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OOTB 348 – 23 June 2009

OOTB 23/06/09

Calum and Jimmy Carlyle

Orkney’s finest kick us off with a jaunty tale of childhood games and playing soldiers in the street, named eerily ‘Commando’. Their second is a protest song which talks of ‘the promise of better days’. Jimmy has the rhythm on guitar, while Calum embellishes on Mandolin, giving warmth to the whole. On their third, though, they swap instruments and pick up pace for a slip-jig. Its got a beat that Bongshang would be proud of. Finally, ‘A Place To Hide’ features great interplay and harmonics. Very fine.

Freeloadin Frank

‘Empire State Building’ is a love story of epic proportions, featuring a particular gorilla and his gal. ‘Cannabis is very good for you’ is fairly self-explanatory – “the perfect antidote when you are blue.” Frank is on form tonight – by the end of this number, he has them in his thrall. ‘Bloodshed On The Way’ voices a deep distrust of politicians, as humour takes a backseat to the satire. How better to end the set than the legendary ‘Magic Cornflake’? It is “the only way to travel”, apparently, and is dedicated to Darren Thornberry (who will be traveling, not tripping his little socks off as the song suggests).

Ron (debut)

Just a squashee this time for Ron’s OOTB debut. ‘Deeper than the ocean’ shows off Ron’s energy and voice, even though I feel I’ve heard the lyrics before. In contrast, his second, which talks of “whisky where the bible used to go”, is more original, and better shows off his songwriting. More of this would be welcome.

Harry (debut)

“I like to bike, you like to stab old men” Yeah, nothing like a bit of random killing to put a dampener on a relationship. Harry is a comic singer, and surprisingly enough appearing in the Edinburgh Film Festival in ‘Baraboo’. His second piece is “a lullaby”, but features not only the same acoustic ska of his first song, but enough terrifying tales to petrify any youngster – spiders, vampires, their mother. Clearly a fan of Sublime, his third is more ska, and also wonderfully twisted – “if you tried to leave, I’d kill your family.” It’s funny stuff, although his stage persona could do with being reigned in a wee bit. Finally, a break-up song, of sorts. “Everybody hates you” It’s nice to see an antihero in a song for once.

Paul Gladwell (Featured Act)

Antiheroes are something that Paul almost specialises in, but throughout his set tonight he adeptly shifts gear and mood between just about every song. He starts with delicate fingerpicking – “Your guilt is hard to swallow.” It’s a curiously low-key number to begin with, but it seems to work. His second is all word-play, with the stand-out line being “you are my flower(flour) when I have no dough.” Cracking. Next one is fast and desolate, and talks of “Actors on a stage”. Following this, he shifts mood in a second, back to beguiling melancholia – “For me, it seems, an ordinary life is not enough.” Paul writes intelligent lyrics, and packs them in. I could fill reams with those worthy of note. It’s a good approach to songwriting – take as many good ideas as would fill three songs, then fit them into one. Paranoid Android did just that. ‘Tell me what to believe’ is a pertinent comment on the state of the media, or rather the media of the state. Satirical and biting. He then makes 7/8 sound like the most natural time signature for an enveloping love song, or sorts. “When whispering sweet nothings for the thousandth time feels like nothing.” Emotive. ‘If you let me tag along’ is bouncy and attention-grabbing. Again a complete shift of gear. All the while, the guitar play is complex but never overshadowing the lyrics, and played to a tee. For his penultimate, he settles an unusually straight guitar part, almost Dylan-esque, for more melancholy. Finally, antiheros to the fore, as he unleashes his dark and malevolent ‘The End is Nigh’. It is positively throbbing with coiled energy. “Don’t read your holy book – I’ll just rip out the page.” Suberb.

Cam and Ed

A possible first for OOTB – a guitar and drum combo. It may even be their first outing together, I’m not sure. They start with ‘We’re Hanging On’, which is impassioned. Head and shoulders above, however, is ‘An Early Call’. I’ve seen Cam do this solo before, but never noticed the lyrics, which are about being a GP. “Our lives had barely touched, but the poor soul seemed resigned.” Beautifully emotive – helped by Cam’s distinctive vibrato and fine voice. On ‘Keep It Going’, he sings “we’re almost out of time.” The drums add an urgent metronome, but due to unusual time signature changes they are ragged in parts, though this will no doubt improve with practice. For their last, they cheekily pull out a cover (gasp) of Tim Buckley’s Dolphins. Whilst a shorter version than I’m used to, it has to be said that Cam’s voice IS Buckley’s, so he suits it perfectly. The full version on OOTB 350 (July 7), perhaps?

Broken Tooth

Before giving us what I consider to be the best ever rendition of his epic ‘Hold Fast’, Tooth addresses the sometimes misunderstood lyrical content, which focuses on religious bigotry among other things. It is articulate and passionate, and lends huge weight to the song’s delivery. The stand-out lyrics are still “to spread their message of peace, they write it out in blood and sword.” Awesome.

Douglas

“I’m not going to lie to you, so I don’t make a sound” He can certainly craft some fine tunes and words. He seems new to performing, but he makes up for any inexperience with an engaging liveliness. His second song was written in France, and is full of optimism. His voice is best when he lets rip – with practice this power should find its way into all his singing. His third was almost never performed, so worried was he about the fingerpicking. Well, he shouldn’t have fretted – it is a quiet lullaby of s song and he seems to play it faultlessly. Beautiful. His last is dark and funky, full of ringing high notes. Again his voice benefits from roaring a bit. Much potential.

John Watton

Fluid fingerpicking of the highest order. “I love to walk the Cleveland way” he sings on his first song. Folk music with integrity. ‘Standing Tall’ is a heavier piece, and uses an effects box with great subtlety. No easy task. Clearly a hugely experienced performer, this is a very polished set, and a joy to watch. ‘Station Master’ is blues, but again done very well. “I didn’t say goodbye, I just kept on moving on.” And indeed, this will John last performance at OOTB for a wee while. Hope he returns as soon as possible. Top notch stuff.

Cameron Phair

He opens with a big sounding guitar: all open 5ths. “So I’m older now – what have you got to say for yourself?” Good start. His second is a ballad in the best Scottish/Idlewild style. “waited for the sky to change”. This is the best I’ve seen Cameron so far – he certainly looks very comfortable on stage, and enjoys good banter with the audience. A skill in itself. His last is something about letting footwear govern your view of the world. Maybe I wrote that down wrong. “You’re walking with your mind too fast”.

Colin Brennan (debut)

His style is a mash up of country-folk, so he says. “Home is where the heart is,” but it means different things to different people, as he illustrates. His second is all escapism and aspiration – “Adios to all this concrete” Some of his lyrics can tend towards the pedestrian, but occasionally he’ll pull out a gem – “love’s a gift that’s surely hand made” His last piece is anything but light and optimistic, but again he produces some quality words – “I’m not in the ground today, but it sure feels like I’m on my way.” I’d like to hear more.

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One Comment

  1. Comment by John Watton:

    Thanks for the reviews! Much enjoyment experienced during my 6 weeks in Edinburgh. Hope to be back someday. Love and peace to all!
    JW

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