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Out of the Bedroom 672 review – Thursday 28th June 2018

Running order: James Igoe, Ailsa and the Seahorses, ‘Fergal’, Gareth Herron, The Humors, Jeanice Lee, Joel Evry, feature act: Callum Mackinnon.

James Igoe, host for the evening started off the evening with ‘Braveheart Beggar’, a song about hope in the face of adversity.

Ailsa and the Seahorses played her first gig at OOTB in a while starting with one of her oldest songs – an alt-countryish number which, I think, was called ‘My Newest Song’ (sorry if I got that wrong Ailsa!). This was a great showcase for Ailsa’s very appealing, mature vocal which reminded me slightly of Edie Brickell. The guitar playing was laid-back, summer-y and made me think of pastoral scenes with wild flowers. Her next song was in a similar vein, featured some quality whistling and was perfect for Edinburgh’s hottest June day on record. Sample lyric: “it’s wonderful to be alive now” – positive! Ailsa’s final, newish song was a little faster paced and, again, very pleasant. I could listen to Ailsa singing all evening – lovely stuff.

Next up was ‘Fergal’, a debut act who had not played live for some time but did not sound at all rusty. ‘Dragon Roars’ was about “a friend with bad habits” (sample lyric: “you’d sell your soul/ to build that hole/ when your dragon roars”). Excellent, frenetic folk guitar playing from Fergal who sung in a broad Scots accent. The romantic second song was a bit more Americana with a rocking guitar solo. Fergal’s final song, ‘We Chased The Ball’, was a nostalgic tale of the simple pleasures of life – the “rosebud” moments – and imbued a great warmth. Minimalist guitar playing and lyrics such as “take me where the river flows”. Fergal took us to that place and many more this evening. Top stuff.

Debut act Gareth Herron, from Northern Ireland, described his songs as “Happy/Sad” (which is also the title of one of my favourite ever albums from Tim Buckley). ‘Strangers’ was “about falling out of love” and it was soon clear that we had a gifted lyricist in our midst. A pleasant, simple tune with subject matter that must have been difficult to write about but hopefully was cathartic. I would file this song as “sad” rather than “happy”. ‘Masks’ was “about growing up in Northern Ireland” and the metaphorical masks (possibly literal ones too?) that people wear and which get passed down the generations. Deep and perceptive, the incessant picking added to the poetic effect. ‘One More Night’ was about the transient nature of his recent love endeavours in Edinburgh where “the airport has become my enemy”. About missing that one person in seven billion.

After the break, The Humors played their self-confessed “bleak stories” which mixed Corry’s distorted electric guitar with Nicola’s bluesy Americana vocals. The first song was a rocking, ballsy 12-bar blues and the lyrics did indeed feature some dark subject matter. Second song was about the end of the world! Nicola acted out the songs while she was singing them which added greatly to the performance. Other acts could learn a lot from Nicola’s stagecraft. Bluesy vocals and distorted guitar was again the formula for songs two and three. What with the noisy guitar, I couldn’t really hear most of the lyrics, but what I heard was poetic. Check out The Humors on Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/user-750864657) and next time they are playing live near you.

Jeanice Lee and Marco Morelli made a welcome return after their February feature act performance with ‘A Date To Die For’. This beautifully played acoustic guitar duet was a song of pain and melancholy, fronted by Jeanice’s searing, intense vocal. ‘North Star’ was a ballad reflecting on a year after a traumatic breakup. I confess to being slightly teary when Jeance sung “somewhere under the North Star there is hope”. A dazzling guitar solo by Marco. ‘Restless’ was written for a collaborative songbook which was released last month in Glasgow. Searingly honest and completely unselfconscious, this was a powerful observation on us as consumers in a consumerist society wanting more and more. Brilliant stuff.

Joel Evry made his debut with his gorgeous semi-acoustic guitar, baseball cap and western shirt looking every inch the Nashville superstar. ‘Your Fool’ was from his latest EP ‘Low End Living’. A short, slow-paced, melancholy tale of being played for a fool, this was very affecting. ‘Pasadena In The Room’ was about playing in Pasadena when travelling around America with his dad. In contrast with the previous number, this was upbeat and rocking reminding me of somewhere between John Cougar Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. ‘Cocaine’ was only written last night… I’m not sure if any drugs were used in the making of the song but the pain was there for all to see. Sample lyric: “stay home with me/ I’m feeling alone and I have some cocaine”. I look forward to seeing Joel again soon.

Feature act this evening was Callum Mackinnon, a performer steeped in Americana and who understands the musical traditions of the genre. ‘Freight Train’ was a “country song, about trains” – Callum played with light and shade and the lyrics showed him taking comfort from the sound of the freight train. ‘Find My Way’ was about the difficulty of living in the modern world, although he admitted it’s not so difficult for him as a middle class white male. Despite having a comfortable lifestyle, he gave an authentic performance of someone in dire straits (sample lyric: “I’m still crying/ trying to find my way”). ‘Maybe It’s The Cold’ was the most unseasonal song of this balmy Leith evening but the theme of Scotland being a cold place and people seeming happier in warmer countries rang true. Next song saw recent OOTB performer Euan Glasgow accompanying Callum onstage with his banjo. This was another sad song about trains – very smooth and pleasant, like a ScotRail journey (ahem!). ‘Bottle of Rain’ was probably my favourite of Callum’s set this evening. Euan’s banjo playing was demonic and Callum also gave it gusto on guitar and vocals (sample lyric: “leaving me this melody/ and this bottle of rain”). Written about 10 years ago, ‘Stories’ leaned towards the poppier end of country and had a really nice arrangement. After a bit of mutual admiration between Callum and sound desk guru Chris Glen, Callum was straight into a mean picking sad and poignant slice of Americana called, I think, ‘None Of This Will Matter Anymore’. ‘This Troubled Mind’ had a strong early Bob Dylan influence with some excellent fingering. Part of the lyric, about drifting through life, was “it’s hard to see the North Star”, continuing the theme from Jeanice Lee’s ‘North Star’ song earlier this evening. Callum finished with ‘Leave My Heart in New Orleans’. Written in New Orleans, this was something of an epic showing genuine affection for that great musical city. Callum will be playing with Joel Evry and The Humors at his debut CD launch at Leith Depot on 29 September.

James Igoe

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