Distant Voices




Emma Pollock Donna Maciocia & band
Emma Pollock Donna Maciocia & band

Sometimes the gigs you go to with the least expectations are the ones that impress the most. One such was the musical finale to the Distant Voices festival which took place at Glasgow’s Centre For The Contemporary Arts over the last week. This evening of songs staged by Vox Liminis with help from The Scottish Centre For Crime And Justice Research featured music written by professional and semi-professional musicians with lyrics and ideas provided by people in the justice system: prisoners, prison officers and staff, social workers and justice workers. Often the musicians had only very limited time with some of the contributors which made the results even more impressive.

The evening kicked off with Emma Pollock (Delgados, Burns Unit) wrestling and fighting a losing battle with Louis Abbot’s (Admiral Fallow) acoustic guitar. After some strap adjusting, of the three solo numbers she played perhaps Ahmet’s (no second names in many cases) Home Away From Home was the most effective with it’s yearning for both Scotland and the author’s home country.

She was then joined on stage by a full band who appeared in various combinations for the rest of the night: Ross Clark of Three Blind Wolves on vocals, Louis Abbot drums and guitar, Tom Gibbs keyboards, Graham McKerracher electric guitar, Tim Davidson on pedal steel and Francis on bass and they ripped in to a full scale rocker Let It Burn.

After a couple of full band numbers Louis Abbott and Tom Gibbs gave us Armour For Spears and Hannah Graham’s affecting Prodigal’s Return followed by Abbott and Airdrie man Graham on acoustic guitars with Graham’s bluesy rant Think. Next up was prison officer Brian Simpson’s Hide In Plain Sight and Pete The Punk’s stomping Dragonfall featuring Donna Maciocia on vocals. The first half concluded with Lucy Cathcart-Froden singing the acerbic Dining Room Hospital.


The second half started off in an LA folk-rock vein with Andrew Howie giving us another Hannah Graham number A Follower, A Fighter and Take a Straw.

Louis Abbott returned to the stage with Joe Bowden’s sombre What If My Best Isn’t Good Enough and was followed by one of the evening’s highlights, Donna Maciocia singing the plaintive My Turn To Fly. The full band finished the set with How Close Is The Thunder written by two prisoners and two social workers.

The highlight of the three number encore was Jo Mango’s Co-Pilot Out sung from the viewpoint of a Cornton Vale prisoner who’s long-term cell mate has been recently released.

An impressive evening which was much appreciated by a good-sized audience and made even more impressive by the smooth changeovers between numbers; not easy to achieve with so many different vocal and instrumental combinations. Top marks to the sound man.

Reviewer : Dave Ivens

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