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OOTB 295 – 3 April 2008

OOTB 295 – 3 April 2008

Performers: Lindsay Sugden, Colin Milne, Eddie Robinson, Gandalf, Lorraine McCauley (debut), Michael Dunnegan, Sparrahawk, Ross Neilson, Broken Tooth, Ian, Nyk Stoddart, Gerry McCann / Brendan Ryan (debut)

Lindsay Sugden Notes ping off the ceiling as our compere opens with current favourite, ‘If time stands still’. A master of original chord progressions, Lindsay conjures up melancholic fairies in my mind. I always enjoy this one.

Colin Milne ‘8 o’clock from Peebles’ is a train journey song in a pleasingly old-school vein, it makes the Borders feel like the Wild West, which in many ways it was. The whistle in the distance comes from way beyond the bend.   [Jim takes over] ‘Yesterday’ (not that one) was about how life has changed over the years, with Colin making observations about the less well-documented changes in society, e.g. yesterday we had the onion man/ wrapped with shiny spheres  .  Colin’s a-rhythmic picking style was reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s first album.  ‘Eye Candy’, about a walk down Princes Street, was spirited and uplifting.  Colin’s light, observational songwriting style made me think of Richard Stilgoe in his ‘Nationwide’ TV pomp (search on Wikipedia, kids).

Eddie Robinson This was my first experience of Eddie, who normally plays with Chris, and it was a most pleasant experience.  Eddie’s two songs were simple and beautifully played and sung.  ‘Beaufort’s Dyke’, a protest song about an ammunitions dump, featuring the line something under the water won’t go away  , was suitably evocative.  ‘Parasite’, about an ex-friend, really got the audience onside.  I fully expect, and hope, to hear more of Eddie in the future.

Gandalf Unlike the Lord of the Rings fellow, this Gandalf was a young, hungry OOTB debutante with a line in witty lyrics that the audience adored.  ‘Smoking Causes Cancer’ mixed serious subject matter with wacky lyrics about farting cows and smirting.  This was probably one of the most memorable squashee performances of recent times.

Lorraine McCauley (www.myspace.com/lorrainemccauley) Lorraine was making her OOTB debut tonight, and an excellent debut it was too.  Lorraine’s smoky, soulful voice was absolutely spellbinding, and her opening salvo ‘Who?’ showcased her nascent songwriting talent wonderfully. The jazzy ‘Dancing Round The Floods’ was about her first weeks in Edinburgh and there was a raw honesty about this that I could only admire. ‘Daydreaming’ was her first ever song – for most musicians (including myself) this would equal acutely embarrassing lyrics.  Not so with Lorraine who took us on a journey to a warm summer, basking in the peace of solitude.  Quite simply, one of the best OOTB debuts I have seen in the last year.

Michael Dunnegan I hadn’t seen Michael for about 10 years, mainly due to his being based in London, and it’s good to know that he is still as masterful a guitarist as ever.  ‘Flamingos’, about fancying Angelica Houston and falling in sleep in front of the TV, featured as flawless an exhibition of guitar playing as you’re likely to see.  The lyrics had bags of humour and Michael’s voice worked well with the subject matter.  Michael’s virtuoso chords and harmonics were great in his next number but he spoilt his set slightly by breaking the originals-only rule and slipping in a Nina Simone cover for his finale [Though in fairness, we probably should have told him this rule beforehand, Rob].  Nonetheless, a top quality debut from Mr. Dunnegan to close the first half.

Sparrahawk (www.myspace.com/aclspamborskee) The featured act tonight was Sparrahawk, TAFKA Spamborskee.  It really struck me how much OOTB misses artists of the calibre of Sparrahawk, who can make the audience laugh and think at the same time and has the respect of the local musicians’ fraternity.  The classic ‘Seagulls’ sounded fresh as a daisy and got the Canons’ Gait throng onside immediately.  ‘A Bad Case of Empty Wallet’ was a potent mix of blues ethos and Weegie patter. The line a bad case of chocolate biscuits/ leads me to decay   resonated with me.

‘Opiates and Oil’ gave his view on the underlying reason for the Iraq conflict (not a war, as a war has two sides).  This was throbbing, passionate performance and the line boom-boom-boom/ bang-bang-bang/ what about that for a masterplan?   summed up the poignant black humour that underpinned the song.  The poem ‘Feral Children’, about young people trapped in a cycle of poverty, provided an intermission to the heady mix. ‘Drunken Piper’, dedicated to Starship (Nyk Stoddart), was a modern Scots tale that would be a welcome addition to any Burns Supper.

‘Uncle John and the Masons’ was a real-life story about the role of secret societies in Glasgow.  ‘Secret Squirrel’ was a commentary on lifestyle choices in the USA, e.g. obesity, and featured quality Native American whooping.  The a capella ‘Lifespan’ was dedicated to soundman Mally McLean and was a surreal tale of his life journey, and included the crude-yet-poignant refrain get it up ye while you’re young  .

This was a 30-minute set of pure entertainment from Sparrahawk and I’m sure it won’t be long until he’s invited back to an Edinburgh music night. For Edinburgh musicians, Sparrahawk said he could point you in the right direction for getting a gig in Glasgow.

Ross Neilson Ross has been a familiar and popular face at OOTB in recent months and his pleasant opener ‘Halo’ showed why.  Ross’s impressive guitar playing, pleasing voice and well-constructed songs were the backbone of ‘Only One Way’.  Ross’s professionalism and commitment were displayed on ‘Fragile Tears’.  This sensitive, passionate ballad showed that Ross needs, rather than wants, to play his music and that might just take him far.

Broken Tooth (www.myspace.com/electricwhiteboy) TAFKA Electric White Boy, Broken Tooth started with the subtle ‘Miller’s Daughter’.  Check out the discussion about this Led-Zep-III-esque song on the OOTB discussion forum, [website address].  Mr. Tooth played the bluesy ‘Hoodoo Man’ next, introduced as [going] from the innocent to the sinister  .  BT showed ambition in trying to hit the high notes of a young, hollering Robert Plant.  The lovelorn ‘Hold Fast’ was dedicated to his ex-girlfriend and this was a heartfelt, earnest performance from Broken Tooth.

Ian Ian’s tousled-haired appearance made me think of a young Tim Buckley, my favourite singer ever, so that immediately put me in a positive frame of mind.  Ian’s music was very much his own and his youthful exuberance brought a renewed energy to the evening.  I didn’t catch any song titles, but his performance was engaging and the songs were well rehearsed.  One of Ian’s lines – I’m certain I could kill a man who tried to cheat me  , put me off ever inviting him round for a game of poker!  Excellent stuff from Ian.

Nyk Stoddart (www.mutantlodge.com) Nyk took on a squashee slot, and invited Broken Tooth up for backing vocals.  ‘Retro Space Age’ was the song played and his energising alternative view on life reminds me that I must take life a little less seriously.  Tune in, turn on, drop out?  Possibly, Nyk might just be the man to take you into the space!

Gerry McCann / Brendan Ryan Although debutantes at OOTB, Gerry and Brendan were familiar to me as they were flatmates of mine some years ago.  In fact, Gerry introduced me to my first ever open mic night, Writers in Song, at The Gallery Bar (now The Wash) in 1993, which totally changed my idea about what a music night could and should be.  Gerry’s guitar playing was excellent tonight and I’m pleased that he’s still got that edge.  Brendan’s passionate, soulful, mid-Atlantic vocals made me think he could be an interesting mentor for Broken Tooth.  ‘Just For Today’ was rocking and the voice and guitar melded into a powerful combo, making me think of Nazareth in their prime. The musical chemistry between Gerry and Brendan is still there after many years and on this evidence long may it continue.

Compere: Lindsay Sugden Sound: Malcolm Mally   McLean Raffle tickets: David O’Hara Review: James Igoe

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