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Out of the Bedroom 650 review – Thursday 29 June 2017

OOTB reached its latest milestone this evening – 650 not out. Somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 original songs have been played on the way by hundreds of musicians, many only playing once. Tonight was another busy evening and, encouragingly, there was a heady mix of acts old and new, and those somewhere in between! Host for the evening was James Igoe with Malcolm McLean on sound.

First up was a debut for Becky Cole, with Berni Fitzsimmons on guitar. The first song was a jazzy number which reminded me of mid-‘80s pop-jazz acts such as Style Council and Everything but the Girl. Becky’s voice was warm and delightful, with Berni providing a sensitive accompaniment. ‘Can’t Be Wasting Time On You’ was a dynamic arrangement with a hint of rock and judicious use of silence. ‘Dragging You Out’ displayed Becky’s powerful, note-perfect vocals once more. A very promising debut from this young duo.

Debut number two was next from Specky Al & Friends who were an experienced, quality four-piece with acoustic guitar, cajón, bass and vocals. Al played spec-less; perhaps he didn’t like the look of us? ‘One Day’ was had a mellow, funky groove with Al’s strong local accent on top which reminded me of Ian Dury and The Blockheads. “Maybe one day I’ll find out what this freedom’s all about” – we live in hope, Al. ‘Snoot’ was about his “demon cat” with the same name. An evocative lyric. ‘Have A Drink With Me’ was a nice invitation from Al to end with. Hard to resist and Speck Al were definitively special.

Long-time OOTB favourite Jim Bryce opened with a poem then sped into an epic song of his from 1979 called ‘Oink!/Rosie’. Mixing prog rock, punk, ‘50s rock ‘n roll and several other styles of music, this was one of the most ambitious songs played at OOTB. A journey of Britishness, what it means to be of these isles, with Piggy and Rosie as the two main protagonists. I think it worked most of the time, perhaps a song that needs a band more than most? ‘Oh Yass’ was Jim’s ode to certain types of Brits abroad, e.g. Magaluf, Benidorm, and Eric Idle at his peak would be pleased to have written the lyrics to this mini masterpiece.

Ewan Stein was our third debut act this evening and played three songs with one-word titles. ‘Dirt’ was not a Stooges cover but a beautiful acoustic rocker with a hint of Neil Young which would have fitted in nicely to MTV’s Unplugged schedule about 25 years ago. ‘Clock’ was written a while ago but was “still relevant… perhaps because I haven’t grown up” (Ewan’s words). Great guitar playing and a warm feel to the song. ‘Bleed’ reminded me of early Grant Lee Buffalo such was the melancholy richness. Another top debut – come back soon, Ewan.

Fourth debut came from tall Irishman DB Hews who started with ‘She’s Not Thinking ‘Bout You’. The lyrics had a wordy, stream-of-consciousness feel and the jazzy style with the slow, steady strumming on the old Tanglewood was an intoxicating mix. ‘Frightening Times’ expressed his general fears about the state of things and he felt at home at OOTB this evening where themes from other songwriters were similar. His final song, “a crap song not finished at all”, mixed folk tradition with a more contemporary acoustic pop feel and his great voice and guitar playing shone through. Excellent stuff.

A well-kent face but not seen at OOTB for some time, Scott Renton was first after the break. ‘Jamie Lee’ has “undergone a couple of lyrical manifestations” and was now about a Polish man and a prostitute. Scott’s trademark rasping vocal growled the words out wonderfully and this was a pulsating performance. ‘Fly and Tell’ was deeply touching and “as sentimental as you will ever find me”, being dedicated to his mother. I could hear this country-tinged number being sung in the Edinburgh Folk Club and winning more songwriting awards for this man. ‘Calendar Girls’ was about being in his forties and looking jealously at young people with their whole life before them. Sung in as much of an American twang as Scott, being very Scottish, can do; this was a beauty. Quality.

The off-the-wall environmentalist Majk followed on with ‘Carbon Dating’. “Sometimes in the bedroom, some of us do things a bit differently” was a play on words merging relationship dating with geology. ‘Knit Me A Dalek’ was dedicated to his friend Dawn who knits Daleks – niche. Using a familiar Lennon-McCartney composition, the knitting was done using Norwegian wool. ‘Hey’ was about a beautiful girl liking the strong and silent type. A most humorous dialogue between a man and woman, with the woman speaking the most. Always a pleasure, Majk.

Old Town Rambler re-joined us for his second performance after OOTB 649 and played three songs about leaving home and going back again. ‘While There’s Daylight Left’ was classic folk, beautifully picked and sung by a skilful performer. “Lonely hands that cut and plough and sew” – the price for being a traveller. ‘Wild Open Spaces’ was about the well-trodden path from London to Scotland that many Scots know and back after seeking fame and fortune. Crisp, clear harmonica playing. Final track was too much of a cover to be reviewed, though it did have Scottish context. More information on this website. A very solid set from the Rambler.

The legend Nyk Stoddart, a self-confessed songwriter-aholic, felt in good company this evening! ‘Trust and Hope’ featured brilliant guitar-playing from Nyk. Lots of light and shade in this blend of dystopian and hopeful outlooks towards the future. ‘Alba’ (title?) was about being short of cash – a thousand rainy days with no money for the meter. Again a nod to the future, where dreams may come true. Nyk played ‘A Man With X-Ray Eyes’ like a man possessed. He gave it laldy and we felt it! Class.

Our feature act Small Feet Little Toes gave us a mind-blowing finale to the evening. An astonishing performance that took us on a wild, exciting journey: emotionally and intellectually. ‘Intro’ was an intimate portrait of a relationship; sample lyric: “You touched my whole body, I watched you inside me”. ‘Sweeter’, written to a former fiancé, was played in staccato style on guitar and sung with venom. Confessional lyric, imagining a better relationship. ‘Tales of Blue’ was about a non-specific addiction which monitored along at pace with a quiet, assured intensity. A beautiful tune with astonishing picking. A short “interlude song” ‘Milky Blue followed, punctuating the set nicely. ‘The Monkey and The Whale’ was about a recurring dream and showcased her big voice. I could feel that this was a cathartic song, which is often the case when writing about a dream as it’s such a primal subject. ‘Bitter Sweet’ was about an unhappy relationship (a different one) and featured a powerful descending riff and an intense vocal. ‘Pristine Bed’ was also about a previous relationship but thankfully she is still likes him and is in touch with him (hello Matthew!). ‘Fill Your Boots’ was my highlight of the evening. I have no idea what it was about but the sound was deeply, ethereally gorgeous and I was struggling to hold back the tears. Another interlude ‘Ice Cream’ was a light, cheeky number in contrast. ‘Don’t Go Changing Your Face’ was a very fine love song and such was the power of this that you could hear a pin drop – no mean feat at about 11.30 in the evening (we ran over). ‘Healing Heart’, with expertly-played mouth trumpet finished off the evening and almost finished us off. Us, the audience, jelly-like emotional shipwrecks entranced by the siren luring us to some place we know was not good for us to go but we couldn’t resist it. A spellbinding performance from the mighty Small Feet Little Toes.

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