FCLASSICAL Mediaeval Baebes
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sat 23 May.
Compared with the slick marketing which promotes most rock and pop acts, classical ensembles often seem to lag behind. The only exception which springs to mind is that of Vanessa Mae and the press shot of her striding out of the sea in a diaphanous white shirt. That dubious example aside, the way in which classical music is presented doesn't seem to have altered all that much over the last couple of decades.
The Mediaeval Baebes look set to change all that. A twelve-strong group of largely untrained, female singers, their debut album of 14th—16th century music, Salva Nos, has sold more than 60,000 copies, small potatoes in the rock and pop world but a veritable beanfeast in the classical world.
The Baebes came together at the behest of Katharine Blake who was previously in the goth 'n' madrigal outfit Miranda Sex Garden. Along with accompanist Dorothy Carter, she rounded up a pile of her chums
The Mediaeval Baebes: casting their spell over their audiences
and set out to 'demystify classical music'.
To this end the Mediaeval Baebes have played gigs in unusual venues including clubs, a castle and a cemetery; their press releases make much mention of buckets of acid mead and they’ve even managed to get themselves dropped from a proposed appearance on Songs Of Praise after BBC chiefs got wind of the fact that some of the Baebes occasionally got up to activities which Thora Hird might be a little sniffy about.
'We put some information about ourselves up on the Internet,’ explains Blake. ‘It was about white magic. Some of the girls practise things like healing, that got out to the press and Songs Of Praise don‘t want us to
perform because of the image that we're into witchcraft. It's all a little bit exaggerated really.‘
Such are the dangers of pushing too hard on the Baebes' vamp-like image but, as Blake is somewhat disingenuously at pains to point out, it's the music that counts. Contrary to what one might think, the Baebes, far from going down like a lead balloon with the classical musical establishment, have instead been welcomed with open arms. ’I can only speak about people that I've met within the classical world,’ smiles Blake, 'and they seem to like it a lot more than some of the popular press who aren't even interested in the musical side of it.‘ (Jonathan Trew)
ROCK Royal Trux
Glasgow, 13th Note, Clyde Street, Sun 17 May. When it comes to drawing up a list of the great rock 'n' roll couples, then the shaken, stirred and, in their early days frequently strung-out, Mr and Mrs Royal Trux, aka Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty, are destined to be up there alongside Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher and John and Yoko.
Formed in Chicago in '87, Royal Trux has always been Neil and Jennifer - they are the band and the band is
42 THE usr 14—28 May 1998
Royal Trux: flares, psychic monkeys and the J Geils Band
them — with everyone else hired and fired on a strictly 'by the project' basis.
'We wanted to push rock and roll music as far as it could stand to go, almost to the point of pure sound and still have the rock 'n' roll message come through loud and clear. You know — "don't follow leaders watch your parking meters" backed by Black Sabbath featuring Ornette Coleman,’ explains Jennifer in a close approx- imation of lucidity.
Having originally signed to Io-fi specialists Domino, RT then embarked on a brief flirtation with Virgin which gave the world the Thank You and
Sweet Sixteen albums. Virgin then decided that there were too many notes in their music for the kids to go rollerblading to. ‘Virgin thought we were going to pander to an audience of children but in fact we hate children! Anybody under sixteen is nothrng,’ spits Jennifer.
Other things you should know about Royal Trux — they have recorded the greatest ever cover of ’Theme from M‘A'S'H’, chain-smoking Jennifer regularly sports the Wildest flares this side of Janis Joplin, Neil is a disCiple of Ornette Coleman’s theory of harmelodics; he once scared off a label interested in signing the group With a 45-minute lecture on the J Geils Band and now counts himself an author with the publication of his first novel Victory Chimp which tells the tale of a psychic space monkey.
Now back With Domino, our dynamic c0unter culture duo have iust released their seventh album Accelerator While not quite the SOund of Sabbath jamming With Ornette Coleman, it is definitely the most concise, most condensed and most tightly compressed blast of rock tha' Trux Way to crash the buffers thus far.
BLUES Hans Theesink
Glasgow: New Dawn, Thu 14 May; Edinburgh: Tron Folk Club, Sat 16 May.
According to Bo Diddley he's 'one helluva guitar player', though it's hard to believe that someone With a name like Hans Theesrnk can be a master bluesman. But that's iust What the Vienna-domiciled Dutchman is Not that he spends much time in Austria, he's so often on the road — and freQuently in America ttaking the performer's equivalent of coals to Newcastle) and hanging lll studios from Hollywood to Woodstoc i; :n the company of Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of the Band, horn players like Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis, Ry Cooder singer Terry Evans, Virtuoso tuba player John Sass, and even Sean Cannon and John Sheahan of the Dubliners.
I talked to him after a sunny afternoon show in Bergen, Where he has a strong followrng ’Denmark and Norway' he insists 'are boppiri' With the blues. l've Just been sharing the stage With Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and a great Delta player called Robert "Junior" Lockwood. And I'm going for dinner wrth Kelly Joe Phelps' Ah well, life on the road must be tocigh.
Theesink's success tlast year's Jocirney On was his fourteenth album) is down to his commanding vocals, believable songs and an extremely eclectic approach He admits that the blues is central: 'My absolute all-time favourite is Muddy Waters that deep Delta feeling and the urban thing' but goes on to describe his own approach 'when I write, I don't have a formula. I Just write about whatever interests me
- and sometimes people even (cin-l my songs but l pull from different bushes, all sorts of influences though my heart always lies where music is older, rooted '
Often on tour as a duo With John Sass, or With his own band Blue Groove, Theesink vrsits Scotland ~- his first trip here for a couple of years on his own, giVing audienc es a chance to savour his wood-warrri vocals and beautifully-paced solo guitar work (Norman Chalmers)
Hans Theesink: mainlining that deep Delta feeling