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OOTB 352 – 21 Jul 2009

It may or may not have been the recent appearances of the likes of Springsteen, Crosby/Stills/Nash or Young, but there was a distinct thread of Americana in the music tonight. With the festival vibe and only one national lager available on tap, the evening could easily have been called T in The Tron!

Unfortunately I missed the majority of Steven Carey‘s set but tonight’s compere Calum Carlyle kindly filled in… “Steven has intriguing lyrics “I’d pull my teeth for your love”. It’s captivating folk music; very sensitive, very dynamic. He has a lovely soaring voice, very pleasant to listen to. He keeps up the wistful folk spell for his whole three songs. Quite slow and mesmeric [drat, Calum – you stole one of my favourite words!], lovely just the same.”

New face Michael played driving rock music on the house Takamine, which featured some unintended house fuzz distortion on his opening 12-bar rocker. It actually worked quite well. ‘Dress So White’ is romantic and reminded me of ‘Tunnel of Love’ period Springsteen. Michael mentioned the sunshine on Leith and I noticed Steven Carey had a song about Leith Walk – a sub-theme to the night, perhaps? The ghost of Johnny Cash haunted ‘Lord Come and Wash Away Our Sins’ – raw and bluesy; an apocalyptic tale of the perils of gambling. Michael was apologetic for some reason – no need it was great stuff.

Mike Barnard chose the smoother Tanglewood house guitar and delighted the audience with ‘You’re Not Around’, his tale of a lost love. Soundman Mally did a sterling job of holding the shoogly mic steady for the song’s duration. Mike’s lively strumming again imbued his second song ‘Oh Oh Oh’ about a girl who’s lost her way (“brother, sister/ someone blow a kiss to her”). Mike kept his best to last with the soft, Neil Young sound of ‘Lonesome Man’ – I felt this was Mike at his most soulful and open (“how’d I get to be such a lonesome man?”).

One of the more intelligent and quirky songwriters on the scene Paul Gladwell was next. ‘Repent and Die’ is a challenging, slightly confrontational lyric (“I’m the one who turns the virgin to the whore/ …I’m the one who takes the hammer to the cross”) and the song rocks, a lot. Switching tack, a romantic ballad ‘But I Won’t’ which I got lost in as the singing was so endearing and the guitar played so consummately. An untitled, dramatic song about being human and in touch with nature (“you are what you are”) ended a most pleasant set from this good friend of OOTB.

After the break came tonight’s featured act Broken Tooth. Having reviewed Mr. Thomson many times in the past I wondered what more could be said but tonight Jim was ON FIRE. Starting off with ‘Sing At My Funeral’ was blues-drenched, rock-fuelled and powerful stuff with a riff-mongous, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink middle 8. ‘Hearts & Spades’, written when investigating Tarot cards, was burning with energy and Jim’s vocal was impressive. The calming ‘Miller’s Daughter’ featured some amazing guitar playing, and I wasn’t the only audience member with eyes transfixed on the fretboard. One of Jim’s older songs ‘Borderline’ was dedicated to his ex and throbbed with raw emotion. The medley with Neil Young’s ‘F**ckin’ Up’ added an extra edge. ‘Hold Fast’, about getting on with life when no one is looking after you, was passionate and almost desperate in its resonance. ‘Muse’s Song’ was mellow, almost poppy, and ended what was probably the most intense set I’ve ever seen from a featured act at OOTB.

Newcomer Ibi didn’t bother with the guitar, or any other instrument for that matter. He didn’t need one – he has an outstanding singing voice. Purely a cappella, ‘This Is Not My Dream’ was written at University and the vocal was as soulful, controlled and confident as anything I’ve ever heard at OOTB. Ibi’s second song was written for his wife in his native language (I’m not sure what language, Ibi didn’t say) and was totally captivating. An amazing debut performance from Ibi.

The young, bearded Ian Tilling last played at OOTB about a year ago but was new to me. Ian’s guitar playing and pleasant singing voice exuded confidence and he was very engaging. ‘Be’ was a warm, welcoming love song with dense, quirky lyrics (“I Love you till the day you drop dead”). Just written last week, Ian’s final song was obviously well-rehearsed because it fitted seamlessly with his more seasoned compositions. I think Ian could do well as a busker as he is a very engaging personality and knows how to put a smile on your face.

David O’Hara won a book from the silver bag of dreams – ‘Cheers My Arse!’ by Ricky Tomlinson.

The legendary Freeloadin’ Frank started with ‘Bluebottle’ (“spreading germs wherever he goes” – a nod to the swine flu epidemic?). The ending of “buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz” and a kazoo is pure Frank. One of Frank’s earlier songs ‘Scully’ got an airing and his passion for Gillian Anderson remains undiminished. A rare serious song ‘Cars’ about the ills of capitalism – written well before the recent stock market collapse – closed an excellent musical trilogy from a precious jewel in the Edinburgh singer-songwriter crown.

Cam Phair was ill in bed all weekend but it didn’t appear to affect his mightily powerful voice. Cam started with a jazzy number – nice – and followed it with ‘Welfare Staying In’. This was a song about being on the dole, which he rightly said is something most musicians have experienced. The energetic final song ‘No One To Follow’ was full-on, uninhibited joy. Cam’s is a very engaging performer whose personality gets people onside immediately. Cam is getting better every time I see him and I hope to see and hear more soon.

A chap called Harry had left the building, which allowed Graeme Laird to step in. Graeme used to play in the early days of OOTB and I don’t think I’d seen him play for years. ‘The World Gets In Your Way’ was consummately executed with some neat jazzy guitar licks. Graeme has obviously honed his talents over months and years playing Nicol Edwards, the Jazz Bar and elsewhere. Cam played bongos on the upbeat, reggae-tinged ‘Queen of Jamaica’ which brought a smile to my face. The Deep South Americana of ‘Easy Chair’ (“kicking back on my easy chair/ with my boots off”) was a great way to end a great, and long-overdue, slot from the excellent Mr. Laird.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that, apart from the Americana theme, there was another constant through the night – no female performers. No backing singers, nothing. Lady musicians – I know you’re out there, all is forgiven! Please come back!

James Igoe

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