ROCK Mogwai Glasgow: The Arches, Sun 30 Nov.
High initial hopes for Glasgow’s Mogwai are being borne out with the release of their debut album proper, Mogwai Young Team. In October, they were touring with Pavement in the USA and they have just been giving French audiences the chance to wallow in their epic guitarscapes, which on the album can last up to sixteen minutes. The longer tracks, it turns out, were either first or second takes, and show an admirable balance between Spontaneity and craft that was apparent even in early gigs.
Small wonder that bands like Pavement are queuing up to sing their praises. But are the band likely to turn their attention some day to short, pithy songs? ’lt's fun playing pop nonsense,’ remarks guitarist John Cummings, ’but we're not very good at it, to be honest. If we wrote a really good three-minute pop song, we’d take great pride in releasing it, but I just don’t see us doing it. Five minutes is maybe the shortest that we're ever going to get, unless they’re strange little things.’
The band have been attracting attention outside the guitar-band scene as well, since dancemeister David Holmes asked them to remix his ‘Don’t Die Just Yet’ (Arab Strap, of all people, were apparently asked first). Seems like an unusual role- reversal at first, but Cummings disagrees.
’A band, if they think for themselves musically, can take it into slightly different musical fields,’ he says. ’It doesn’t require playing hard instruments, we had an engineer that could work the equipment for us, we
about and recorded some more guitar parts. It was really easy, actually, and he seemed to like it, so we’d
love to do more.’ And for the truth behind the
conversation on the track ’Tracy’ regarding a punch-up in the studio, it’s a convincingly-played hoax. ’We’d
decided we wanted to sample
conversations,’ begins Cummings. ’We phoned up
Mogwai: couldn't make up a disaster, never mind have one
just moved bits
people we knew in America and tried to make up a big disaster story, but Stuart didn’t carry it off very well, so there’s only half a conversation at the start. We thought
we’d have to do something at the end as well just to
bring it all together, and we decided to phone up our manager and tell him we’d had a big fight and split up. It was quite funny, but a lot of people seemed to think it was real and it happens all the time.’
Kelly Joe Phelps
Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Sun 23 Nov.
Kelly Joe Phelps said goodbye to jazz and hello to Mr Blues
48 THE LIST 21 Nov—4 Dec 1997
Kelly Joe Phelps's Roll Away The Stone is the most arresting acoustic blues album to hit my CD player in a while, and all the more so when you consider that the 38-year-old singer and guitarist only started playing blues around 1990. He picked up on country music from his father as a child, but his own musical career began in his late teens in the jazz scene around Seattle, and he spent a decade teaching music and playing jazz.
'l was drawn into jazz initially because I was fascinated by the idea that they were largely making up what was being played, and I played mainly bass rather than guitar,’ says Phelps. ’Later on, I got into more free, avant-garde stuff, and I enjoyed that total spontaneity, but I started to feel that something I needed wasn’t there. Around about 1989, I heard Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Pete Williams for the first time, and I felt that music was also essentially free in its approach, but at the same time was
very earthy and rooted, which came primarily from the singing.’
Their music spoke to Phelps in a powerful way, and setting aside jazz. he returned to his guitar, and started to concentrate on country blues, but coloured by his preVious experiences. It meant, however, confronting the problem of singing, something which ’wasn’t at all natural or comfortable for me, but once I felt the leap had to be made into blues, it was painfully apparent that singing was gomg to have to be done.’
The results are highly impressive, both in his vocals and his distinctive laptop slide goitar style, an approach he preferred for its inherent tonal sweetness and melodic freedom. He has also re-incorporated the harmonic diversity and col0ur of conventional goitar picking Within his highly contemporary variant of a classic blues style, and his gig wrth the equally idiosyncratic Chris Smither should be a real treat. (Kenny Mathieson)
FOLK Fiddle 97
Edinburgh: Assembly Rooms, Fri 21—Sun 23 Nov.
Fiddle 97 is a packed weekend of concerts, workshops, talks, lectures, sessions, dances and ceilidhs co- ordinated by Edinburgh's Adult Learning Project Scots Music Group. One highlight is the first visit to Scotland by Caoimhin McAoidh and Connaillaigh, who bring a true expression of the driving, and closely related Donegal fiddle style, and copies of Between The Jigs And The Ree/s, McAoidh’s superbly authoritative book on the subject.
Headlining the main event, alongside Alasdair Fraser, is Capercaillie's bowman Charlie McKerron, who admits that once, in his youth, he was a recipient of the Daily Record- sponsored Scottish Golden Fiddle award. ’I've been through all that - the solo competition scene — and years with the Elgin Strathspey and Reel Society,’ recalls McKerron. ’I got into it when lwas young, learning from my father. We’d perform at family get- togethers, it was fairly r0ugh, but good fun. To be honest, at school l got a lot of ribbing about playing the fiddle. It was not the electric guitar or something cool. But because I was getting to travel about and meet people, and having a great time, I sort of put up with it, although I’ve still got a slight chip on my shoulder about about the way it’s still regarded as a prissy instrument. I think that's partly why, over the years, I've expanded my musical interests, and range. I’ve learned to use the instrument in unusual ways; playing in Capercaillie is trying out ideas, making sounds, even with occasional improwsation, but not just sticking to the tune of the song. It’s all mUSlC, all an influence.‘
'Things are changing a lot though, With people like Vanessa Mae coming through and the glamorous young fiddle stars — boys and girlsl ~ from over the Atlantic, like Ashley Maclsaac, Natalie MacMaster and Richard Wood.’
McKerron is also positive about the home grown talent. 'The standard across the board here is so much higher now, With amazingly good players like Archie MacAllistei‘, and dozens of great, and even younger fiddlers coming up through the session scene '
a Charlie McKerron and Donald Shaw play the Grand Concert of Fiddle 97, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Sat 22 Nov.
Charlie McKerron: a string to Capercaillie's bow