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Out of the Bedroom 646 review – Thursday 4 May 2017

It was nice to see Woodland Creatures heaving this evening with a fair few people new and old in the back room. Our host tonight was the very talented Tina Avery with Jack Blimey on sound. Top snapper Malcolm McLean took photographs.

Lisa Rigby started the evening with the upbeat ‘Happy Hour’. Somewhat deceptively happy, as it is a subtle dig at corrupt politicians on this day of local election voting.

CJ was first debutante of the evening starting with ‘On My Own’. I’m guessing CJ is too young to remember the late ‘90s Blur classic with the same title! CJ’s impressive vocal range shone throughout this sad breakup song (“picking my pieces off the ground”). ‘Chandelier’ was a song of liberation dedicated to being free swinging from a chandelier. The softer, melancholy ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’ was my favourite of CJ’s this evening – well-constructed and an emotional performance.

Going up the decades, our delightful regular Michael started with a country number ‘Who’s Going To Care For My Baby?’ Written from the perspective of an inmate in jail, I could hear the spirit of Johnny Cash being channelled. ‘Waterfalls’ continued the questioning lyrics with a very personal and direct style as if he were reciting a letter to a dear friend. ‘Honey Honey Bay’ was influenced by Al Jolson, a very popular early 20th century act but not a common source of inspiration for many OOTB musicians. Ending with the refrain of “California, here I come”, Michael brought sunshine into our lives once more.

Skip the Android, aka Jonas, was another musician making an OOTB debut this evening. His deep, booming voice, reminiscent of James Grant mixed with David Cassidy’s breathy vibrato, gave extra gravitas to his performance. Listening was like floating in a scented bath, pleasant and sweetly intoxicating. A very different, less typically-Westernised style from the other musicians this evening.

Freeloadin’ Frank celebrated Spring and nature’s cycle of life with ‘Butterfly’. Frank managed to cram in many words rhyming with “fly” in this conversation between “Smithers” and his master. ‘Bloodshed on the Way’ was Frank’s nod to this evening’s political events (hopefully no bloodshed in Edinburgh City Chambers, though) and the song of Frank’s I had in my head today. Ultimately a reflection on the psychopathic nature seemingly typical of those in power. Frank’s first ever song, written when unemployed in the 1980s, ‘Yippy Dippy Doo-Dah’ had us all tapping our feet and singing along.

After the break, Jack Blimey hit the stage with his epic ‘Demolition Street’. Poetic, somewhat bleak and eerie and dreamlike all at once. A unique guitar style and tremulous vocal, the music gets under your skin and stays there as your subconscious slowly digests what you have just heard. The vivid scene of the street may just pop into your dreams, but don’t be scared!

Final debutante of the evening was the wonderful Jean Thomson. Having been to hundreds of OOTB shows, I thought I had seen almost every instrument played here – but no! Jean brought her mbira which is the national instrument of Zimbabwe and a very portable instrument; good for bringing to open mics. Jean told us that songs played on the mbira can go on for an hour or more as they are usually played in a round with other musicians. Thankfully, with our time constraints, Jean condensed the songs and played them beautifully. ‘The Snake’ was an instrumental which reminded me of a rattlesnake due to the mbira’s hissing sound – perhaps the origin of the song title? A unique performance, hopefully we’ll see Jean again soon.

Matthew Elton is surely one of the most improved songwriters and performers of the last year or so as evidenced by his musical craft this evening. The pastoral ‘Looking for the Shore’ was about appreciating nature in an optimistic way, embracing change. I can hear a hint of Talking Heads in Matthew’s style. ‘The Bridge’ was a pleasant song about happy memories of first love in Cambridge amongst the city’s concrete structures. The upbeat ‘Only So Long’ focussed on someone who is getting their life together while recognising that they only have so long to do that. This was my favourite of Matthew’s this evening and ended my favourite performance of his yet.

Guitar virtuoso Rui Alma started with a song he wrote yesterday while listening to his favourite violinist. I get nervous when I hear that someone is about to play a song they have just written, sensing that quality control might not be the best. However, Rui’s instrumental sounded very sweet with Jack’s reverb unit giving him the bigger sound that the song demanded. Rui’s final song was about keeping hope alive after a heartbreak and his pleasing jazzy vocals complemented the melancholy theme very nicely.

The excellent Tina Avery had the final open slot. ‘Memo to Youth’ was written as a piece of sage advice for her nephew who is planning to become a professional musician. A beautiful tune, with some nifty guitar picking from Tina. ‘Open Sea’ was dedicated to the refugees who continue to cross the Mediterranean hoping for a better life within Europe. This moving song included a pleasing musical resolution (consonance) to a discordant chord (dissonance). We can but hope this metaphor can extend to the refugees.

Lisa Rigby came back from family duties for her second song of the evening ‘Rain and State’. Lisa’s “da-da-dum song”, the lyric was about searching for how life could be – a recurring theme of the evening. Immaculately sung and played by Lisa.

Feature act this evening was local legend Cameron Phair. It is rare to see Cameron do a full set of his own material, so it was particularly pleasing he could be our feature act this evening. ‘Diamond Horizon’ is about his experience of growing up in Portobello and it was delivered in his awesomely powerful voice. ‘Sometimes Green’ is a romantic song and was played with great energy. Cameron has been recording an EP “for about four years” and ‘Older’, about getting older, will be on it. This is very much a pop song, think Ed Sheeran if he didn’t sound over-produced and if his songs were warm and endearing. ‘Groovy, Dreamy, Awkward’ were the catchphrases of Cameron’s course coordinator Richie Harrison and Cameron used this as a title for his next song which was an amusing reflection on his recent sound production studies. ‘Transient Town’ was a brilliant, melancholy tale of falling in love with people who aren’t allowed to stay in Edinburgh. ‘Anyway Down, How Many Ways Down’ was about being diagnosed with ADHD and embracing and accepting it. This reminded me of Elvis Costello, mixed in with Cameron’s many musical influences. The final song, ‘Love is in X-Files’, was about being fearful of entering a relationship due to fear of love and intimacy. This was another brilliant song from Cameron and an excellent way to close the evening.

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