Taking chances with songwriting
Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 3 Mar.
It's a misconception that composers are only interested in music. Unbelievably, some are actually interested in sport. Even more unbelievably. some of them are really quite good at doing both.
Contemporary musc ensemble. One Voice. manages a neat combination of the two disoplines in Tennis In Hollywood. a multimedia performance of work by composers who. whether first or second generation, found exile in America — and at least two of whom played tennis together. ‘Gershwin and Schoenberg were neighbours in Beverly Hills.‘ explains Artistic Director. Jeremy Cull. who devised the programme
Gershwin had balls
46 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001
and its intriguing headline. Subtitled 'A 20th century musical odyssey' it tells the story. through words and mUSIC. of how they. as well as contemporaries Hanns Eisler and Kurt Weill. ended up in Hollywood.
‘It may be a slightly flippant title.’ says Cull, ‘but nonetheless the connections it makes between these composers are really interesting. Schoenberg. Eisler and Weill all fled from Germany. and Gershwin had already met Berg in Vienna.‘ The music to be performed is widely contrasting. More or less all of it was written in the mid-West. mainly in the 1920s Eisler‘s ‘14 ways to describe rain' is dedicated to Schoenberg and came out of Hollywood around the same time as his Hollywood Songbook and the selection of Weill songs that will also be heard. Symbolising the Spirit of hope sown in these years is 60s Copland. who also spent time in Hollywood. ‘lt‘s going to be Quite a challenging programme. both for us and for the audience.‘ says Cull, ‘but one has to do these things from time to time. We try to bring depth to One Voice‘s programming so that people can hear new things in a new context and think about them in different ways.‘ But as Berg said to Gershwin when he was concerned about one of his pieces sounding out of place. ‘Don‘t worry, Mr Gerswhin — music is music.’ (Carol Main)
Attic, Edinburgh, Fri 2 Mar. See Folk listings for Buddy Mondlock and Dave Alvin.
Lovers of American music are spoiled for choice next week as some great, defiantly non-mainstream talents wing their way into Scotland. Glasgow’s Death and Taxes Promotions (run by a fireman by the name of Tom Hamilton no less) bring songwriter Buddy Mondlock, carrying letters of introduction from Guy Clark and Nancy Griffith, to name but a couple.
They’ve also managed to deflect legendary Californian country/blues rocker Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men from a Swedish sojourn to take the roof off of Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry. Finally,
‘l’m singing the song and the
audience starts laughing. In all the right places. What a relief.’
Edinburgh’s monthly Star Club has been revived and brings the incomparable Boston-based songwriter (and old pal of Dave Alvin) Chris Smither back for a Capital gig. Sadly, it clashes with Mondlock’s show - but what the heck, Death and Taxes had Smither in Glasgow last year for a packed, memorable, and moving night of blues-stained, coffee- house, back-porch, acoustic rock ‘n’ roll. On the phone from his Massachusetts home, Smither well remembers that Glasgow gig. ‘I’d come over to do a British tour and had been singing one of my
The Venue, Edinburgh, Sat 3 Mar.
songs all through England — to polite attention — then that first night in Scotland, I'm singing it and the audience starts laughing. In all the right places. What a relief. I mean, it's meant to be a funny, ironic song.’ He chuckles rhetorically: ‘English audiences can be a bit, ah, reserved?‘
Brought up in New Orleans, Smither has lived the archetypal US singer/guitarists life — in fact he helped define it - since moving to the Harvard area of Boston in the 605, and began releasing a string of much-loved albums. Now the mature man sings with a poetic, relaxed intensity, has a beautifully fluid, fingerpicked style on his blue guitar, and keeps a mesmeric rhythmic undertow going with his mic'd up
feet. A musician’s musician (Bonnie
Raitt says ‘he’s my Eric Clapton’) his
songs are full of insight, trouble and
humour - and best appreciated at a
live show. He is a stunning performer. ‘A performance is much more than just going through the song,’ he admits. ‘It has a lot to do with how the audience is reacting with you at the time, and to you. There’s a chemistry that, at the best of times, becomes almost overpowering. And it tends to drive the music as opposed to the music driving it. The music becomes the servant of this whole energy-cycle that goes on between the performer and the audience. You can hear that. It usually results in a slightly increased tempo. And it’ll also result in me, the performer, taking more chances.’ (Norman Chalmers)
So yOu'd expect the man behind this sound — lead singer and songwriter Darren Ford —- to he an introspective. sensitive sort. awkward in company and mild of manner, wouldn't you? Wrong. “Turn that fucking lvletalliea down,‘ he bellows on the other end of the phone. Christ. are you rocking out down there? ‘Yeah, I've got my top off and I'm covered in sweat .'
He's jOklflg, thankfully. but this likeable and easy-gomg attitude prevails throughout the inten/iew. as Ford chats frankly abOut everything from getting signed to Nude (piece of piss really‘) and towing With heroes Grandaddy l'a fucking dream come true; to football (‘is that fat bastard lvlcCoist still l)lr’l‘/lllg?').
But all this nonchalance can't disguise the fact that Just Backward Of Sgt/are almost didn't see the light of day. Finished over a year ago. the album was shelved due to legal trouble between Nude and Sony, leaving Lowgold out Ill the cold. ‘During that time we almost split up.‘ says Ford. ‘cos we literally didn't have a penny for Six months. Finally a little bit of money dripped through and we released our first EP.‘
And thank fuck they did. Since then it‘s
Expert ball control and plenty goal mouth action
The sound of Lowgold is the sound of a heart gently breaking. Tenderly fragile yet defiant. there is subtle songwriting magic at work on their debut album, Just Backward Of Square. Taking the American blueprint of Buffalo Tom. Sparklehorse and Big Star. this London four-piece have created a beautifully affecting. simply effective and downright brilliant record.
been all systems go. with the band t0uring their bollocks off with the likes of Doves. Coldplay and the aforerrieritioned Grandaddy. SO how WIH this. their first headline t0ur, compare to pre/ious live outings? 'There's a subtle difference between playing football with a bunch of strangers and playing football Wllh your mates.‘ says Ford. ‘I feel that these headline gigs are gonna be like playing a little five-a-side game of football With all your best mates. Bagsy not going in goal.‘ (Doug Johnstone)