at the Blue Blazer (Ed’s note: too late for this review).

Paul Hughes, of Hughes & McQuade, began with ‘I’m Standing Tall’ which showcased Paul’s strong high-end vocal.  I thought this was a professional performance but Paul apologised at the end for screwing up.  Was ‘Time Ain’t On Your Side’ an answer to The Rolling Stones ’60s classic ‘Time Is On My Side’?  I’m not sure but Paul did say this pleasant, mellow number was one of his favourites.  ‘Walk On’ was an emotional love song which ended a fine set from Paul.

Irishman Ray Kenny started with ‘I’m Not Alone’, which was true as his friends in the audience were very supportive.  The song was well-structured with a nice riff and I detected an American influence in his vocal style.  Away from the music, I thought Ray’s haircut reminded me of Paul Weller’s current barnet.  ‘Soul Searcher’ featured Cajon Stu and Lisa Paton on shaker and the overall effect was rather funky.  Ray’s finale ‘Wall Of Sound’ was about the experience of taking part in a music competition recently and this was my favourite of Ray’s this evening.

Although I’ve know Rob Sproul-Cran for a while, I think this was the first time I’d seen him play a three-song set.  With face liberally painted, ‘She Steals Away’ made me realise what I’ve been missing.  This was an amazing vocal performance, experimental and high-pitched, which fitted neatly with some top guitar-playing and Cajon Stu’s beats.  Rob’s next song was wild – apparently with 9/4 and 4/4 rhythms – soulful and very special indeed.  It reminded me of Plant/Page Unled-ed and also Jeff Buckley, both circa 1994.  Rob’s finale was ‘The Father’, a spoken word piece, quiet and mellow.  I’ll definitely be checking out Rob’s gig list in future.

In an evening dominated by the male of the species, the balance was redressed slightly with one of the very best females on the scene.  A Lisa Paton performance is always special and tonight was no different.  Lisa’s new braided locks and war paint gave her a visual intensity on stage and her first song ‘Tunnel Vision’ was also powerful with Cajon Stu underpinning the strummed mandolin.  The haunting ‘Two Stories’ was spellbinding and seemed totally natural and unforced.  The fantastic ‘Here Come The Vampires’ featured some excellent backing vocals from Stu and Lisa’s vocal performance on this song was immaculate.  A perfect way to end the evening.

Compere: Jim Whyte Sound: Daniel Davis Raffle: Bill Philip Review: James Igoe

P.S. Most of the MySpace links for these artists can be found at the Out
Of The Bedroom MySpace page – www.myspace.com/outofthebedroom.

Now, we have a small note from Jim Igoe: “In a moment of complete humour
bypass and some perversion of political correctness I made a comment in
the OOTB 308 review accusingCalum Carlyle of casual homophobia. Calum is
not homophobic and I made the comment to make some righteous point about
being careful what you say on stage, which seemed obvious and appropriate
when typing the review bleary-eyed at 1.15 in the morning. In the cold
light of day it’s obvious my spurious point should have been dumped
quietly in the recycle bin. Many apologies to Calum who was completely
innocent of all charges.”

OOTB 307 – 26 June 2008

Posted 26/06/2008 By admin

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is fitting that Calum Haddow is our Featured Artist tomorrow night, as he’s just supplied us with quite possibly the greatest review ever penned under the OOTB banner. (see below) I was going to include the review I did for the week previous, but to be honest, it doesn’t compare, so I won’t. I’ll send it once you all have a chance to calm down again.

As for the man himself… horror stories told beautifully, kinda like
Poltergeist – The Musical. The last time I saw Calum, I had tears in my eyes by the end. It is gripping, awesome, and unmissable.

For now, though, behold….

OOTB 26/6/08

Konichiwa b*tches.

Now then. You and I are to have words. You weren’t there. You don’t know. You’ll never know. OOTB shifted on its very foundations and microphones and electrics slipped away through the cracks in the earth. We huddled together for warmth around a table and sang our little hearts out. And you will never know what it felt like. Because you were too busy watching the football. Well, I hope that worked out for you. I hope that worked out just dandy. Because while you were sitting on your sofa screaming like a startled chimp at a box that will never scream back, we were all in the Canon’s Gait with our music.

I wasn’t even going to tell you the details, because frankly you don’t deserve them, but then my dark shell cracked and a tiny glint of light came through. So I’ll give you just the tiniest insight into what you’ve missed.

When all the wires have been pulled out and the hum of the amps have died down, a guitar sounds very different. The echoes ring around the corners of the room and feel like they’re tumbling around in the dust. It is, however, voices that benefit the most. Silence between words carries weight and intent and paralysis sets in as your body is pinned to your seat by the words. Nothing gets lost between monitors and back-line, no signals get altered by slides and twists, every note is a note and a nothing more. Songs can breathe easier in the open air. No cables twist around their throats. I’m sure Davie-o is about ready to send out his attack dogs any moment now. He’s held a piece of our clothing in front of their noses and they have picked up our scent.

People talked to one another. This! This! This is what I got into music for. After the end of the song, people would ask about the lyrics, they would gently probe and find out the inspirations and ideas that went into the work. Last Thursday did not feel like an open mic night. Last Thursday felt like a roomful of friends with guitars. Last Thursday was a genuine light in a dark world. And you weren’t there. Egos seem to have been left at the door, there was no strict three song limit, people just played as many as they fancied. Know what? Nobody overdid it. Nobody outstayed their welcome. Whoever was up would play a few then graciously pass on the next person.

And the songs, ah the songs Jim, they’d melt your face. I was actually making a point of not mentioning anyone that played*, but I feel that honourable mention should at least be made to our featured act for the evening, Pip Robinson. This was the first time I’d seen her play, but then I haven’t actually been at OOTB for a while because I am a fool and a hypocrite. I have to say though, I think her music particularly suited the odd setting for the night, it seemed to swell and condense, the (notable) dynamics of the songs being boosted by the acoustic set-up and the enraptured audience. Her lyrics carefully avoided the open mic trap of drifting past opaque and into seemingly indecipherable. However, she managed to retain a very elegant grasp on her subject matter and her songs were as emotionally accessible as they were beautifully considered.

And you will get nothing more from me.

*Actually, on this note I would like to apologise to anyone who was desperately wanting to be reviewed, because its not going to happen. I want to make sure that the others learn their lesson for the next time. The only people that are going to know how good you were will be the people in that room on that night, and that is the way that I want it to stay. We will all carry these secret memories around our necks and keep them with us until the very day we die. They will be ours and ours alone. And plus this way it leaves less room for my petty sniping.

Review: Calum Haddow

OOTB 306 – 19 June 2008

Posted 19/06/2008 By admin

OOTB 306 – 19.06.08
Nigel Ashworth, Pol Arida, Miss Fi, Broken Tooth, Colin, Mick and Jeff, Nyk Stoddart, Ross Neilson, Calum Carlyle, Al and Al, Francis Hayes, Susanna MacDonald, Rob Sproul-Cran

Nigel Ashworth I’ve been here four times, so it feels like home,   he says. Poor man, he’s only been home four times! Must keep getting locked out or something. His first, ‘For real’ is earnest and honest, hard and minor. Are you ready for my real?   he sings. He could mean ‘reel’, but I don’t see much dancing going on. I guess we weren’t ready for it. ‘Standing on the rocks’ has the guitar rhythmically mimicking the vox nicely. Evocative fantasy, when I was Captain of the starship, I saved the world.   ‘Stereo’ is fast and empowering, why live in Mono, when the world is in Stereo?   When he starts singing about stereo love,   though, the mind boggles.

Interesting fact #1: Mono   is Spanish for Monkey.

Pol Arida ‘Where the birds fall’ (not ‘burds’, mind, this isn’t Subway Cowgate now, people) Actually, I didn’t catch any of the words, so maybe that’s exactly what it’s about. Starts funky; goes punky. ‘The death bed song’ follows. In high vox, he sings I’ll see your face, when I sleep alone.   It is distinctive and pulsing, though with the muted hard rock, I can’t imagine it being sung at a death bed. ‘Catch the wind’ is about guilt for poverty. It’s pretty harsh stuff, no-one is there for you now.   Pol has a trademark tapping method for playing guitar. This is no doubt effective, but with all his songs played like that, you wonder whether they would stand up to being played straight. It would be like turning Edge’s effects box off.

Miss Fi We were taken in by your impish grin.   Of whom this speaks, I do not know, but it feels familiar. It’s light and bouncy with staccatos on the verses. ‘False again’ is beautiful and soft, in 6/8 time. If I’ve been with other men, I’ve always thought of you.   Quietly affecting, it gets pin-drop silence. In contrast, ‘Dancing Bears’ is a rousing little number about office monotony. Karen helps on harmonies from the back. Catchy and memorable.

Interesting fact #2: Frank Oz, who voiced Fozzie Bear in the Muppets, appears in The Blues Brothers as a prison guard.

Broken Tooth in 2005

Broken Tooth in 2005

Broken Tooth ‘Title Song’ belies his usual blues lean, with time signatures liberally draped all over the place, but the intellectual musings mean it’s lyrically familiar, power is an illusion  . Good hooks, though. ‘Riding on the rails’ is back to blues. Gonna find me a sweet, little Creole woman, when I get back to New Orleans   Yes, we could all do with one of them, but I haven’t been New Orleans, and I’m not sure he has either. I don’t know why I believe Robert Plant more when he sings that sort of thing, I doubt he’s ever seen a levee, but for BT there’s a lyrical honesty that, for the minute, doesn’t match up to the impassioned delivery. ‘Hold Fast’ is a rampant sea-faring epic, like if Admiral Nelson did death metal.

Interesting fact #3: John Lee Hooker was not actually a hooker.

Colin He prefers to perform sans microphone, so he can freely address the crowd (and read his lyrics). We begin with an encounter with a vagabond and his muckle Alsatian.   More than that I didn’t catch, but the hearty laughs suggest top-notch lyrics. He follows with a tear-jerker, and our second (see Pol) song of the night about the loss of a lifetime companion. When you’re gone, can I call you?   Pretty moving. Colin’s trick is to sing the unexpected, as he does with his last one. He’s four score and some, so singing ’tis our delight on a Saturday night, to neck a load of beer   and as I took up with a wenching   is warmly comic. Cracking.

Mick and Jeff Blues for two. Catchy melodies and intermittent harmonies produce a set it’s near impossible not to smile to. What price do I pay when love drifts away forever?   The camaraderie is the real draw here. Further proof, if any were needed after Colin, of the youth-giving properties of song. Their second continues the lost-love theme, Who’s left to pick up the pieces?   (Average White Band, anyone?) From the jaunty but melancholy, we head for good ole blues, carried with authenticity, and an altogether more uplifting air, Do you remember me? It’s your baby boy back on the scene.   Hope they stay on this scene.

Nyk Stoddart ‘Another Song’ features some of the most feverish and pounding acoustic guitar you’re likely to hear. Basking in his ironies, Nyk is overflowing with confidence, and some sight to see. ‘Fake Jazz’ is a deft critique, too many diminished chords  , which only works because he’s actually quite good. The only way to take the piss is to do it better than the original. I think he gets there. ‘Gimp boy’ (no explanation needed) has people weeping. I think it was from laughter. Nyk is getting to the point that total strangers will get the joke.

Ross (Leslie) Neilson The Zen schoolteacher is making steady improvement in both his vocal quality and his onstage confidence. I’d like to see Ross do a comedy number, because his stuff at the minute verges on the serious. He reels out countless licks, but I couldn’t hum one now, and I do wonder backing from a full band would help with that and the overall impact. The other thing is, I’m sure there’s plenty of creative originality in his head, but when we have to fill in the blanks, I just end up humming Oasis or The Verve again. I’m pleased to see fingerpickin on his last, though, ‘Lock and Key’.

Calum Carlyle Wins the silly-tie competition hands down. Skillful pick-work brings out ‘One Hit Wonder’, which extols the virtues of ripping off other songs, but succeeds through the irony of being strongly original itself, the words were blowing and I picked them up.   His second, ‘Dreaming of you’, is about a girl he was yet to meet, which he dedicates to his (now) girlfriend. But then he’d have to, really. ‘The sound of falling in love at first sight’ is a good choice, if only because writing the title takes up half the word count for each review. You see, I’ve no space left to write about it. It’s very good.

Al and Al Can you be too good? There’s a great interplay between this guitar and bass duo, melodies on both instruments intertwining, but it feels like they would be as proficient even if no-one was listening. Because of this, and the late hour, the audience starts to drift off. If they were to cock an ear, though, they’d be treated to a honey bass voice that’s used as a tenor, and beautiful flourishes and harmonics on guitar. They finish with ‘Trees’, which is a love song to the aforementioned. Not in that way, though. Well, I hope not. Anyway, its seriously impressive stuff, hope they come back.

Francis Hayes A wee squashee tonight, with ‘Go go go.’ This one highlights his vocal impact and range well, and the boy can sing. It’s about looking for rejection from some object of love already deemed out of his reach. Now then, people, lighters aloft.

Susanna MacDonald This girl doesn’t give half-arsed performances. Tonight she plays ‘Graffiti’, and whilst this doesn’t quite reach the astonishing, psychological meltdown of ‘Buddha the Cyborg’, this is still arresting and compelling. The guitar is positively predatory – it sounds like it’s stalking the vocals down a dark alleyway. Creepy.

Rob Sproul-Cran [Calum Haddow reviewed my stint. Most of you will know from his featured slot last week just how damaged he is. If not, here’s proof]: Rob wore a stunning cravat. Many men wept in a sad mixture of jealousy and impotent rage. He delivered a blistering thrash master-class, often using his feet as a substitute for the deafening double kick pedals that no doubt accompanied the original studio recording. His screams often worried me; the blood vessels in his neck arcing and standing to attention like a jungle of worms above his shoulders. Devastating. it is a fucking tie.   Next up was a small insight into Edinburgh’s hip-hop community. His skillz were setting the place on fire, each output crafter from the illest rhymes this side of Sighthill. He challenged Bill to a rap battle, and really laid down on his behind. Bill’s rep was left in tatters, and Rob came out with little more than a vague sense of disappointment. Oh, and did I mention, tonight’s theme was ‘Ties and Lies.’

This is why you never, never let Calum Haddow do a review for you.

OOTB 305 – 12 June 2008

Posted 12/06/2008 By admin

OOTB 305 – 12 June 2008

Broken Tooth, Kate McDonald, Rob Sproul-Cran, Darren Thornberry, Susanna Holland, James Annis, Ray Kenny, Stuart Clark

Broken Tooth Bt’s first song is a juxtaposition of 16th Century and the blues. I think the blues won (not much sign of 16th Century in the music) It’s his best of the set . His second is on more familiar blues territory. BT certainly has some skill on a guitar and has a fair voice but this material is questionable – you really cannot play a blues song with lines like ‘since you’ve been gone’ and ‘I’m gonna keep my damper down’, its just soo cliched. His third is ‘Hold Fast’ – a song which makes American Pie seem like a brief ditty. Yes this 3-song set really did run to a full 25 minutes.

Kate McDonald Kate is a new performer to me, welcome to OOTB, its great to see new faces. She explains that she was writing Emo before it was cool. It’s sometimes difficult forming firm opinions on a first listen, but it was all very competent, and encouraging, so please keep coming. What I would love to see is a lot more interaction with the audience, which I guess will come as you perform more and grow in confidence.

Rob Sproul-Cran Rob is supposed to be doing a squashee, but slips in two songs (is that a squishy?). While he waits for Stuart to arrive he treats us to a rendition of ‘Utopia’ as I’m sitting on the sound desk the song turns into a duel between Rob trying to sing as quietly as possible and me trying to add as much reverb as possible. And then Stuart arrived. Rob attempts to throw off the unwary percussionist by improvising a song in 13?, Stuart listens to a bar or two, nods, and then dives in like they’ve been playing that song for years. Damn it’s good.

Darren Thornberry Darren opens his set with a song about how George W might have turned out if he had been loved as a child, makes you think. Imagine my surprise when D tells us that ‘Tom Cruise’s Smile’ is about being lonely at a Black Crows gig, I recorded it and I never knew. (It’s all making much more sense now). Hovering is greeting by admiring nods from all around the room. The passion, sweetness, and control in Darren’s voice holds the audience mesmerised. (stick that on your poster, Ed.) ‘Slow Train Coming’, ‘Middle of My Rope’, and ‘Is It True?’ continue the gentle onslaught of quality.

Susanna Holland Susanna sits and sings and wails whilst playing the harmonium, yes you read that right, a harmonium. The non-rhythmic sound of the harmonium gives a sense of timelessness and stasis to the music, whilst the voice is sweet and pure with surprising range and good control. The effect is haunting, slightly celtic at times but having hints of disparate styles from Tori Amos to Shakira. Over all it was VERY good, though the songs were a little long (not sure if they were planned that way or improvised). I’m really looking forward to hearing Susanna again.

[Rob starts scribing]

James Annis His first builds like hammers on the hull of a liner-to-be in the dockyards, as he sings about the mighty ocean.   This boy has since told me that this was one of his first ever performances out of his bedroom, and I replied that he was a shit liar. His control of volume is spot on, he conjures intimacy instantly as he drops the guitar low and lets it bubble under lyrics like The earth no longer gives its fruit for free.   His final song is biblical and epic in lyric and scope, talking of the four horsemen  , and sack cloth is my suit,   but told as a bedside whisper. It builds by the end, though, as he rails I’ve come to wash in the pool.   Debuts like this are the reason for OOTB.

Ray Kenny ‘Going Home’, Ray touches on familiar themes, I travel around now, touch the sky.   Nice high chords, but it seems to lack a lyrical drive. ‘Life’ is about hope  , according to Ray. Elegant harmonies would lift this one, as I can hear some being sung from the shadows. It is heart-felt and to the point, though, The signs are there, I see the tremors.   ‘Soul Searching’ sees him joined by Stuart Clark on Cajon, and it instantly lifts proceedings. Kenny has to raise his game to match the musicality of Clark and the result has impact and ambition. It knocks the other songs for six, and has people rocking. More of that, please.

Stuart Clark The man himself steps up. Bell-like off-beats on the guitar meld nicely with lines that stretch over the end of a page, like, The wind is twisting around…the litter at your feet.   Uplifting, in a good way. His second is a warning about society taking you soul, as waves of octave guitar wash over. Stuart obviously has perfect pitch, or close to, which means he spends most of his set tuning what to everyone else sounds like a perfectly tuned guitar. Luckily for him, the song at the end is worth the wait. It’s just a love song  , he says, but it’s got soul and feeling and is carried off with aplomb. Cracking set.

Compere: Jim Whyte, Sound: Darren Thornberry, Review: Daniel Davis & Rob Sproul-Cran

OOTB 304 – 5 June 2008

Posted 05/06/2008 By admin

You lucky, lucky people. Not only do you get the pleasure of two quality
reviews in one day, but the splendiferous Thorn’s Musical Journey will be
Featured tomorrow night. An angelic voice wrapped in a bearded package,
tied with a bow, YOU MUST see Thorn before he disappears back Stateside to
do awesome battle with the men in black.

Be there.

In the mean time, enjoy this offering by the man himself.

OOTB 304 Review 5 June 2008
By Darren Thornberry

Dr. Ben Young
“Battle of the Bands” – I love this classic indictment of those
regurgitating rock n rollers. When Ben sings, “There are so many like you,
singing with nothing to say,” a dozen people come to mind (no oot-bites,
of course). Ben’s next tune is a peek into the stark, stubborn loneliness
of a relationship on the rocks that lacks an obvious exit strategy.
Completing the trio, “In the Garden” is Ben’s mother’s take on a Rumi poem
that leaves this writer wanting more. Nature metaphors are abundant.

Calum Carlyle August 2008

Calum Carlyle August 2008

Calum Carlyle lets his blues guns rip with a superb harmonica-soaked
outing. John Lee Hooker and now Bo Diddley turned in their graves while he
groaned, “I don’t need your body; I just need your soul!!!” Next is an
early autumn love-type song that turns doo-bee-doo free jam. He’s clearly
on a roll and thus ends with an interpretation of the Israelites’ song of
deliverance as read in Exodus. He sings it … in Hebrew. As you do.

I daresay tonight’s only keyboardist and old friend of OOTB, Roddy
Renfrew, steals the show before it’s really begun. His first song is about
missing the signs of a relationship in trouble. The chords recall “Mack
the Knife.” With the sentimental stuff out of the way, Roddy cracks the
house up with his ode to singer-songwriters, who write songs of blame
after break-ups. “There Must Be Something Wrong With My Baby (Or Something
Must be Wrong With Me)” is hilarious, really. Musical farting and the
sexual prowess of pandas are all fair game. “I Don’t Want To Be Blue
Again” is a rhyme-laden ditty about the horrors of Tory leadership.
Sample: “I believe in a place called Balamory, but I just can’t believe
there is a place for the Tories.” Funny stuff met with loud applause.

Colin Milne always has interesting lyrics. Tonight he sings of Julie, the
girl behind the bar in Haddington, where the folk group meets on
Wednesdays. Unfortunately, I’m not hearing his vocals very well, but I
know his next tune is about the garden and the things you will find there
… blackbirds, gooseberries, heather … Colin winds up his nylon-stringed
set with one he penned in 1982, a happy moment when summer wildflowers
were in bloom and no shadow was cast on love’s pleasure.

SQUASHEE and OOTB neophyte James Ellis (do I detect an Aussie accent?)
strums a song about breaking the wings of a stone. Jesus and his bride
also get a mention, and I am wishing I could read between the lines of
this lovely song. Hope to hear you again soon, sir.

“Daydreaming” makes me want to lie down in a canoe, sun on my face, and
float downstream. This quiet tune gets in ya. “I’m Yours” describes the
pain of loving the one who hurts you while needing time and space to heal.
Over a simple, effective strum pattern, Lorraine’s “dreams are in tatters
on the floor.” She’s trying to finish a pint of Guinness between songs and
next up is the first one she wrote in the Burgh. It contains the standout
line of the evening: “the clouds overdosed in moisture and I overdosed on
you.” A new song, “Light in the Darkest Corners,” follows. Anyone who’s
ever heard a voice instructing not to get their hopes up will identify
with it immediately. Lorraine has a presence not unlike Dolores O’Riordan
circa 1991, her voice dripping tenderness. Now she brings along Eddie
Robinson and Chris Purcell of Broken Lights to share in the moment. The
trio perform Eddie’s “Outskirts,” which people love, but I am wondering if
our main act might have been slightly lost while finding that harmony.
Either that or I just couldn’t hear her vocal. Next is a cool song (The
Right Time?) by Chris that draws on some CSN harmonies. Lorraine gets back
in the song writing saddle for the finale. “What If” sees Chris and Eddie
accompanying on harmonica and guitar, respectively. It’s a quality set and
to be fair I would like to have heard more of her original tunes because
Broken Lights are a tour de force in their own right. But it was a
generous move on her part anyway. www.myspace.com/lorrainemccauley

Ross Neilson, the zen schoolteacher, blasts into his set with an up tempo
flamethrower of a song in which someone’s bad hair is called into
question. It’s a good night for Ross. He turns a couple of really nice
phrases. Song 2 sample: “burdened in my mind like a plane flies through
dark skies.” Song 3 sample: “Like a subscription she’s been cancelled.”
His set has a brooding edge to it tonight, and I would hate to be the
jilted lover at the wrong end of his pen.

SQUASHEE: Ray Kenny performs a sincere song regarding his father’s bout
with Parkinson’s. Slipping away is the theme. I can’t help but try to
juxtapose this with the message on his T-shirt, “too busy to fcuk” and I
come up short.

You know that girl on the train you talk to and then never see again? Tom
Bunn has written a song about her! “Girl on the Train” is a nice starter
from this uni student who has wisely branched out into Edinburgh’s greater
open mic scene. In “Come Back,” autumn leaves are liberated from their
trees. This song has a traditional folk sound and would definitely fly at
the Royal Oak, too. Tom has a nice finish, remembering cold winter
mornings and walking home on rainy days. He’s a capable guitarist and a
good singer, too. See you again, Tom.

Hughes and McQuade – a likeable duo with quality songs! “Na Na Na” is a
cool sing-along blighted by our sound problems (sorry guys). “Come On
Home” shows off a tasty lead lick. “Keep Going” recalls the singer’s
boyhood dream in which he clearly refused to quit! I don’t yet know which
one is Hughes or McQuade, but they possess a great combination of a strong
vocalist and tight guitar interplay.

Eddie and Ivor
Eddie Robinson has probably had enough smoke blown up his arse lately in
the open mic scene, but I have to say it’s well deserved. He has some
songs. Go check out Machar Granite on myspace to hear his solo stuff. For
his last song, Eddie brings along Ivor, who is tattooed and buff,
something like a sailor on steroids, but shit the guy plays beautiful
harmonic notes to offset Ed’s strumming on “Lie of the Land.” I take this
as a song of lament. That is to say I’m tearing up when I hear “If you had
any idea about the lie of the land upon the soil, you would not place such
great demand.” Class song.

Squashee Kevin O’Rourke comes around every now and then to show off his
song writing chops and play guitar. His usual gig as keyboardist for
Smoked Glass can’t contain this guy. “It’s time to face the music that
we’ll never dance again” … ah, a waltzy number, a veritable feast of achy
minors, that causes any warm-blooded lover to bob their head mournfully.
Not me, though. Ahem.

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