Vox Luminis II

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The Lammermuir Festival
Saint Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington
16-09-2019


For the tenth anniversary of the Lammermuir Festival, I thought I would investigate the cerebral buzz surrounding Vox Luminis upon one of their rare, rare visits to Scotland. The accepted invitation by the Belgium-based Vox Luminis is quite a coup for the festival orgainsers, who can now effortlessly add the phrase ‘Beautiful Voices’ to the festival’s emblematic ‘Beautiful Music, Beautiful Places,’ slogan. At the head of this tassle of timbres stands the charming Lionel Meunier, who adds his own pristinely-sung bass to the proceedings. Around him the vocal chords of his cleverly assembled team embed themselves in each other like the towers of a Templar fortress, conjuring such soul-stilling music that I can still hear them singing as I type.

The performance overtures with a single faceless sirensong growing stronger & clearer from the depths of the church. When this stranger is done singing & setting us all atrance, Vox Luminis arrive into our ken slowly & methodically, like freemasons at an initiation ceremony. Haddington Saint Mary’s offers divine acoustics, but they still need to be worked, & I was completely enthralled by the symbiotic serenity of the singing as they decorated the anonymous Lamentation de la Vierge au pied de la Croix, Antonio Lotti’s Crucifus a 8, Claudio Monteverdi’s Adoramus to Christe & Lamentio della Ninfa, Allessandro Della Ciaia’s Lamentatio Virginis, then after the interval the elongated ecstasy of Domenico Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater.

This centuries-old selection of soft & subtle sacred works are all inspired by the Virgin Mary. As a spectacle, they were delivered in a most appropriate setting & performed with immaculate precision either side of the trance-popping pauses. Such mature solemnity – tho’ streaked with a clear & optimistic mountain lakewater – contains the essence of Christianity & its Trinity, purified by ten honey-tongued singers & their dulcimerean instruments, including the lovely, long lute-like Theorbo played by Simon Linne. As a guitarist myself I watched him play with some fascination as he created chord shapes & plucked individual notes, bass-guitar-style, at the same time.

For each piece the ensemble moved about with marvellous variety – sometimes just a soloist, sometimes quartets & sometimes a complete & unified whole. Of the cantos, the four descending bass-notes & the wind-willowing phrases of Lamento della Ninfa (1638) is the most perfect and spendid thing I have now ever heard in my life! I have no more words to describe it, I was positively weeping within. Its purveyors, Vox Luminis, are rather what happens when a young swan ruffles its plumage – incorruptible natural beauty. Their music is what you’d expect Dante was hearing in his head as he was imagining the Paradisio. For myself in 2019, it felt as if I was gently cruising down the Nile in one of Cleopatra’s pleasure-barques, the dip of the galley oars rising & falling to the beat of the jaw-jangling, spine-tingling Theorbo.

Damian Beeson Bullen

An Interview with Gordon Muir


To celebrate Belhaven Brewery’s 300th birthday, they are having a massive music party – & everybody is invited!


Hello Gordon, first thing’s first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Inverness and these days I live in Torphichen, near Linlithgow.

Aha! What do you think of Party at the Palace, we were there a few weeks back?
It’s a great event and has quickly become a fixture of the summer. It’s a wonderful backdrop and the location in the middle of town makes for a really nice mixed crowd.

Can you tell us about your role at the Belhaven Brewery & how you got the job?
I’m the marketing controller at Belhaven Brewery. I’ve worked in drinks marketing – soft drinks, spirts, coffee and now beer – for most of my career. It’s not that I’m a particularly thirsty individual, it’s just how things worked out. The day to day of my job at Belhaven involves everything that generates demand for our lovely beers. That might be advertising, events, sponsorship, social media or packaging design as well as new product development, which can be a lot of fun and involve a certain amount of tasting.

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Can you tell us about the Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music?
The Belhaven Bursary is an initiative that was born out of a partnership with the Festival Interceltique de Lorient a few years back when Scotland was the country of honour. We started by sponsoring the beer tent but when we saw the energy and excitement around up and coming new Scottish folk music and the connection that it made with the crowd, we thought it was something we should explore. My main job is telling the story of a brewery that is all about old and new, proud of its tradition yet forward-looking and innovative; and this fabulously creative and still distinctly Scottish music just encapsulated that perfectly. Showcase Scotland Expo were the organisers of the Scottish presence at Lorient that year and we worked with them on a few ideas as to how we could best get involved in the scene and make a meaningful difference. So the idea of the Belhaven Bursary for Innovation in Scottish Music was born, as a major award to grant to musicians at a stage in their career where they could use the funds and the exposure as a springboard and hopefully be able to take new creative risks and attract new audiences.

What is it about live music that makes you tick?
It’s the energy of it that makes live music so magical, and the fact that the people up on the stage are really playing stuff they love that you’re enjoying in a shared experience with the rest of the audience. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation when a band takes to the stage or the euphoria of a brilliant finale.

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So there’s a big event lined-up by Belhaven, can you tell us the about the reasoning behind it?
Well yes, it’s Belhaven Brewery’s 300th birthday this year – quite an amazing achievement and one that we wanted to mark with a great big party. We’re Scotland’s oldest working brewery but we’re always looking forwards so it was important to us to celebrate as a vibrant, current brewery rather than a brewing museum. A live music festival – the Belhaven Birthday Bash – was the obvious way to bring together a great event, situated at the brewery and drawing on the work we’ve done with the Belhaven Bursary.

How were the acts selected & who have you got for us?
We knew from the off that the bill should celebrate the breadth and diversity of music with a Scottish folk flavour – again that reflects us as a brewery rooted in its Scottishness and taking on all sorts of influences from around the world. We worked with Active Events/ Showcase Scotland on putting together a line up with that idea at its centre. So, in alphabetical order, we have Assynt, Breabach, Capercaillie, Dougie Maclean, Elephant Sessions, Kinnaris Quintet, Niteworks, Talisk and Tidelines.

It seems you are going for a more traditional Scottish folk sound, why is that?
We’re proudly Scottish and trade on our “Scottishness” in export markets around the world (around 30% of our beer goes overseas) so we’re always looking for ways to celebrate a fresh, relevant take on Scottish culture and I think the breadth of our line up does a great job of that.

What else does the festival have to offer aside from the music?
We will of course have amazing beers available, along with food and drink and, as a family-friendly event, we’ll have some children’s activities going on too. On Sunday 22nd we have a brewery open day where we won’t have acts on the main stage but visitors can come in for a half-price brewery tour and soak up what I hope will be a lovely chilled out (and, fingers-crossed, sunny) atmosphere.

Is this going to be a one-off, or are there plans for a 2020 festival?
What a thought! Let’s get this one under our belts and you can ask me again afterwards!


Belhaven 300th Birthday Bash

Belhaven Brewery, Dunbar
Satur
day 21st September (12.00-23.00)

www.belhaven.co.uk/Birthday-Bash

Reminisce 2019

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Sherdley Park, St Helens
Saturday 7th september, 2019


Due to work commitments we were a bit late arriving but after an easy cruise down the M6 we rocked up at 7.30. A couple of helpful security guys escorted us to the main entrance only to find that unfortunately the production box office was at the other side, another guard took us to the right place. Roddy was apparently a kick boxing champ and after we saw him in action on his phone I relaxed, to be fair I’ve never felt safer. A few early casualties were being seen to by what looked like an experienced and effective set of first aiders.

69974078_377711886255432_629451478980886528_n.jpgAfter processing we headed to the Love House Arena full of optimism. For once I was in the demographic as the Festival was overtly a celebration of the 90’s dance scene. Jon Pleased Wimmin was just finishing his set with some bangers, we were starting to feel very at home so we headed out and about to find the Judgement Arena. Along the way we managed to trip over a very nice bar serving proper cocktails. Suitably fortified with industrial strength gin and tonic we found our destination where surprisingly Micky Slim was also filling the floor with a set of 90’s classics, are you starting to spot a theme? I can’t remember what the fuck he actually played but just type 90’s rave classics into your search engine, you’ll get the idea.

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Judge Jules was worth the entry and the drive all by himself, here’s one of the old timers who’s still smashing it everywhere he goes. One of the old school who’s kept it real over the decades he didn’t disappoint and I could have gone home happy after his set. This was lucky because the whole thing was set to shut down at 11.

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My companions think we saw the live set of Tricia McTeague but personally I can’t remember, I’m sure it was excellent though. She’s sung with all the greats over the years and now me, her life is complete. Love Inc got the main stage crowd singing along and bouncing, hard to tell with their scouse accents but I think they got the words right. Lee Butler and Sosumi’s sets looked absolutely amazing, the organisers must have spent a fortune on visual effects, no wonder it was £85 a ticket what with all the security and everything.

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If you can remember the 90’s you weren’t there but I’m pretty sure I saw Anton Powers and he was brilliant. Mike Lewis was great and finally I found what I was looking for where the streets have no name. 3-0 ya beauty! In the end everyone plays drum and bass. Banging out Danny Byrd’s Ill Behaviour. With a great MC. I just don’t know who is was! When everything started shutting down we were allowed a go on the shows for £5 and the guy kept it going for ages but with no music. Eleven!!!! Then I had a massive whitey which prevented me from attending the after parties.

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I know this is meant to be a review of Reminisce but actually I had a much better time at the Urban Flava 2019 party in Dundee with my good friend The General a Mains Castle, three floors of banging tunes from the attic to the garden. Easy days boys.

Words: Graeme ‘Steely’ Steel
Photography: Mark ‘Parky’ Parker

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Fiddlers on the Ramp

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C Aquila
Aug 25-26 (18:25)


Way, way, way back at the start of the Fringe, I’d been invited along to the C Venues Press launch. By far the most entertainingly intriguing of the assembled performers were Fiddlers on the Ramp – booming youth, talent & whirls as they pounded & hack’d away at their cello & violins. I just had to go & see their full show, being forced to wait three whole weeks until they graced the Edinburgh stage. Like the rest of the extremely healthy crowd who eventually packed into C Aquila, who would soon be bearing witness to the most special of spectacles.

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What I got in the end was wild – a mixture of badly-acted student theatre & excuisite musicianship, all loosely based on a pirate’s adventure & a devil-given golden cello. The costumes were fantastic, the shanties were banging, & its all just a waterfall of wonders. These five fine & feisty fellows offer a gonzo gala of foot-stomping, thigh-jiving avant garde hyperjazzy hillbilly hijinks. Like the ten arms of the kraken they ripple & roll into the room, stroking & probing our pleasure-receptors until the supernova of nonsense at the end. Aye, Fiddlers on the Ramp is a beauty!

Damian Beeson Bullen

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Aquapella

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C Venue 16
9 – 11th Aug (18.30)


Outstanding and Astonishing! Aquapella was created many moons ago and consists purely of 13 Edinburgh students all studying various subjects. Gifted with a natural singing voice, each member has crafted the art of sonic control and physical movement, bringing “Aquapella” to Edinburgh Fringe for our enjoyment. As the auditorium fills up there is barely a seat left to occupy. The excitment in the atmosphere sticks to you like the clammy, muggy Scottish weather. As the lights dim, the room goes quie,t the sound of angelic voices echo through the silent air. Like a chorus of tropical birds singing in harmony you are elevated to a musical level like no other. The power and purity of the human voice is evident to see when these 13 soulful singers come together.

With continuous changes and rotation of members with every semester, this must bring a different challenge each year – but looking at the craftmanship and dedication it appears to work. Aquapella has dicovered the secret of togetherness. This show is well-chiseled and synchronised, not just through voice and dance but also through unity. With time going quicker than Usain Bolt running from a lion, Aquapella slides into classic songs such as Lovely Day, Kool and the Gang’s ‘Get Down On It’ and Like a Prayer by Madonna. Asking the audience what they may wish to hear, Another One Bites the Dust by Queen is soon circling the room. Aquapella appeals to all ages, from heart-warming Celtic folk sounds, to a church choir you are pleasantly entertained. Lavishing the audience with Hip Hop, Funk & Soul, Rock and Pop the energy is intoxicating. A jaw-dropping preformance with an endearing approach to music. Beautiful, comforting and moving this is the creative result of music at its best. No instruments, no backing tracks , just the voice. Magnificent, well choreographed and executed with precision Aquapella is a must see.

Raymondo Speedie

five-stars

Two Guys, Three Drams

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“Let’s boogie!” Two new boys have arrived on the Edinburgh August scene, bringing a fresh way to worship the Fringe experience: bangin’ blues & a whisky tasting – they are like the perfect bedfellows, right? The Rhythm and Booze Project are London based; a Scotsman (Paul) & an American (Felipe), so they will know their whisky, & they clearly know their blues, such was the assorted selection of numbers brought to life with foot-stomping vigour by Paul’s passionate, blissed-out percussion & Felipe’s sublime slide guitar burnis’d by his feverish voice.

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Inbetween songs, three different drams were brought out on trays out by a smiling team, alongside water in pipettes to ease the throatburners. The setting was Venue 45, a converted church which seemed apt, as Felipe so ably told us, for it was Irish monks who first brought the art of distillery to Scotland. This was just one of a series of erudite nuggets from the soft-spoken, hard-singing, Felipe, for one of the main aspects of their show is to teach is enough pretentious ‘bullshit’ to blag our way through highbrow whiskey, aroma detecting, vapour sniffing circles.

After a couple drams I get better, after a few more I get worse but I think I get better Paul Read the full interview…

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As the whisky kicked in – one was 65 percent –  things just got better & better, the whoops got louder & the playing got slicker – Paul’s silver string’d flingers sliding up a washboard is a phenomenon! As we heard tunes like the Chicago classic ‘Spoonful’ & John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom,’ I loved watching a group of gawping middle-aged men sat like teenage groupies nearest our musicians, completely awe-struck by the show. This, by the way, provided the most euphoric experience I have ever had at the Fringe. I am a musician myself, & I’m currently having a fallow period, but seeing The Rhythm and Booze Project strut their stuff is a sheer inspiration… now where’s mah gee-tah?

five-stars


Two Guys Three Drams

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Aug 8-17 (21:25)

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www.therhythmandboozeproject.com

Roosevelt Collier

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Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
July 2019


Roosevelt Collier is a smiling, heavyweight musical genius. A pedal and lap steel guitar player from Miami, Florida, he is sometimes simply referred to as The Dr. Though known for many acclaimed collaborations, he only released his debut solo album, Exit 16, in 2018. He tours with his own band, which changes on a regular basis. This time it was a young trio, also from Florida and each musician impressively proficient on their instruments of bass guitar (Rodrigo Zambrano), drums (Armando Lopez) and keyboards (Jason Matthews). They were each given turns to bring to life the beauty of their instrument, with Collier looking on encouragingly. They are also, in the tradition of Jazz, well tuned into each others’ musical style and wavelength, and had a cool and relaxed manner as if they were jamming together in the bandroom. Collier connected with us right away as an audience, joking about how driving on the left on British roads had led to some close calls on the way to perform in Edinburgh, and seemed genuinely overjoyed to receive such a warm welcome from the festival audience. The Piccolo tent is just as it sounds, a cosy and intimate setting to enjoy a performance from a small band. It’s a temporary structure; friendly and comfortable, but with mystifyingly great acoustics.

Collier began the show on his lap steel guitar, with Roosevelt the Dr. printed on the front. He’s named Doctor for mastery of this unusual instrument; a guitar with pedals and levers that can allow for a great deal of complexity. He gave us the eponymous track from his album that’s on the GroundUP Music label founded by Grammy award-winning Snarky Puppy’s manager (bassist and composer) Michael League. He has produced and contributed to some beautiful tracks for Collier; Exit 16 track itself is expansive as it steadily builds in intensity with a few Hendrix-worthy rock guitar moments.

Zambrano’s guitar strap broke half way through the set, leaving him temporarily disconcerted. Encouraged by Collier to sit down and keep it going, he sat on his speaker and did just that. It didn’t seem to matter a bit, because even without vocals, and playing just four instruments, the band was able to masterfully weave in a myriad of influences into the sound. Trippy, psychedelic tinges melded into a Detroit House vibe, then veered over into disco territory and some heavy funk, with the legacy of Collier’s gospel background and early years of playing in church with his cousins shining through all these layers of genres. Pedal steel guitar is associated with sacred music around the world, though it originated in Hawaii, and is popular in country music.

Supernatural Encounters was possibly my favourite number with its insistent beat and extravaganza of rock guitar spread over a deliciously indulgent five minutes. Their slow, swingy cover of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel lets you experience the roots of the song structure differently from the original and feel the ancestral connections Black music has across genres. Happy Feet is fast and funky, a fun tune that had everyone moving. h

Make it Alright is a tune where Collier encourages some audience participation, and the crowd readily clapped along to this long, cheerful track. Satisfying and uplifting; this one took us on a comforting journey reminiscent of the waves of an early morning chanting session in an ashram.

Collier took his time deciding on what tune they should leave us with. “I’m from the South, so I’m gonna play some blues for y’all”, Collier beamed at us, before launching their last heavy blues number and encouraging us all to come up front and dance. An elderly man with a hearing aid was ecstatically swaying in his seat, a shy teenager behind him clapping along with the tune, an auburn American woman in a leather jacket rushed to the stage to rally to Collier’s dance call. As the audience continued standing for an enthusiastic ovation, the young French musician next to me exclaimed “That was the very best concert I ever saw in my life!” I think most of the crowd would probably agree. Quincy Jones has not dubbed him “the best there is” without reason.

Reviewer: Lisa Williams

An Interview with Andy Gunn

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One of Scotland’s finest Blues connoisseurs is doubling up this Fringe…


Hello Andy, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born near Glasgow, lived most of my life in the Highlands and currently reside in Portugal.

Where does your love of music come from?
My mum used to say I wouldn’t go anywhere in my pram without a radio, or wireless as my Grannie used to call it. My mum loved rock ’n’ roll music and my Dad played the same country and western compilation tape about 8 thousand times up and down the A9, the main trunk road connecting the north and south of Scotland.

What instruments do you play?
I play different types of guitar, acoustic, 12 string, electric, cigar box, National Steel, the Portuguese guitar and Ukulele, all in the same night as it happens. I’m doing a show at the Fringe this year called Fingers and Thumbs, all about various stringed instruments, come along it’ll be muito bem!

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Which singers & styles have influenced your own voice?
I love all types of singers, as long as it’s got soul behind it. I like people who improvise and really connect with the music in an honest and authentic way every time they play the song. I was just thinking about John Lee Hooker today. He was illiterate but I’d say he turned this to his advantage because his vocals and guitar playing were always fresh and alive, never sounding tired like he was just re-performing the same song. Blues and jazz are the most vibrant forms of music to me, it’s all open to interpretation, how you feel on the day, so I love all the greats of those genres.

You’ve got three famous Bluesmen from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Well Hendrix would have to be there for the psychedelic craic about UFO’s n that, Muddy H20 to tell us how he invented electricity, giving birth to electric blues and rock ’n’ roll as we know it today and of course EC ‘Slow Hand’ to pay for the garlic bread, pizza and ice cream!

What is it about the Blues that makes you tick?
I’ve always related to the blues somehow, even as a white kid in the Highlands while everyone else was listening to Kylie and Jason or Simple Minds, I was listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins because he made me feel better, the sound healed me in a way I didn’t really understand then, turning the recognition of pain and suffering into hope and resilience.

Have you made any pilgrimages to the great sites of Blues?
I went to Beale Street in Memphis a couple of times, went to Chicago and sat in on the jam nights at Buddy Guy’s club Legends and made my way south to New Orleans, to eat some gumbo and see how the Cajon folk do it. All of which were amazing experiences, Clint Eastwood said the most valuable contribution that the US made to the world was jazz, I’d say the blues even more so.

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You’ve played all over the world, from Nashville to Kinlochbervie, but which is the best audience you’ve ever performed in front of?
I like it when people listen to the music but in a relaxed way, not shouting over the top of it, but not feeling inhibited to go to the bar etc, some kind of happy medium. It’s nice when people maybe have an understanding of the influences I’ve tried to assimilate into my playing, trying to find my own voice, but it’s also nice when there’s people who don’t know much about the music but just enjoy it for what it is. The gig in Kinlochbervie was just at my pal’s house playing for the kids and the neighbours having a laugh, but yeah that was probably one of my favourite nights, just what life is all about, hanging out in a nurturing, happy environment, being creative.

You have just released ‘Rainbow Bird.’ Can you tell us about the recording process?
We recorded this live in one take in Castlesound studios near Edinburgh, though we did add the strings later, late last year. I recorded it with a jazz trio and three female local singers, the full line up is;

Andy Gunn – Guitar and Vocals
Amy Hawthorn – Second Vocal and spoken word
Marissa Keltie – Backing Vocal
Caroline Gilmour – Backing vocal
David Carnegie – Drums
Tom Lyne – Double Bass
Chick Lyall – Piano
Mr McFall’s Chamber – Strings

Why has it taken the best part of a year to release it?
I wrote this song two years ago but only just got around to recording it, that’s nothing it took me ten years to record ‘Going Home Again’ a song about the people of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

You are doing two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe; why double up & can you tell us a bit about each one?
I created From T-Bone To Trucks last year after living in Edinburgh and talking to some of the local musicians there. I thought I’d like to be part of the Festival, so I thought well what am I good at, what do I know about and the answer hit me like a ton of bricks, blues guitar! It was a big jo but we got there and in fact it was a resounding success, a sell-out run. So I decided to return for another series of shows, only three but in a great venue. Fingers and Thumbs was another one of my bright ideas, thinking well if I’m in Edinburgh at the Fringe I might as well make the most of it and so I came up with this idea of how I could translate the skills I have in my hands onto different instruments. That show is a lot more eclectic, taking in blues, country, folk, Portuguese Fado and African music.

T-Bone To Trucks was a sell-out last year, have you tweaked it in the interim?
Yes it is an expanded show this year, running time will be about an hour and a half. We’ve added five new acts this year, John Lee Hooker, Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Cray and Doyle Bramhall II, it’s gonna be awesome, I’d highly recommend it.

Having established a fan-base with T-bone, how do you think they’ll take the change of pace & style with Fingers and Thumbs?
Well, I like all different styles of music and listen to a wide range of stuff depending on my mood and what medicine I require, music can lift you up or settle you down or anything in between, so I suppose the show is a reflection of that. I always liked how Led Zeppelin could do everything from Bert Jansch tunes to thunderous stadium rock all in the one set and it not be out of place. I like dynamics, think it’s a good thing and I’m hoping the audiences will enjoy it, but yes it is a slower paced set certainly.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell each of your shows in the streets of Edinburgh…
T-Bone! Wanna know where rock ’n’ roll came from? Or why blues is the most vital music you’ll ever hear? Then get yo bad self down to Stramash on Sunday afternoons at 1pm, there’ll be an 8 piece rocking band, specially created videos projected and Livingston legend Amy Hawthorn filling you in on the stories of all these amazing blues legends, we’ll be belting out the blues to make your big toe shoot up in your boot! Fingers! would you like some respite from the Fringe madness on a Saturday night? Hear some soulful sounds by a great lost Scottish talent in a beautiful tranquil church? Come, listen and learn about what joins the blues, folk, jazz and Celtic music, Portuguese Fado and Saharan African music, we’re more alike than disalike as Maya Angelou said, music the universal language.. or everybody gets the blues sometime! Come hear it translated by the minstrels fingers!


From T-Bone To Trucks

Stramash

Sunday 4th, 11th and 18th (13:00)

Fingers & Thumbs

artSpace@StMarks,

 Saturday 3rd, 10th and 17th August (20:20)

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www.andygunn.net

Interview: The Rhythm and Booze Project

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For those who like a wee dram with their live music, The Rhythm and Booze Project is only choice this Fringe. The Mumble grabbed a wee chat with the duo’s Felipe Schrieberg & Paul Archibald…


Hello Paul, first things first, where are you both from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

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Paul

Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

When did you & Paul first meet each other?
Felipe: We met 10 years ago when we were both students at St. Andrews. The blues band I was (and still am) playing in needed a drummer at the last moment for a birthday party. A mutual friend recommended Paul, and here we are!

Paul: I’ve been living in Bristol these past few years. Felipe, originally from California, is based on London now — but we were both based in Edinburgh for years before that.

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When did you & Paul first meet each other?
Felipe: We met 10 years ago when we were both students at St. Andrews. The blues band I was (and still am) playing in needed a drummer at the last moment for a birthday party. A mutual friend recommended Paul, and here we are!

How did the band begin?
Paul: We decided to make a two-piece band to visit Islay in 2012, so we could play our way through the hotels and distilleries there. We got paid in whisky and a bed for the night (though we were sometimes camping). We made our way through some great whisky and saw some amazing parts of the island. The idea for this band, which we started last year, came out of that trip. We wanted to emphasise our love of whisky and music—we still go back to Islay, every year, and come back with as much whisky as we can carry.

The Rhythm and Booze Project has taken you all over the world, what have been your coolest experiences on the road?
Felipe: For us, going to play at the Feis Ile Islay whisky festival every year is always special. It’s over a week of distilleries hosting parties across 9 days in a beautiful corner of the world, and we get to be in the middle of it. We love it. Some highlights include providing the music for George Crawford’s last masterclass as Lagavulin distillery manager, getting 1000+ people going nuts to our music in the courtyard of the Bruichladdich distillery, and doing a special blues and whisky tasting in the cooperage at Caol Ila.

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How do you choose the songs for your set?
Paul: We find that early blues songs work best for our two-piece set-up better than more recent songs — we still adapt things, though. We’re working on originals too, and the material for those is usually influenced by experiments we try out at live shows. The best things from us come from experiments at gigs rather than pre-planned things in a practice room.

What for you makes a good blues song?
Felipe: It starts with good dynamic drumming. There’s too many blues tunes that have mediocre drumming with needless twiddly widdly guitar over the top. I’m much more interested in the dynamic changes and small moments of magic that can take place all the time in great blues tunes than in chops and mediocre tasteless cowboy playing which unfortunately is the norm these days. I’m also a sucker for good grooves. The Chicago bluesmen do this well, and there are some unbelievable rhythms that came out of the Mississippi Hill Country, though there’s a wonderfully wide world to discover.

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Felipe

You’re washed up on a desert island with a solar powered CD player & three albums, what would they be?
Felipe: A cruel question. I’ll go with these.
1. Moanin’ in the Midnight – Howlin’ Wolf, one of the best blues records ever made.
2. Sleep Beneath The Willow – Daniel Romano, a superb country music record.
3. Aretha Now – Aretha Franklin, maybe my favourite album from the Queen of Soul

Can you name your top three drams?
Felipe: I can’t name a top three! But these are a few of my favourites which are relatively easy to find.
1. Lagavulin 16, one of the great peated whiskies.
2. Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood, Rich, fruity, and regal.
3. Bruichladdich Islay Barley, a punchy drink that tastes like a bourbon cream cookie.

You’ll be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, can you tell us about the show?
Felipe: This is the first show at the Edinburgh Fringe that combines live music and tasting to our knowledge. We’re aiming to entertain and enlighten while playing great music. We’ve got three phenomenal drams that the audience will get to enjoy in the show, showcasing the incredible variety of flavour in Scotch whisky. We’ll also be playing our style of raucous blues throughout while also passing along some knowledge about whisky itself that the audience will be able to use whenever ordering a whisky at a bar or buying a bottle.

How does the whisky effect your playing?
Paul: After a couple drams I get better, after a few more I get worse but I think I get better, and a few more after that someone should probably take over my job!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show in the streets of Edinburgh?
Felipe: Scotch whisky and live blues. What more could you want from a show at the Edinburgh Fringe?

What does the rest of 2019 have in store for you & your band?
Paul: We have some exciting events ongoing in London: we host blues nights featuring an open whisky bar, and we also have our first American whiskey and cigar evening coming up. We basically create events that we’d like to go to ourselves. We’re off to tour Germany in September and Poland in November too, so it’s a busy few months ahead!


Two Guys Three Drams

theSpace@Venue 45

Aug 8-17 (21:25)

Capture

www.therhythmandboozeproject.com

Elephant Sessions

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Perth Horsecross
31st May, 2019


An acquaintance recommended Elephant Sessions live to me. I’d listened to their latest album and liked it, but somehow never managed to get to a gig, especially since they seem to be gigging all over the world these days. Their music is a bit like the electro-trad of Celt-fusion Simard & Gagné, Melisande or Ashley MacIsaac’s fiddling. But there is more than a hint of the progressive electronica of the likes of Boards of Canada in there too. I was interested to see when presenting a full set live, if, like the mythical Kelpie, they were a beast of two natures – would the two sounds that they marry so well on vinyl come undone, or worse, go a wee bit cotton-eyed Joe?

The audience in the cosy Joan Knight Room at Perth Theatre had been suitably warmed up by Perthshire’s own funksters Bohemian Monk Machine. Stank faces aplenty to some nasty grooves, the lads went though some soul-funk classics and a few licks of their own with real attitude, getting the audience in the groove like the wrong sized underwear. Phew!

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Elephant Sessions entered on an airy synth atmosphere that easily slipped into the, by now characteristic, progressive elevator fiddling from Euan Smillie and mandolin (yes, mandolin) from Alasdair Taylor, over a driving drum and bass line from Greg Barry and Seth Tinsley. Repetition, mesmeric, of a simple phrase is at the heart of electronic dance music. These guys get to the same place with traditional instruments. It’s infectious. Even this teuchter’s feet got tapping.

A selection of grooves from their first album “The Elusive Highland Beauty” and their acclaimed sophomore disc “All We Have is Now” demonstrated how the band have perfected their style. The track “Summer,” in particular, demonstrates a beguiling simplicity that is truly uplifting. To say that the audience thrilled to it would be a measured claim. “You guys are f**king brilliant!”, exclaimed someone at the end of one song, which got a roar of agreement. A few tracks from their new album “What Makes You” showed the guys just keep getting better. The track “Colours” was yet another crowd pleaser.

Elephant Sessions brought a real vibe to the room. Perhaps overall their set wasn’t as varied as their studio work, but it was driving and hypnotic, and fresh. Pasty Scottish folk can’t really dance, but the whole joint was jumping. Spectacular.

Mark Mackenzie

Surveying International Music