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OOTB 278 – November 22 2007

OOTB 278 November 22 2007

Finally, Daniel Davis gave his toupee’s worth on last week’s proceedings in an interestingly coiffured style. Did he feel more Vidal Sassoon or Sweeney Todd? Read on and find out.

Rob Sproul-Cran, Susanna MacDonald, Nyk Stoddart, Chris Kaufman (debut), Calum Carlyle, Ben Young, Daniel Vzeu, Electric White Boy, Nick Smith, Ton (debut), Jim Tudor (debut), Ross Neilson, Stephen Harrison (debut).

‘Twas a winter’s night and all honour to those braving the cold to bring their wares to the music marketplace that is OOTB. After the last few reviews I’m puzzled as to how I could be equally surreal… but on proud display tonight were all manner of beautiful barnets the likes of which may never be seen in this town again. That said, I will at least try to mention the songs.

Rob Sproul-Cran

Our newly appointed master of events on the OOTB committee brings dreadlocks to the connoisseur of coiffeur.

Perhaps he didn’t look at the rota but never, and I mean never wander nonchalantly up to the reviewer and say ‘I wish I’d put some thought into what I’m going to play’. If you are as talented as Rob then maybe you can get away with digging out your greatest hits. He starts with ‘She Steals Away’ which starts with parallel 9ths which remind me of ‘What I Am’ by Edie Brickell. All this falsetto stuff is hard to achieve first song of the night, and would have been better after something simpler as a warm-up first, but it’s a great song nonetheless. Then he plays ‘The Father’ , a gripping if chilling spoken number which could be described either as touching or creepy (if you don’t know it, it involves scalpels and eyebrows and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination). As if to engender even more confidence, he then announces ‘a lively one to counterbalance the drudgery we’ve just witnessed’. He may have a point, perhaps we should stipulate that the first performer must play all happy songs! Lastly his best of the night, ‘One Day Soon’, a slightly jazzy number with considerable vibe in the accompaniment that could be Jack Johnston.

Susanna McDonald

Susanna MacDonald in 2005

Susanna MacDonald in 2005

Her first is inspired by a Noel Coward poem ‘Remembered Laughter’ which was found with his dead body. Susanna’s songwriting is musically sophisticated, and this song not an immediate crowd pleaser. It appeared to start in 5/8 and then lapse into 6/8, although at times indistinct. I think anything in 5/8 is making a point and should be consistent. This was its first public outing and I think I need a few listens to decide on this one, but I’m expecting it to grow on me as the performance gets more confident. Her second is ‘The Ba Ba Song’ which is more challenging lyrically but musically simple , this one gets the audience singing along.
She is joined for ‘I am Everybody Else’ by John Farrell, who always adds a touch of class with his exceptional playing. The introduction reminds me of ‘Drowning Man’ by The Cure. It is rhythmically driving and gradually builds , yeah, go ahead, scream- I think the speakers can take it. This is a woman in full flow, frenetic and forceful.

Nyk Stoddart

Some say the next performer has shaved off his hair and the straggles that emerge around his shoulders are in fact hair extensions attached to his pork pie hat. All we know is he’s called Stigg Stoddart, sorry make that Nyk Stoddart.

‘Misty Blue’ should really be listened to through the prism of a drug-induced haze. Unfortunately I’m sober as a judge. It is all swirling strumming and wandering chords, eventually it sort of stops rather than finishes. It is curiously evocative and effective. Next up is ‘Closer to Your Own!’ Lyrically I think this is about an act giving the performer pleasure whilst giving none to anyone else, at certain points, it could stand for the song as well [to illustrate the point?]! Still it was good to hear some new material.

Chris Kaufmann

Chris boasts a short back ‘n’ sides: ‘a proper haircut’ as my ageing father would say.

Come now, not the ‘I don’t have any names for my songs’ argument again. Go on, treat your audience with some respect , we’ve come here to listen to you and to be entertained, please think about us! Rant over.

His first song, which I will call ‘I Wanna Feel Your Body’ was somewhat marred by his nerves , starting three times and eventually giving up as he forgot the words. A pity, because what we did hear was actually rather good. The best cure for nerves is to just keep coming, you’ll definitely find a receptive audience here, but with the romantic material best bring some girl friends along. His second which I shall call ‘Before She Leaves’
also showed a lot of promise. For me, the guitar was too aggressive for the song and improved markedly when you got quieter towards the end.

Hmm, if one song is a squashee, what is two songs , a squishy perhaps?

Calum Carlyle

Calum has a tidy greased back affair with a hint of spikiness.

‘Usually I know what I’m going to sing’. Is this the theme of the night?
Aaargh. Honestly we didn’t need to hear that. Just pretend that it’s all planned and intended. We’ll thank you for it.

His first is a blues number, ‘I Belive In Rock and Roll’. OK, the title sounds a little cheesy, but Calum can really do blues. The second is a song about coleslaw , that’s right, no mis-print! The guitar work betrays Calum’s forays into mandolin playing with melody picked on the lower notes with lots of open strings above. I’m almost tempted to go to Thurso to sample the vegetarian delights “made by angels”.
His last is ‘The Sound Of Falling In Love At First Sight’ with a Jose Gonzalez-style guitar. If you must do drop-tuned guitar, you must do it like this. A real gem. Calum is quite the musical chameleon, three songs in three very different styles lyrically, musically, and vocally, but always managing to sound original and authentic.

Ben Young

Ben has lost the shaved extravagance of a political protester and since growing his curls looks more like Frodo than ever.

He performs a squashee of a new song to me , ‘Battle of the Bands’ written after his little brother didn’t win such a contest and ‘It was wrong!’ Ah, heaven. I love this stuff. Ben always manages to write songs about subjects ignored by others, quirky, original and brilliant as always.

Daniel Vzeu

Daniel sports a trendy messed up affair, bound to attract the girls , if only there were any in the audience.

Another squishee! first up, ‘The Girl And The Biscuit’. Crumbs! Daniel has an inexhaustable supply of songs about relationships. I’m not sure if I’m more concerned about the number of break-ups or about love songs involving
17 year-olds, or perhaps I’m just jealous. It has a tender, rocking accompaniment. The second is ‘Human After All’ which is back to his scat singing ‘diddly oop da dow’. He says it’s not finished and that half the words were made up. Presumably when it is finished all the words will be made up, if you get my drift. Quality as usual.

Electric White Boy

The acoustic white boy has had a trim, loosing his Neil from the Young Ones style, now adopting thoroughly sophisticated flowing locks which, only lacking for some flouncy attire, make him look extremely like Oscar Wilde.

‘Hold Fast’ sounds somewhat Led Zeppelin to me both guitar-wise and vocally. It’s a good impression, but I feel like I’m hearing an impersonation. ‘What’s A Boy Gotta Do’ is a blues number but starts with what I can only call a recitative. It has slightly odd chords , not sure the E works in the key. It also sounds like a cover. I’m impatient – you have all the chops and a good vocal range but I feel that we’re yet to hear your true voice.

Nick Smith

Nick is our compere for the night and thus beyond reproach.

‘Do You Want A Piece Of Me?’ witty and acid lyrics delivered flawlessly.
As our MC, he allows himself the indulgence of a cover ‘Jealous Man’ by Hoyt Axton.


A neat crop.

Ton(e?) delivers picking loveliness admired by all. With somewhat angrier lyrics than accompaniment, I thought it could do with a little more grit or growl vocally. The second song features even faster finger-picking- many oohs and ahs from the appreciative audience. Ton is a very good player needing just a bit more confidence performance-wise.

Jim Tudor

Jim has a hairstyle that last saw favour when white suits and platforms were de rigueur… yes, tonight he has the full Leo Sayer.

I’ve not seen Jim before, but I can only describe the sound as Billy Brag does love songs. ‘When the sun runs out of time we’ve got 8 minutes to flee’ makes you think. ‘The Doctor’ is a diatribe against doctors and plastic surgeons; mind you my neighbour thought the first verse was about a dodgy gynaecologist. In fact it was about a dentist, just shows how wrong you can be.

Ross Neilson

Ross Neilson was topped with a woolly hat.

He starts with ‘Summer Wave’, ‘cos it’s cold outside. He has a big guitar , some kind of Gibson dreadnaught by the looks of it, and his playing is rich and resonant. The second is ‘Shadow When Night Falls’ a good one that really suits his playing and vocal delivery. The third is harder and political. A well-rounded set from Ross who is also growing in confidence and stature week by week. One to watch.

Stephen Harrison

Stephen is a new performer to me, but he has the air of someone who has been doing this for a long time. The first is ‘Girl Come Home’. Oddly, he plays an electric DI’d but it works well with the material, his voice deep over the jangling chords. ‘Tomorrow’ has interesting voicings with lots of open strings, and the third ‘Who are they?’ has rhythmic strummings and again interesting chords. It’s as if he ignores standard chords, but always experiments on the neck to find some sonority with which he’s happy. It’s also obvious that he knows his way around a fretboard by the absolutely minimal movement between chords. Good songsmith too, by the way.

Nick Smith

Back for seconds, Nick treats us to ‘Deepest Blue’. It’s the sort of song that makes Graeme Mearns sound like an optimist!

Compere: Nick Smith
Sound: David O’Hara & Jim Whyte
Review: Daniel Davis

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