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OOTB 305 – 12 June 2008

OOTB 305 – 12 June 2008

Broken Tooth, Kate McDonald, Rob Sproul-Cran, Darren Thornberry, Susanna Holland, James Annis, Ray Kenny, Stuart Clark

Broken Tooth Bt’s first song is a juxtaposition of 16th Century and the blues. I think the blues won (not much sign of 16th Century in the music) It’s his best of the set . His second is on more familiar blues territory. BT certainly has some skill on a guitar and has a fair voice but this material is questionable – you really cannot play a blues song with lines like ‘since you’ve been gone’ and ‘I’m gonna keep my damper down’, its just soo cliched. His third is ‘Hold Fast’ – a song which makes American Pie seem like a brief ditty. Yes this 3-song set really did run to a full 25 minutes.

Kate McDonald Kate is a new performer to me, welcome to OOTB, its great to see new faces. She explains that she was writing Emo before it was cool. It’s sometimes difficult forming firm opinions on a first listen, but it was all very competent, and encouraging, so please keep coming. What I would love to see is a lot more interaction with the audience, which I guess will come as you perform more and grow in confidence.

Rob Sproul-Cran Rob is supposed to be doing a squashee, but slips in two songs (is that a squishy?). While he waits for Stuart to arrive he treats us to a rendition of ‘Utopia’ as I’m sitting on the sound desk the song turns into a duel between Rob trying to sing as quietly as possible and me trying to add as much reverb as possible. And then Stuart arrived. Rob attempts to throw off the unwary percussionist by improvising a song in 13?, Stuart listens to a bar or two, nods, and then dives in like they’ve been playing that song for years. Damn it’s good.

Darren Thornberry Darren opens his set with a song about how George W might have turned out if he had been loved as a child, makes you think. Imagine my surprise when D tells us that ‘Tom Cruise’s Smile’ is about being lonely at a Black Crows gig, I recorded it and I never knew. (It’s all making much more sense now). Hovering is greeting by admiring nods from all around the room. The passion, sweetness, and control in Darren’s voice holds the audience mesmerised. (stick that on your poster, Ed.) ‘Slow Train Coming’, ‘Middle of My Rope’, and ‘Is It True?’ continue the gentle onslaught of quality.

Susanna Holland Susanna sits and sings and wails whilst playing the harmonium, yes you read that right, a harmonium. The non-rhythmic sound of the harmonium gives a sense of timelessness and stasis to the music, whilst the voice is sweet and pure with surprising range and good control. The effect is haunting, slightly celtic at times but having hints of disparate styles from Tori Amos to Shakira. Over all it was VERY good, though the songs were a little long (not sure if they were planned that way or improvised). I’m really looking forward to hearing Susanna again.

[Rob starts scribing]

James Annis His first builds like hammers on the hull of a liner-to-be in the dockyards, as he sings about the mighty ocean.   This boy has since told me that this was one of his first ever performances out of his bedroom, and I replied that he was a shit liar. His control of volume is spot on, he conjures intimacy instantly as he drops the guitar low and lets it bubble under lyrics like The earth no longer gives its fruit for free.   His final song is biblical and epic in lyric and scope, talking of the four horsemen  , and sack cloth is my suit,   but told as a bedside whisper. It builds by the end, though, as he rails I’ve come to wash in the pool.   Debuts like this are the reason for OOTB.

Ray Kenny ‘Going Home’, Ray touches on familiar themes, I travel around now, touch the sky.   Nice high chords, but it seems to lack a lyrical drive. ‘Life’ is about hope  , according to Ray. Elegant harmonies would lift this one, as I can hear some being sung from the shadows. It is heart-felt and to the point, though, The signs are there, I see the tremors.   ‘Soul Searching’ sees him joined by Stuart Clark on Cajon, and it instantly lifts proceedings. Kenny has to raise his game to match the musicality of Clark and the result has impact and ambition. It knocks the other songs for six, and has people rocking. More of that, please.

Stuart Clark The man himself steps up. Bell-like off-beats on the guitar meld nicely with lines that stretch over the end of a page, like, The wind is twisting around…the litter at your feet.   Uplifting, in a good way. His second is a warning about society taking you soul, as waves of octave guitar wash over. Stuart obviously has perfect pitch, or close to, which means he spends most of his set tuning what to everyone else sounds like a perfectly tuned guitar. Luckily for him, the song at the end is worth the wait. It’s just a love song  , he says, but it’s got soul and feeling and is carried off with aplomb. Cracking set.

Compere: Jim Whyte, Sound: Darren Thornberry, Review: Daniel Davis & Rob Sproul-Cran

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