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OOTB 13 – 24 Jan 2002

Just when I think that OOTB at the Waverley can’t get any better, it goes and does precisely that. The standard and variety of performers on Thursday was a wonderful thing to behold, and indeed to listen to.

After Jim and I opening proceedings with a single song, the first act on stage was Jill Hepburn, who travelled all the way from Falkirk to play. And I was very glad she made the trip, as her jazz-tinged breaths of cool, wistful pop transported me from the mid-winter blues of Edinburgh to somewhere decidedly pleasant and with a lot more sunshine. She also broke her previous personal best of one song per set at OOTB, this time playing the standard three. I would like to see more of this young lady in the future.

Next up was Martin Chiesa, who made the decision to play without any amplification. I think it was the right decision, as he certainly filled the room with his well-projected voice, and rhythmic and tuneful songs. He varied the more normal OOTB 6-string sound by playing a 12-string guitar with energy and volume, in an up-tempo catchy fashion. I always like to see a 12-string being played, perhaps because I’m too lazy to play my own, and full marks to Martin for carrying on after breaking a string in the first song. Perhaps all this change came about because in his own words, “I didn’t get pissed like I did last week”. Spoken like a true musician.

Scott Reilly is a man who had previously impressed me when the now defunct Edinburgh Songwriters was at The Tron Tavern. His individual sound is hard to describe, but if a bald madman brandished a sawn-off in my face and ordered me to do just that, here’s what I would say: His voice and guitar carry tinges of Country music, but not of the Tammy Wynnette variety, more of the bleak Hank Williams type. Having said that, there’s a definite pop sensibility in there too, with an ear for a catchy tune and melody. His song “Shades of Blue” particularly had me whistling like a moron and annoying my flatmates all day on Friday. I’m not sure if Scott’s recorded any of his material, but if he has, then I’d definitely like to reserve a copy.

Graeme ‘The G‘ McDonald played last week with Norman Lamont, providing BV and harmonica, but this week came on his tod. And he proved that he’s no floating sideman, delivering a set with panache and no mean skill, by playing a guitar and harmonica in a neck brace, normally something which reminds me of Bob Dylan, but on this occasion Graeme’s performance blotted out any comparison. His last song, called I think “Going Out Like A Hero”, was a particularly fine piece of songwriting, and not even my joining in on the bongoes (I’d had a couple of pints by then) could ruin it. And anyone who knows my bongo playing will realise what a compliment to a song that is.

After the interval, Riley and Ian came up to share with us some more of their strange and beautiful world. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it would work: an acoustic guitar, a djembe, and a voice touched by country and blues. The reality? It sounds bloody fantastic, even when the djembe (played expertly by Ian) is swapped for a duburka (not sure of the spelling), as on the opening song “Jennifer”. The bass boom of the djembe was used for my personal favourite of theirs, called “Older Women”, which careered around inside my skull for two days solid, especially the lines “Don’t you take her for granted, Don’t you ever make her blue, She can always find another young fool like you”. Riley’s way with a melody and a hook will surely gain them more attention in future. Great stuff.

Philly and Callum had the unenviable task of following that, but by thunder, they damned well did, producing a set displaying sheer mastery of the voice and guitar respectively. Philly had a way of singing that although it didn’t sound like him, reminded me of Horace Andy in that you felt the words, rather than heard them. High and soulful, it went straight to the heart and didn’t come out again for love nor money. Callum’s guitar had dynamics galore, ranging from a delicate plucked arpeggio to a full-throated strum, and never took the easy route of well-trodden pop melodies, preferring instead the narrower, more dangerous path, but one which they traversed with ease. The duo always left enough space for each other to show their talent, and judging by their reception, could be back again at a future date.

The raffle was well patronised, but there can only be one winner of the Mystery Prize, and this week that winner was Callum (of Philly and Callum), winning a splendid black “Eggz” percussion instrument, which came all the way from the good ol’ USA. Will he be shaking his egg down at OOTB this Thursday, I wonder?

Finally, to round off the evening, a performer known simply as A.D. played two songs, neither of which could be strictly said to be wholly original compositions, but which were played with sincerity and feeling. Merci beaucoup, Monsieur A.D.

Well, I think I can say it was an extremely enjoyable evening on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to more of the same this Thur. If anyone wants to play the house keyboard, then feel free to do so, like the house guitar it’s always available.

Nelson

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