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OOTB 302 – 22 May 2008

OOTB 302 – 22 May 2008

Performers: Iain &Phil, Broken Tooth, Fiona Thom, Stephen Harrison, Nyk Stoddart, Lindsay Sudgen and The Storm, Ross Nielson, Johnny Pugh, Julian, Pip Robinson, Indigo Rose, Furious, Chris

Iain and Phil kick off OOTB 302 with their new song Local Derby Blues  . Their synchronised vibrant strumming gets the foot tapping, as we hear of hard and grey streets  , and patrons much the same  , a clever dig at fans of the beautiful game. The song is complemented by some intricate guitar work high up the fret board from Phil (I think), before the ‘quick chord change’ chorus. An effervescent playful opener. Their second, which I’m guessing was called When the Sun runs out of time  , again layered some carefully chosen finger picked notes, over an urgent chord progression. The chorus had some of the audience singing along, and in spite of hearing them for the first time tonight, I found myself joining in with the last chorus. Good catchy song, with a memorable hook line, and a strong vocal. The final song saw a quick detuning before Iain sang about writing a novel, over the pedal drone, and riff of Phil’s guitar. The detuned guitars gave the duo a really thick warm sound, which complemented the heartfelt lyrics about the test of time   and a heart that healed inside  . A great idea (novel you might say) for lyric content, and a fitting end to an enjoyable set from this rhythmic combo.

Broken Tooth Following some unashamed flaunting of his proficient finger tapping technique, Broken Tooth wastes no time in dropping both the E strings to D, and launching into Hoodoo Man  . The dropped D tuning allows minor 3rd pull offs over the chords, lending a blues edge to his hardened acoustic sound. This provides the perfect foundation for his gravelly, howling vocal, instantly recognisable from the first syllable. There is an underlying tension to the verse which explodes in the chorus, and it takes little imagination to envisage this in a full rock band arrangement. The second song ‘borderline’ continues in a similar vein, beginning with some rapid finger work and furious strumming. The lyrical content shifts away from the psychedelic imagery of his first, into a bitter nonchalance of a past relationship (well that’s what I got from it anyway)- ‘you go your way, I’ll go mine’. Whatever the reference, the song as a whole was a perfect vehicle for Jim to let rip on the vocal chords, and he gladly obliges. His final song exhibited a different style altogether from the blues driven rock that I have previously enjoyed. ‘Dust Around the Sun’ shows that Jim is no ‘quick playing, loud singing’ one trick pony. The delicate guitar shapes itself around the apocalyptic existentialism of the lyrics: ‘When all is said and done/all that’s to come, is dust around the sun’. A thought provoking end to a set that is of the high standard that you come to expect from the refined bluesman.

Fiona Thom- Next up in a squashee slot, we have Fiona Thom, and her song ‘The Next Room’, a chirpy, catchy tale of the enforced experience of listening to the fornication of others. The vocal line leaps around freely, which complements the upbeat chord progression, and Fiona’s ability to craft her lyrics so that they echo the sentiments of the melody, without losing their story telling capacity is admirable. Our compere warned the audience that having heard this song once, we should not soon forget it. In my case, this has proven to be prophetic, as I keep catching myself humming it. Good stuff, and it was a shame that we could only be treated to one song tonight.

Stephen Harrison- Stephen takes to the stage sporting a maroon Epiphone electric guitar, the latter being something of a rarity for OOTB, I am led to believe. She Certainly Was   began with some quirky, fragmented chords, which sounded really crisp on the electric. The lyrics are brooding, and dark, telling the tale of a girl who said there would be no other  , and clearly fell back on the promise. The repetition of the chords encourages one to concentrate on the vocal, but also lend an almost hypnotic effect, to the bassy timbre of Stephen’s voice. It reminds me a little of Edwyn Collins. In Shadows on the Wall   the use of extended chords imparts a wistful quality to the song, which is also reflected in the prolonged notes in the vocal, and introspective lyrics. I felt that this song had a distinct Brit Pop feel to it, and wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Pulp album from that era. The final line Not shadows at all   emphasises the sentiments of the whole song, and the change in the chord progression in conjunction with this line framed the song nicely. His last, Garbo Smiles  , I found the most intriguing song of the set. Its chromatic movements, minor key, and dischords, seemed to do battle with the fragile poignancy of the lyrics such as I believe I found you innocent  . The move to major chords in what I took to be the chorus had a similar effect to the soaring middle eight of Coldplay’s God Put a Smile on Your Face  . A great end to an enjoyable set.

Nyk Stoddart- Having witnessed the realisation of the musical potential of a pine cone the last time I saw Nyk, I was prepared for anything but the expected from Mr Stoddart tonight. Again, he failed to disappoint. Tonight, the subject of Nyk’s inimitable style, is Tombstoning  ; I hear this is a favourite amongst those in the know, however it is the first time I have heard it. Nyk embarks upon tonight’s musical journey with the usual ferocity, soon uttering the line I hope someone notices the sound is gone  – such is the panache of the man, I’m not sure if this is some sort of philosophical observation, or a purely ad hoc plea to the sound desk. Anyway, in spite of some of the more whimsical lyrics (I am an idiot  ), the chorus line what do you want, written on your grave   is a chilling and effective message to practitioners of the eponymous activity. Nyk seems to treat all common notions of tonality with reckless abandon, yet it all still makes sense. In conjunction with his unique lyrical observations, this performance confirms Nyk as an irreplaceable facet to the Edinburgh open mic circuit.

Lindsay Sudgen and The Storm
Our main act tonight sees a wealth of musical talent take to the Out Of The Bedroom stage: Lindsay is accompanied by a cellist, glockenspiel player (not sure about the correct terminology for that) and backing vocalist, as well as (what I hear was) a djembe player/ harmonicist. However, the first song makes it clear that this is a very tight knit unit, with each part blending together into a beautiful whole. I Know Its Odd   begins with fingerpicked, medieval sounding chords, reminiscent of some of The Strawbs   acoustic stuff. Thankfully, Lindsay’s voice is a million miles away from Dave Cousin’s much ostracised vocal style, the words at times only breathed into the microphone, yet still audible over the accompaniment. The lyrics are ethereal, and ambiguous, and I would probably be doing them an injustice if I tried to interpret them. I get the impression that this may even be the point.  Anyway a really beautiful song, expertly performed. Beyond These Walls  , includes an aching cello line, and some fantastic backing vocal lines from ‘Indigo Rose’ (who we shall hear more of later). It would be easy given the many layers of sound, to forget to acknowledge the complexity of Lindsay’s guitar work, yet in this song particularly, there are some elegant chords, and musical ideas on show. The chorus evoked feelings of painful hopelessness that Nothing will ever change  , and the delivery of each line was perfectly weighted by Lindsay’s voice. Their third Song was On the Wire  . As a newcomer to the Edinburgh music scene, I only saw Lindsay perform for the first time at OOTB 300 with this song. It really stood out for me then, and tonight, with the support of a band, it really was exceptional. It had some thought provoking lyrics (I particularly liked Its just desire/ or its all illusion), which were delivered with some exquisite harmonies. The song was well structured, and the djembe gave it real direction, particularly when the tempo increased towards the end. I thought that this song best combined the otherworldly aspect of Lindsay’s sound, and a commercial catchy hook. I didn’t catch the name of the next one, but I’ve just written down on the back of my raffle ticket/notepad, Harmonica Song  . Here Lindsay exhibited her versatility in reverting to the accompaniment of her guitar alone, and the wailing vibratos of her harmonica player. The latter made lines such as she gives up on everything she loves  , and nothing can take the pain away  , all the more anguished. A haunting finesse of a song. Towards the end of the set, I was rapidly running out of raffle ticket space on which to write notes, so the remainder of the review is done from some indecipherable scribbles, and memory. Time Stands Still   struck me as a highly polished song, with some innovative guitar work, and delicate vocals, supplemented by the pizzicato of the cello. Their last which I think may have been called All the Simple Things  , had a slightly rockier edge, some of it comparable to Incubus’ less heavy stuff. Although somewhat of a departure from the other songs of the set, Lindsay’s voice rose to the change in direction well. If truth be told, my notes for this act were pretty rubbish because I remember being totally immersed throughout the set. The quality of the performance from all four musicians was equalled by the musicianship in the songwriting, and although this review may not ably reflect this, the audience was mesmerised by a stunning set.

Ross Nielson
Ross begins aggressively with staccato punchy chords, grabbing the audience’s attention. His voice is a piercing sneer, somewhere between Kurt Cobain, and Richard Ashcroft, and is well formed to his edgy, acoustic rock. Its hard to remember/when so many things are in disguise   he sings. His second, which I believe was called If I can Find My Change of Heart  , has a pressing, urgent feel to it, the lyrics forcing the song forward. The song seems to be a desperate recognition of a doomed situation, lamenting the enemy inside me   who wants to take control  . There is an anger to the song, which could be aimed either at himself or the situation he is in. An engaging performance, where the audience truly believes the torment exhibited by the lyrics. His final song is kinda angsty  , beginning with power chords, and leading to a Pixies influenced chorus, where Ross yells I wish you were eighteen  . Ross claims that this song supports the feminist movement  ; to say that this was met with scepticism would be something of an understatement. In spite of this, Ross’ acoustic rock is always a breath of fresh air, and his enthusiasm in performance is infectious to his audience.

I now hand over the pen to Rob Sproul-Cran, as I play a few songs…

Johnny Pugh I don’t know if his writing the review helped stretch his creative muscles beforehand, but Johnny pulled out a cracker tonight. His starts with fine fingerpicking, singing, …sends me to hell tonight…   The contrast of harsh lyrics and soft guitar is effective. I’ll teach you to dance like the wind,   he sings on his second, a love song told in retrospect. Emotional honesty typifies the set. On his third, ‘Inertia’, the guitar is again sparse, leaving room for the delivery to shine. I’ve seen him more excitable before, but this set from Johnny shows control, and is more affecting as a result. He’s really come on hugely, someone give the man a featured slot.

Julian

Next up is Julian. His first song is written in French, so I cannot really comment on the lyrics. However, whatever he was singing, the jazzy rhythms and the two chord progression, made him sound effortlessly cool. I can imagine the words having a real attitude. His second has a discordant beginning, before transforming into a Radiohead-esque, trance like song. Julian’s voice has moved away from the affected tone of the first song, to a haunting falsetto, singing of trying to survive  . His last, we are told, is his effort to put his fears into a song, and it is an unsettling (in a good way) listen. The sturm und drang   of the repeated chords, and piercing notes matched the pain in the lyrics: He never missed me in the end  . The song briefly moves to a major sound, which conveys a sense of hope to the sorrow that is alluded to in the lyrics, giving the song a good balance. It really sounds like a catharsis, and is a both inspiring, and troubling listen. Good stuff.

Pip Robinson

This is the first that I have heard of Pip, and I am instantly taken aback by her beautifully clear, and textured voice. At times strong, and determined, at others cracked and nuanced, it has a uniquely pure sound. Her first called Days  , uses a reiterated gently finger picked descending chord progression, and tells the tale of the memories of days gone by  , with regret. The song doesn’t really have what you would call a chorus, but the change of rhythm and melody in the vocal line, and occasional alterations to the soothing chord progression ensure interest. Her second, entitled Footprints  , (and not fit prince   which is what I originally wrote down), is an enchanting song, with some great use of imagery: I liked the line about the shadows taking their form. The rhythmic slapping of the guitar body (which I was recently informed is termed gull slapping apparently), works particularly well here, keeping the song moving. This song had a mystical quality, and this is reflected in the final line and the dreams begin  . She finishes with a new song, a tale of loss entitled Forgotten Smiles  , which has a catchy chorus hook of Forgotten Smile, forgotten tear/ Memories from a distant year  . Pip’s voice is well suited to this subject matter, as her excellent vocal control is able to import empathy into the meaning of her lyrics. I hope to hear her again soon.

Indigo Rose

Our last 3 song set of the night is from Indigo Rose. She begins with a song about remembering old romances, and more specifically, looking up ex boyfriends on google. The latter is highly commended by our compere in a brief diatribe against successful old flames after the set. However, the song is not about stalking at all, but rather about remembering having all the confidence of youth  . The use of natural imagery and French in the lyrics, added a touch of romance to the song as a whole, and worked well… Given this set and Julian’s, I must remember to bring a dictionary next time. Her second has a really innovative chord progression, and jazzy rhythms. I wasn’t sure where the music was going to go next, and this unpredictability, juxtaposed with sweet lyrics such as I walk on air/ just ’cause you’re there  , evoked the first feelings of falling in love particularly well. If this wasn’t enough, there was also a whistle interlude. Ace. The set finishes with Melancholy Baby  , an uplifting and carefree, song. Blue is the colour of your world   she sings, before asserting Melancholy Baby, its not worth that  . This was probably my favourite of the set, the lyrical content being well matched by the singer’s dulcet tones, which took on a different timbre when it was unleashed as a solo vocal. This set showed a completely different aspect to her artistry from her performance with Lindsay and the Storm, and a very enjoyable one at that.

Furious Furious opens with the immortal line Hello, I’m Furious  , before delivering a funny, and, well, furious tribute to Scotland. In the style of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire  , Furious lists all the things that are wrong with being a Scot, such as pale skin etc, before asserting Ah forget about it/ I love Scottish Weather  , to chords which make him sound as if he is proclaiming some great new truth. A brilliantly funny, ‘no place like home’ example of Scottish character.

Chris

Chris’ second appearance at OOTB was unfortunately cut short by the demands of time. However, the one song he did manage to play, Stay  , was an enjoyable one. I particularly liked the line When you asked me what I’d be like alone/ I didn’t cry for nothing  . The lyrics are emotional, but they were suitably understated by the singer, which was most effective. A shame that this was cut short, I would have liked to have heard more.

Review: Johnny Pugh (and Rob Sproul-Cran), Compere: Rosie Bell, Sound: Daniel Davis

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