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Out of the Bedroom 661 review – Thursday 25 January 2018

Tonight was Burns Night at Out of the Bedroom though, apart from the surplus Christmas shortbread supplied by host James Igoe, you might not have known. The one thing we had in common with this auspicious date in the calendar this evening was the quality of songwriting and sheer passion from everyone who graced the Woodland Creatures stage. Malcolm McLean was on sound desk and photography, with photos of the night on Facebook.

Running order: Suhail, Jeanice Lee, Metecandriu, Startled Bee, Julien Pearly, Izzie Walsh, Michael MacAneny, John Porro, Chris Fogerty, feature act: TG McEwan.

Opening the evening, Suhail began with a song about “the splintering of our society”, including the pressures of not having time to meet up with old friends. The pressure obviously got to Suhail as he forgot the words and abandoned the song halfway! This was a shame as this reminded of me of Manchester’s 80s/90s band James in a pleasant way. ‘Every Day of Every Week’ was a desperate plea to an object of his desire, delivered with passion and a nod to peak-period Britpop. ‘Do Right’ was my favourite of Suhail’s set with the refrain “when you gonna do right every Monday morning?”. A pop song with drive and existential angst.

Jeanice Lee, fresh from her Club Nitty Gritty appearance, made her second OOTB appearance with her guitarist partner Marco Morelli. ‘Divine Red Roses’ was Latin-flavoured, built dramatically and was sung with incredible passion. The subject matter included classic themes such as romance and  death. ‘Skull and Bones’ also focused on death with the line “everything we touch turns to dust”. Some beautiful melodic lines in the vocal which Marco’s guitar complemented very nicely. ‘Beyond Ever’ is a fixture of Jeanice’s rock band’s set and this continued the Gothic theme including the line “they won’t hear you scream”. Intense, romantic music from Jeanice.

First debut of the evening was from Metecandriu, the alias of Fiona McAndrew, a Spaniard of Scottish heritage. ‘Gentle Romance’ showcased her rich voice and impressive guitar playing on her Tanglewood. This was a dynamic, well-constructed song exquisitely delivered. ‘Swim Inside Your Eyes’ had me so hypnotised that I didn’t make any notes – apart from “lovely stuff”. ‘To Please’ was more countryish in style with a soaring chorus. The line “it’s so hard to please everyone” is very true but you pleased me this evening with your strong voice and touching songs. Come back soon, Metecandriu.

Startled Bee just gets better and better and tonight’s triptych of songs enhanced the Mr. Bee’s reputation even further. ‘Little Things’ is a tender love song about the little things in life that we know are important. “Don’t hunch your shoulders when it rains” is sound advice, especially with all the rain we’ve been having lately and good posture is important. Written during a songwriting weekend, ‘The Air is Cool’ was written in a very cold environment with the memorable line “together we sing the song unsung”. A chiming, shiny, bright, crisp Winter song. ‘On the Jetty’ was written about love on the jetty – perhaps not the obvious romantic backdrop? Strangely, an audience member laughed throughout this song and I thought Mr. Bee did very well to play without being ruffled. David Byrne-esque, dreamy and excellent.

Taking the pre-break squashee slot (one song only) was an OOTB favourite of mine over several years, Julien Pearly. ‘Hey JJ’ was about problems putting his two-year-old nephew to sleep. There was a contrast between young and old with lines “where does time go?” and “I lose track of things and I grow old”. Julien plays at the Dunfermline Folk Club and if you’re ever in the area on a Wednesday evening, Julien assured me that is a place to check out.

Debuting after the break was Manchester-based Izzie Walsh. ‘Sidelined’ showcased her great voice soaked in Americana and tightly-written songs. ‘Lie to Me’ was a confident, controlled performance with a lyric for anyone who has been lied to. I felt the venom in the words “you bring out the crazy in me”.’The Curse’ was the most countryish of Izzie’s three songs and she expressed her emotion vividly in her facial expressions and movement on stage – not always aspects of performance that are so finely-tuned by open mic performers. Izzie has a genuine talent, focus and professionalism that belies her youth. Certainly one to watch and she is next in Edinburgh to play Henry’s Cellar Bar on 25th March.

Michael MacAneny is always a pleasure to host at OOTB with his set of deeply human songs. The warm and lovely ‘A Friend’ was about true friendship – one of the most important things in life as Michael sang: “it’s so good to have such a friend”. ‘Open the Door to your Heart’ was a rock ‘n roll song about being in love with someone (“the face I can’t forget”) and wanting her to fall in love with him as quickly as possible. Last song ‘Going Home’ was a country-tinged song with a sweet melody about going back home to see Peggy Sue and his mom and dad. Some nice guitar licks – Michael is a pro! A joy, as ever.

Third debut was from John Porro who started with ‘London’. This was a slightly cryptic lyric about a lost love sung in a resonant, mature baritone voice. “London for the woman, the woman that I knew best”. ‘The Poison Tree’ featured words by William Blake. Almost a nod to Rabbie Burns but the wrong poet! Nice harmonica playing and a deep, rich feel. ‘You Can’t Be Choosy When You’re Lonely’ was a great title and a very fine song. “It’s never been part of the plan / I’ve never been a single man”.

Final debut and squashee of the evening was Chris Fogerty from the USA. ‘I Hope It Rains’ was inappropriate timing considering we’ve been drenched all week in Edinburgh! Neat guitar picking and a short and sweet song; a really good performance from Chris.

Feature act of the evening was the legendary TG McEwan with the launch of his album ‘Promises’ – a full 20 years in the making. Starting with the title track ‘Promises’, TG played his 12-string and harmonica with great gusto. The album’s concept is “promises”, with all the meanings that word evokes, and the line “we were driven by the wind from our dreams” is most evocative. ‘The Kitchen Table’ was about helping someone else find their promise. Looking like a Scottish Neil Young, with checked shirt, long hair and harmonica, TG sang the killer lines: “we all make our choices / we all find our level / yours is the boardroom / mine is the kitchen table”. ‘Edouardo’s Dagger’ showed a respectful nod towards ‘Desire’-period Bob Dylan and was inspired by attending a flamenco concert in Spain. ‘The Moon Only Brings Bad News’ is about seeing the full moon at the same time every year as an unpleasant anniversary. Tom said “depressing”, I say “beautiful”. ‘Begin’ was written at the same songwriters’ weekend as attended by the aforementioned Startled Bee – so two songs tonight from that same weekend. This was about how the season of autumn could be the beginning of the next year, depending on your perspective. ‘Chopping Wood’ was a song about… chopping wood! ‘Cake Making Blues’ was about a guy, a donkey and a hill. The guy in question keeps making the wrong moves. Quality harmonica playing. ‘Johnny, You’ (silent comma) is perhaps my favourite of TG’s songs from the album and is about fulfilling a promise to an old friend. There is an aching melancholy in the song which is about youthful summer holidays in rural Scotland, songs, campfires, Tennent’s Lager and, sadly, one of his friends not making it to retirement. TG noted that he has his bus pass which expires on 9/11/2041. Hopefully TG won’t expire until after then! ‘One Brick At A Time’ was the finale to a rip roaring set from a true original.

TG made the point that this OOTB was number 661 but if you add the predecessors of Workers in Song and Edinburgh Songwriters Showcase, it will add up to over 1,000 original music open mic shows in Edinburgh since 1993 which is quite a feat in changing times over the last 25 years. Here’s to another 1,000!

James Igoe

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