24 January 2016
Sound Atmosphere Performance
Eleanor Nicolson, The Small Glories, Angus Munro, Michael Cassidy and Have Mercy Las Vegas
Afternoon gigs can be a dangerous thing when it comes to drawing crowds in from the street and eating into the regular habits of the public’s weekend. So it was with great relish that Hazy Recollections organiser, Scottish folk musician Findlay Napier, was in a position to disclose that the 170 tickets sold for this weekend’s show featuring Eleanor Nicolson, The Small Glories, Angus Munro, Michael Cassidy and Have Mercy Las Vegas, was the highest-selling Hazy Recollections since its inception in 2011.
Opening proceedings, the delicate eggshells which disguise themselves as teenage songbird Eleanor Nicolson’s songs would appear to be best enjoyed lying on a patch of summer festival grass with a midday sun beating down, eyes closed, and a cigarette between lips. Nicolson’s pure, untarnished hymns to heartache from her ‘White Noise’ EP were well received and the young Stornoway girl often displayed fleeting parallelisms with Eva Cassidy in songs such as “It’s Complicated” and “Whispers In The Rain”. The lovesick romanticism of “Sticks and Stones”, co-written by fellow Stornoway musician Colin McLeod, was an especially bewitching song, sang alongside accompanying musician Paul, which won the entire absorption of the ABC2 audience.
Manitoba-duo The Small Glories were added as a special guest only a day before the gig and instantly won favour with Cara Luft’s claw-hammer technique on the banjo. Dedicating “No Friend Of Mine” to their hometown after a shooting at a local school, Luft and JD Edwards haunting mouth organ continued to impress, and displayed story-telling at its finest during the maritime legend concerning a fisherman who never returned to his waiting wife in the beautiful “Long, Long Moon”. Five songs were enough to make a huge impression before the pair continued their travels to Arisaig, entirely sold out of all copies of their CD.
Findlay Napier introduced London-born but Scottish-raised keyboardist Angus Munro to proceedings. If it wasn’t already difficult enough following the terrific Small Glories, Munro had two audience members stood less than three feet away in front of him as he performed songs from 2013 EP ‘Shooting First’. Displaying an enviable vocal range, Munro’s plaintive “H.M” about Henry Moalison, the man with no memory, also showed off a terrific depth and intelligence in his lyric-writing. Slightly disappointingly, Munro’s warbling often outshone the musicianship to a point where the crowd appeared unsettled during songs such as “The Death Of Me” and “Mirror Man”. It was left to the lugubrious final song “Aftershave” to finish on a positive note, laying aside the doleful wailing for most of what prove to be Munro’s finest piece in his entire set.
Returning the gig to a more folk sound, the first ever winner of the Gerry Rafferty song-writing award Michael Cassidy stepped on to the stage. Used to performing with a full band, Cassidy brought only Connor Smith playing a Telecaster, along with him. This kept the attention focused on Cassidy’s captivating lyricism and personality which shone through songs such as “You’re Gone” and “The Road”. As delightful as Cassidy’s anecdotes were before each song, it was his creations which took centre stage with slow, thoughtful pieces such as “These Hands” and “Forever Is Falling Down” shining in the Paisley man’s set. It was perhaps a pity that there was little in the way of music from debut album ‘My Electric Heart’ but with a tour supporting Elia and the Bear next month, there will be ample opportunity for Cassidy to continue displaying the great range and depth of his song-writing to more people.
The only performance of the evening featuring a drummer was provided by folk-favourites Have Mercy Las Vegas. Whether or not it was the added presence of so many musicians on one stage which caused the energy levels of the listening crowd to increase remains to be decided but early EP track “Tear To My Eye” finally had people on their feet and moving. Despite some early banjo difficulties, new song “St Peter’s Blues” continued to drive the tempo upwards and showcase an increasingly impressive vocal performance by co-lead Eilidh Trotter. The band dynamic works best on up-tempo tracks such as “Pappy” from debut album ‘That’s Life” with fiddle, guitars, bass, banjo and drums conjuring up an intoxicating hysteria that demands the listener’s attention. Permitting one more song to be played due to the marginally early finish, Findlay Napier left HMLV to close the afternoon with the wonderfully bluesy number “Snakes and Horses”.
It was easy to see why today’s line-up had drawn such a healthy audience through its doors, from early school-age children to Celtic veterans, much of which will be available to listen to on Cumbernauld station Revival FM 100.8 FM who are licensed to record all the Hazy Recollections gigs during Celtic Connections.
Reviewer : Stephen Watt