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Clockwise from top left: Back of the Moon, Jim Malcolm, Chisholm and Drever, Fine Friday and Esmee Smith
From its origins as the real alternative to the Festival, roots music has always had a home in Edinburgh but, as Normal Chalmers discovers, its new spiritual home for August is ROOTS AT THE REID.
hen the lidinburgh Festival Fringe sprang into life. way back in the 1950s. it was as a people‘ s event — promoted as an alternative to the official Festival‘s ‘lligh art of opera. classical music. ballet and drama‘ —- and took place opposite the capital’s famously folky Sandy Bell‘s Bar in Forrest Road. ()ccupying centre stage and presented by the likes of Hamish Henderson and liwan McColl were great Scottish traditional singers and storytellers like Jeannie Robertson. the young Gaelic singer Flora McNeill and piper John I) Burgess. 'l‘raditional song is the primary anti- cstablishment expressive form. a keeper of a subversive history that precedes and informs everything from alt.country to alternative comedy. and is tenacioust adaptive to changes in society. So even as the Fringe becomes ever more commercial and entertainment-biased. and the rise of the (iilded multi-venues squeezes the economics and life out of small-scale performance. you‘ll find traditional and folk music spread throughout the Festival. But it is ironic that the major series of concerts now titled Roots at the Reid finds itself in the neo-classical Reid Hall of the L'niversity. and not in some smoky howff. Acoustic and eclectic. RLG‘R presents a wide spectrum of Scottish music — and. courtesy of the old 'entente cordiale‘. an honorary Scot in the person of Algerian-born French guitar genius Pierre Bensusan. Poet and songwriter Liz Lochhead and Michael Marra co-conspire a two- hander of wit and humanity. rooted in Scottishness but
80 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 12—79 Aug 2334
YOU'LL FIND ROOTS AND FOLK MUSIC SPREAD THROUGH
aimed over the horizon. The Tannahill Weavers and Jock Tamson's Bairns are two of the longest established tradition-based bands in Scotland — while the limily Smith Band and Back of the Moon are two of the youngest.
Filska bring you a youthful taste of Shetland. and Fine Friday synthesise something new from Ireland. Scotland and Orkney. while pan-Celtic l)aimh leap the North Atlantic to include Cape Breton and California. A jazzy pulse underlies the Scottish (iuitar Quartet. and Dave Milligan’s trio with Simon Thoumire and Corrina Hewat. The songwriter/guitarist is here. with veteran Rab Noakes. ()ld Blind Dogs. Jim Malcolm. Ireland's Kieran Halpin and the powerful pen and beautiful voice of Karine l’olwart. Fiddle freaks can hang on every note of Duncan Chisholm or Alasdair Fraser. and normal freaks will find the highly musical antics of Harem Scarem right up their street. You can have the salad version. Sunhoney's tightly performed contemporary roots- rock when they come for a night as Sunhoney Lite. or you can have the whole herring. oatmeal and pie supper when Scotland‘s Voice. incorporating the big repertoire and bigger voices of Cy Laurie. Maureen Jelks. Chris Miles. Aileen Carr and others. shrinks the Reid Hall to a single- end or crofters kitchen. Then head for Sandy Bell's: it‘s only a two-minute walk away.
Reid Hall, 662 8740, until 29 Aug, 7pm & 8.45pm, 5:10—12 ($28-10).
TINA DICO Chill out songstrel goes it solo
Picking up where last year's Underbelly programme left Off, this year's batch of unheard- of starlets promises big things for next year. After all. 2003 saw a couple of unknown pretenders by the names of Keane and the Thrills make their Edinburgh debuts in the venue's musty. atmospheric basement — and we all know what happened there. don't we?
One girl who you would imagine might move on to bigger things come this time next year is Danish singer-songwriter Tina Dico. Already familiar to fans of chilled-out coffee table dance music as the vocalist on Zero 7's recent 'Home' single. our heroine follows in the footsteps of another slightly more famed solo chanteuse by putting her voice to far more organic solo work. After all, Dido (for it is she) didn't do her career much harm at all by providing vocals for her brother Rollo's band Faithless. Or for adding the smooth corners to ‘Stan's rough edges, for that matter.
The recent mini-album Far showcases statuesque blonde Dico as a honey-toned vocalist of seductive proportions. To be honest. she's not that different from Dido, but if anything. there's a greater lyrical assuredness and emotional honesty in her music. Recommended. just in case you miss out in the stampede for tickets further down the line. (David Pollock)
I Underbelly, 0870 745 3083, 74 Aug. 70.30pm, £7.