A Case of You: The Music of Joni Mitchell

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22nd August 2017
Paradise at St Augustines

In this show, the music of Joni Mitchell is brought to life, by Australian Deborah Brennan (vocals & keyboard) and her accompanists Liam Garcia-Hardman (guitar and vocals) and Chris Neil (percussion & vocals). Deborah, who was fittingly raised by hippies in Adelaide, first became a fan of Joni Mitchell as a young girl. She clearly has a deep respect for Joni’s music, and with a stunning voice as well, it was a beautiful set covering many of her most celebrated songs. Deborah has an excellent vocal range, which really lends itself to Joni’s technically difficult songs. She also emanates a similar emotional fragility in her singing which makes for a very intimate show.

She delves a little into Joni’s life relating it to her own experiences; Joni’s love of travelling with the song “Carey”, and her love of returning home to California in “California”. The song “Amelia” which Joni wrote while crossing the desert about the solo pilot. She also talked of Joni Mitchell’s many relationships, which were the focus of many of her songs. “A case of you” the title track, a song about infatuation. Deborah shared with the audience a little of her own personal life; her own relationship woes before singing the emotional “both sides now” where Joni sings about the high and lows of love. She also played the popular “Big yellow taxi… they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”, a timely song about environmental issues.

Joni Mitchell’s work and life could not possibly have been covered in this set of one hour, but it was a beautiful glimpse, and Deborah Brennan seemed to be the perfect person to deliver this. She was also superbly supported by Liam Garcia-Hardman and Chris Neil; the trio had an easy musical rapport. I hope that they are back next year! A must see show for Joni Mitchell fans.

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

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Arturo Tappin 

 

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The Outhouse
August 23-27
22:00

Arturo Tappin, the flamboyant jazz and reggae musician from Barbados and graduate of Berklee College of Music, is quite a legend across the Caribbean, popping up regularly at the various Caribbean music festivals from the Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago. Not just known in the Caribbean either, having played for Presidents Clinton, Obama as well as Castro and all over the world. Best known for being a master of the saxophone, he’s performed and recorded with many reggae greats like Eddy Grant and Maxi Priest, and has played with Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross.

He comes regularly to perform in Edinburgh during the Festival, at a great little hideaway along a tiny lane off Broughton Street called the Outhouse. He has a strong Edinburgh following too, judging by the anticipation, the sell out concerts on the first weekend and no doubt, a packed room for the each of the ten consecutive nights. In just an hour’s performance, he and his band manage to smoothly transport us around the world with classic jazz from Acker Bilk, to contemporary pop, onto well-loved, energetic, cheerful and humorous Caribbean tunes. All with his own striking and imaginative twist.

The three other members of his band are also top class musicians, on drums, double bass and keyboards, and could see they were having as much fun as we were. The night began with classic jazz, in which he has a thorough grounding, and the calypso element grew stronger and stronger as the night progressed. He gave us his version of an Acker Bilk number, surprised us with a truly flavourful and unique version of the much-covered Ed Sheeran ‘Shape of You’, and then began to cross the Atlantic to bring us some well-loved Caribbean tunes, enjoyed just as much by the non-Caribbean folks in the audience. Then a delightful traditional folk song from the French Caribbean, which I know he particularly enjoys performing, ‘Ban mwen an ti bo’. Knowing some of my musician companions that night come from a French Caribbean background, he hoped they knew enough patois to sing along to this much beloved tune, now spiced up with true Tappin flavour.

Arturo’s glittering, dazzling saxophone sparkles in the light and seems only fitting for this genial showman in his dapper suits, now trademark handlebar moustache and full grey beard. He connects as well with his audiences as he does his instruments, creating a party atmosphere from the beginning that continues to build throughout the show. With quite a few people from across the Caribbean in the audience, and other enchanted listeners, it didn’t take long for everyone to get up and start to dance. As a contrast to the sax, Arturo pulled out a rather special antique clarinet that had a story behind it. It was found in pieces and then painstakingly restored by careful hands spanning continents. “Who knows what mouths this has been in?” he quipped, just before he began to play this decades-old instrument. To complete his trio of expertise, he took out a flute as glittering as his saxophone and displayed some more of his versatility. Though not as strong as his main instrument, he continued to dazzle us, especially with the rhythmical, percussive sound effects he created with his lips.

As he moved deep into the territory of classic calypso tunes, he gave us a cheeky one by famous Lord Kitchener which had those of us in the know singing along and the rest laughing at the double entendre in the lyrics, which old-time calypso is known for. Although he has such a compelling presence, it’s never just about him. It’s about what he inspires in all of us as we come together. One hour gives us a joyful, exuberant blast of the sweet Caribbean and we are left, as we sing along with him, pleading, “Don’t, don’t stop the Carnival!” One lucky person will win the prize draw of a holiday to Barbados offered by the Barbados Tourist Board, who are sponsoring the concerts. Even those of us who won’t be so fortunate to take part in Crop Over, Barbados’ annual summer festival, will be left humming these Caribbean tunes for days afterwards. Go while you can!

Reviewer: Lisa Williams

The Strange and the Eerie: Ballads and Stories of Auld Scotland

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Scottish Storytelling Centre
Aug 22-23 (20:30)

Cantrip Teasel are doing something special. Folklorists & perfomers, they are preserving for society the old tales & songs of the past. There was a time before Netflix, y’know, & even cinema, when folk would huddle round the fire listening to the family tales of witches & warlocks, & splunkies, & murders, &, well, you get the idea. In 2017 Heather Yule, Jeanie Roy Collins and Alison Bell are Cantrip Teasel, two of whom were at the Scottish Storytelling Centre last night regaling us with ancient ballads and stories, whose words sat upon the plunking paradise that were two huge & golden Cetic harps tinkling like angel bells at the gates of Heaven. As their fingers paced up the strings like skipping stones in a elfen pool, I became entranced to the illusion as our two sorceresses wove their incantatory spellcraft.

Thro’ Heather’s haunting storytelling painting vivid images in the mind, to Alison’s melodiously chaunting her ‘sad & gruesome songs,‘ our ladies took us on a dangerous journey, with many a twist in the tale. The hour & a half simply flew by, & as I left I was whistling centuries old tunes with a mind filled with floating coffins & dancing skeletons; & as I stepped onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile, a phantom carriage flashed by me, turned hard right to the snorts of ghostly horses, & hurtled down a close… where it disappeared into the mists of a dreich Scottish night…

Reviewer : Damo

 

An Interview with Elspeth McVeigh

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Hello Elspeth, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Scotland – born and bred just outside Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.
I divide my time between Canada and Scotland – the beautiful, stunning Scottish Borders which is in my blood !

When did you first realise you were musical?
I cannot remember a time before music – its just always been there.
I was very close to my Granny who had a beautiful voice.
She taught me a lot of songs .

When did you first realise you could sing?
I just always did. I sang at gatherings of neighbours where there might be a piano or fiddle. I remember being told, by one old man who wanted a song, saying ” ye have a voice like a linty” ( a linnet).
My heart swoll up with pride!

What for you makes a good song?
A good song is one which pulls at the heart… which speaks to the listener’s fundamental emotions of joy and pain, love and loss.
It can be sung by Elvis, or the person in the street or the greatest of the classical singers – anyone who gets to the essence of the music

What does Elspeth McVeigh liek to do when she’s not being musical?
I read, I hike, I meet with friends and work with an animal charity, I go to concerts!

Can you tell us about your Edinburgh performances : where & when & what?
I’m returning to the Fringe after a successful first try last year – which was early to 19th cent Scottish songs with a theme of emigration. This year I’m exploring the juxtaposition of 17th cent Scottish and French music – two very different styles… Most of this music is pretty obscure and rarely performed, although simply gorgeous. I start with two slightly more formal concerts at St Andrews and St Georges West, ” Ayres of France, Graces of Scotland” accompanied by really wonderful Scottish musicians on theorbo ( which is a very large lute) fabulous player, Kristiina Watts, and baroque fiddle. The last week of the Fringe sees me back at the Space at Surgeons Hall with a nightly performance of early Scottish and European street music ” Remember Me My Dere” This programme is accompanied on clarsach – the Scottish harp. An excellent player, Calum Mcleod accompanies. To explain, early music like this relies on a lot of improvisation from the musicians.
The basic melody, the structure is there, but it is up to the performers to interpret and bring the pieces to life.
The meaning of the poetry, the story behind the song is what drives the music, not the other way about!

What brought you to such a traditional institution as the broadside ballad?
Well, I wouldn’t call the broadside ballad a traditional institution as such.Broadsides were the music of the streets.
At their height, tens of thousands of broadsides were being printed , sung and bought throughout Europe, not just Britain.
Broadsides were an oral tradition. Just the words were on the sheets, not written music.
The sellers sang the latest tune and people bought the words and learnt the tune from listening.

How is the music of the ballads standing up after such a passage of time?
Amazingly well!
Its simply extraordinary how you can come across a ballad which tweaks a memory and right enough… there it is being sung by Dylan to this day (I was at a Dylan concert a couple of weeks ago) or in a pub by musicians who have no idea that what they are singing was written ,sold and sung in the 17th or 18th cent ( or earlier for that matter).
Then of course there’s the delight of these same songs turning up in the US in the 19th cent …
I’ll be singing a couple of Appalachian songs at Surgeons Hall with the clarsach… wonderful the flexibility of the music.
I think of it all as form of Jazz – fabulous!

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What may modern song-writers to learn from the ballads?
Just about anything and everything. I think we also forget that the greats of what we think of as strictly “classical” from Monteverdi to Mozart and contemporary composer, have all drawn inspiration and even the bare melody from what might be called ” the folk tradition” – something embedded in Bach, by the way. It is impossible not to be influenced by this immense wealth of music which has passed into our musical subconscious, so to speak. You can hear it in music of the 1930’s and 40’s as well – wonderful stuff!

Could you briefly explain what it is like to sing with each of your complementary instruments – namely the lute, baroque fiddle & clarsach harp?
To sing with these early instruments is a joy.
There’s a tone to the lute and baroque fiddle which has a particular resonance and softness which simply cannot be given by anything else. The clarsach is a lovely instrument – it has a gentle richness which is a real treat.

How did last nights performance go?
Yesterday’s performance was the first at this year’s Fringe and it was a real pleasure to give and a success.

There was a large audience, who all appeared to enjoy the concert very much. The accompanying musicians were great and the songs and music – 16th and 17th cent Scottish and French – clearly had a powerful effect. Afterwards, a number of people approached me to thank us for either introducing them to a genre they were not familiar with, or simply that overall they enjoyed the music very much.

Which song did you feel resonated most?
Thats always a difficult one, but I think it was the final song in the programme, which is Scottish and dates from about 1530
” Remember Me My Dere”. It is a haunting love song which speaks across the centuries…

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Elspeth McVeigh?
I have a busy autumn and winter season ahead in Vancouver – exploring baroque Spanish music and a concert of 1940’s and 50’s songs. Perhaps most exciting of all, a concert of 16th cent Christmas music playing with Chinese musicians.
The Chinese harp and violin have a sound which sends shivers up your spine – Monteverdi and his contemporaries would have adored these instruments had he had the chance to hear it, of that I am sure!

Pitta Bread of Delights

JESS ABRAMS / THE VICTOR POPE BAND / QUEENS OF THE BLUES

So much to see, so much to see, so I saw some of it, a jazz & blues pitta bread with slices of meaty sausages that are The Victor Pope Band in the middle. My companion for the night was Ms. Teri Welsh, who was out reviewing the latter segment of my musical butty, & also my bonnie & intellectual companion of some style. First up was the Jazz Bar the classically moody tones of Jess Abrams & her band, who in a recent interview with the Mumble declared her origins as, ‘I’m from New York City with Woodstock, Santa Fe, and occasionally a red van, in the mix (the perils of hippie parents!). Now I live in lovely Edinburgh.’ She built a great rapport with the crowd to immediate effect, holding court from her own living room it seemed, with anecdotes as long as the songs it was all too frickin cool, like, as we jazzelites revolved around the star that is her effortless timing & softly, softly decadence.

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Next up were Edinburgh’s very own Victor Pope Band, led by the lyrical genius, but dress-sense-challenged meteor-mind that is Steven Vickers. Society happens, & he goes through it, & he writes kick-ass songs as he does so. Sometimes three a night if he’s on the verge of a breakdown, so sensitive is the fellow to the writhing, pusillanimous & reckless mass of nonsense that is modernity. Backed up Roy Jackson (aka Nice One Man) on mandolin, melodica, electric guitar, Swanee whistle, kazoo, xylophone and siren whistle, Jess Aslan (aka Terminator Jess) on synth, Graeme Mackay (aka Grime) on bass and Jon Harley (aka Cuddles McGee) on drums, The Victor Pope Band contain clearly some of the best musical talent in Edinburgh. In a recent interview with the Mumble, when Steven was asked ‘How does it feel to finally become a member of the Edinburgh rock aristocracy,‘ he replied

 I don’t know if we’re quite there yet. But if we are I like to think we’re kind of the secret shame of the family. The deformed sibling twisted by too much inbreeding who they keep locked in the cellar and occasionally throw lumps of raw meat at. But one day, through monstrous Machiavellian machinations, he will rise to power to reek his terrible revenge. Kind of like Game of Thrones or summat.
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IMG_20170814_215509728.jpgThe final bit of mi pitta, the part where the meat & the sauce & the salad just blend into one tasty & perfect blob of goo, was the Queens of the Blues by the Blueswater collection of musicians. Teri was loving this – she chose it especially to review – & so was I, as Nicole Smit regaled us in her pink shoes & cyan-blue daisy-dress, backed by her band of seven bootstrapping lads. ‘Alright guys, give me everything you’ve got,‘ she demanded of the band as we were taken on an excellently tunage-chosen voyage of discovery through the leading ladies of the Blues; Esther Phillips, Ruth Brown & all the other greats were assembled into what I thought was the greatest history lesson I’ve ever witnessed. Really fuc£in’ cool!

All-in-all, a bangin’ butty that.

Reviewer : Damo

Blueswater Presents: Queens of the Blues

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TheSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
15-26 August 2017
21:00


Chasing behind green peacock feather socks and Rapunzel shoes to the top of the stairs at Surgeons Hall was perhaps indicative that something sassy may lie awaiting behind the performance doors tonight, and we were not to be disappointed.  Nicole Smit, a pint-sized diva, in a powder blue kimono and bubblegum baseball boots splashed onto the stage dripping with charisma and charm to begin her tale of the largely forgotten women who shaped the blues. She was flanked by a six piece band, complete with guitar, keyboard, brass and harmonica, on a spacious stage, which was roomy and audacious, befitting of the night.

She began her story back in 1920 with Mamie Smith, a vaudeville singer who was the first person to make a blues recording, then progressing through the years we stop for a celebration and recognition of Chicago blues. The audience are then treated, amongst others, to a glimpse of teenage superstar Esther Philips, Atlantic records’ Ruth Brown and Rosetta Thorpe, who inspired the likes of Elvis and Chuck Berry. Her voice changed seamlessly with the styles, and she crawled all over those lyrics like dirty piano fingers, leaving the audience mesmerised.

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The tasty snack-sized parcels of history sandwiched between each song made perfect introductions that enhanced the performance with depth and richness. We are introduced to big Mama Thornton, whose hits included Hound Dog and Ball & Chain, the latter recorded and performed by Janis Joplin in the 70s. Her voice really was incredible, as she took us on a journey through a mix of styles, touching on gospel, Chicago and New Orleans and then onto some more modern influences, all the while holding the audience captivated and melting into their seats. An utterly enchanting performance, and a festival highlight.

Reviewer: Teri Welsh

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The Other Guys

C Venues
Aug 12-20 (21.20)

The Other Guys is a show that grabs the torch that should be a Fringe show, thrusts it in the air with the poise of one of those Olympic posters & says, ‘lets do this, guys, lets have some proper fun.’ Four youngish gentlemen, friends from their academic years apparently, have forged a feisty star turn based upon the songs of high-pitched warbler, Franki Valli, who with his band ‘The Four Seasons‘ have sold an incredible amount of records since their inception in 1960. That’s not to say me & the wife were fans, we’ve always found Valli’s voice a bit whiney, a bit lost baby goat in the woodsey, but a little dickie bird told us to check out the show, so we did.

Of course at the end we were dancing, as was the rest of the relatively small & cozy room. Because of the size of the auditorium, the show’s quality was in fact enhanced; there was a great intimacy, for example we were sat right behind the bass player & the keyboardist, the latter fellow directing the music with consummate ease. The band are in house, & accompany other acts at C Venues. They told us they’d only had one full practice with The Other Guys, but you couldn’t tell, it all sounded great, & it was nice to see the singers occasionally sweep by the band & give little winks of appreciation. They were actually pulling this one off.

The Other Guys did more than pull it off – they have created something that transcended Valli’s own work, an amazing blend of pop tunes – mainly Valli’s, but some modern – & choreographized chemistry coming from four great mates dancing to old tunes together in their student bedrooms. For Valli fans, all the classics were there – Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Oh What a Night – & it was exhilarating to see the crowd singing along, & swaying in lines, & standing together at the end in one happy, clapping, gospelesque clanjamfrie.

The Other Guys is steeped in the halycon days of vocal harmonies, when in the days before wah-wahs & keyboards, the only way to improve a group’s sound was through the human voice. Roll on seven decades & luckily there are purists still out there who are capable of four-part rock & roll harmonies, & it is sheer serendipity to stumble across them. As we were leaving, a couple of young fiances turned up asking if The Other Guys could play at their wedding in St Andrews. ‘We’re only together for Edinburgh,‘ replied the bass-player, & I urge anyone who is up for being entertained this August to catch their ephemeral orgy of honest, incandescent brilliance while you can. Time is running out, fast!

Reviewer : Damo

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