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OOTB 291 – 6 Mar 2008

OOTB 291 – 6 Mar 2008

Colin Milne, Open Sea, Mark Roper, Glen Smith, Fletcher, Ian Sclater, Gary, Nigel Ashwood, Hughes and McQuaid, Paul Gladwell, Cameron

All the slots are taken well before the event is due to start, it’s a sign that bodes very well for the evening. Several debuts, some regulars, some returning old-timers, and a mix of standards and styles that makes OOTB what it is.

Colin Milne
Colin’s songs are tender, sweet and full of the wisdom of a long life. Colin (so a birdy told me) is 87 but could easily pass for 20 years younger, I only hope that I will be writing songs as witty, wonderful, and occasionally filthy at that age. Tonight he plays his glute* unplugged and really engages the audience. I particularly like the one about sleeping with (or not sleeping with) a ‘pro’. The songs and playing have always been great, but Colin is really growing in confidence.

*[that’s a cross between a guitar and a lute, rather than the muscle of the same name]

Open Sea (Debut)
Open Sea make their OOTB debut tonight, and only their 2nd live performance ever. Ah the lovely sound of expensive guitars. They weave a rich soundscape with 2 guitars, one strumming, one picking, 2 vocals in harmony, and a fiddle too!. (the guitarists swap instruments each song, apparently their wives don’t allow them to buy enough guitars.) OK so they are not yet performance veterans, but no one has any business being this confident or good on their debut, and I for one, am an instant convert.

Mark Roper
Mark stretches the OOTB rules to the limit by bringing backing tracks on a computer and offering what therefore became a karaoke performance. I’m not questioning the song-writing, or his cleverness in the studio creating the backing tracks, but its not exactly in the spirit of an acoustic open-mic night. Next time please bring a guitar or keyboard, I’d love to hear you live, and I think it would help you to engage more with the audience, and help us to hear more of the songwriting and less of the production. The best cure for nerves is more performance.

Glenn Smith
Nice to see Glenn back after rather too long a break from OOTB. He brings a confident performance with his tradmark gravelly voice. I’m not sure if it was the PA or the performance, but it sounded a little aggressive tonight, its usually rather more smokey and smooth. Actually the first two songs were quite dark and a little menacing. The 3rd song is gentler and more optomistic. We would like to point out to all performers that ootb does allow happy songs, so thanks to Glenn for raising the mood.

(Break)

Fletcher (Main Act)
It must be said tonight’s OOTB is the busiest of the year, helped considerably by the large number of ‘Fletchlings’, so by the time our main act hit the stage it is standing room only.
Fletcher (Ben Cowan and Finn Donaldson) are an accomplished double act: Finn creating spannish guitar textures with classical poise, and Ben milking his performance of rock vocals for all he’s worth – and throwing in the odd Les Paul solo to boot.
Down by the Riverside, a perennial favourite, and grim tale about Edinburgh justice.
Great Expectations, It may be a small room, but Ben is going to wail like he’s playing Madison Square Gardens. (the poor sound guys dive for the volume controls) Finn is clinically proficient as ever.
Rufus, tonight without the ‘Birdsong’ introduction. Its about a man who’s ‘always got another bottle of wine’. It might be written about me. Ben goes in for a typically restrained Les Paul moment, oh no he doesn’t – a man after my own heart.
Seeds are Sown. It’s a perfect love song (many admiring comments from the lovely Fletchlings).
Buridan’s Ass. Who said guitarists can’t play contrary motion scales. Also features Finn’s first vocal performance.
Children of Abraham, a biblical tale only marred by the less that sensitive timing of coming in a week when there have been protests (at Ben & Finn’s Uni!) against Israel’s appalling recent treatment of their neighbours. But tonight’s crowd are not political and forget about the words after Ben breaks into another extended guitar solo.
Fletcher were, very generously, giving out free copies of their EP recorded at that well-know edinburgh institution called Windmill Sound. You can find them at www.Myspace.com/FletcherUK. Look out for the album coming soon.

Ian Sclater
The girl downstairs, who works with raptors. It’s a comedy number about Ian playing his music too loud for the neighbours, and goes down very well with the audience, especially the James Blunt jibe.
Black Silk, lovely song about a lady of the night.
Isabella, another song about a lovely woman, are your catching a theme toinight. There’s rather a lot of romantic encounters and much regret.

Ghostboy
Nice to see Gary as he’s not played here in a while. He is confident and on form tonight. A brand new song, ‘Fully Loaded Gun’ has rhythmic playing with just a little attitude, and gets every foot in the room tapping. Its just a squashee tonight, but we’d love to hear a full set soon.

Nigel Ashwood
Nigel played happy songs the last time and was not lynched so he is back again (see everyone it is possible). I’ve seen Nigel in the room a number of times, but tonight is the first time I’ve heard him play. He has a large-bodied Taylor with a deep sonorous tone, lovely. Songs aren’t bad either. ‘Angel in Stone’ is about someone beautiful but unresponsive,  I keep thinking of that episode of Dr Who, but then I’m sad that way. ‘Start’ is a song with a lot of stops. A competant set from a relative newcomer.

Hughes and McQuaid (Debut)
H&M are obviously nervous tonight, but really have no need to be, the songs, the playing and the vocals are all first class (Hughes’ voice especially). I think the songwriting and voice are both there, but the performance angle needs a little work to involve the audience more and add a little sparkle.  A few more performances to steady the nerves and these could be truly excellent.
The songs overall have a bit of a 60’s feel to them almost skiffle at times, and Hughes voice sounds rather Del Amitri, quality.
Their first number is slightly stompy, and with a little more confidence could be a real party track.
‘Lonely’ is more skiffle with high harmonies
H&M use that great technique having one guitar with Capo at the 4th fret so that they play the same chords with different voicings, giving a richer sound.

Paul Gladwell
Suddenly the room goes silent and everyone stops what they are doing and are glued intently to Paul’s performance. It’s unsaid, but mutually agreed that this is how you write songs.
‘Tell me what to believe’ has pithy witty lyrics, and is delivered at incredible speed. Paul looks all restrained and unflappable, but that’s difficult stuff.
‘Poets and Business’ is cooler and jazzier. He may be playing the house guitar, but Paul can make a simple guitar line sound fabulous.
Finally a song about a bella pasta in Inverness. One of the secrets of songwriting is the use of phrases which evoke far more meaning than the plain words: ‘Table for One’ says it all.

Cameron (Debut)
It’s his first time playing for 5 months, with the exception of Binkies on Monday (but that does not count due to playing cover’s). Cameron spent the evening encouraging other performers, he can come again, its really what the night is about. So now that he comes to play I’ll not hear a bad word about him.
His first song is a bluesy number about a breakup. The words start quite acidly, but Cameron being such a happy guy seems to have forgotten to put on his grumpy head before starting the song, he gets into it as the song progresses.
Grip is a pithy political number about soldiers with no equipment.
Cameron is so into his songs that its quite engaging  – that said some eye contact with the audience would be good.
His last number has lots of guitary chords and is sung much more gently, it really suits his voice. All told he sings with a lot of conviction. One to watch.

Compare: Daniel Davis & John Lamb, Sound: Malcolm, Review: Daniel Davis & Davis O’Hara

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