Deary me, haven't done one of these for a while. Not that I've been avoiding gigs, simply avoiding reviewing them. Yet on Friday I made the decision to forgo the Wales vs. Scotland game (a wise choice in hindsight) and plod done to The Arches for a smorgasbord of singer-songwriter talent.
Opening support act Michael Cassidy, is no stranger to the Scottish Fiction blog and we even had him playing for us before. Things are really shaping up for the Gerry Rafferty Song-writing Prize winner, with his single Battleships dropping on 22nd October, and a début album 'My Electric Heart' is forthcoming in the new year. I've already had the pleasure of seeing Michael play arguably his biggest Scottish date supporting Frightened Rabbit at UWS Union, but for tonight's set he's back to a solo set. I must admit, I much prefer a stripped back solo performance (although some songs did gain a certain oompf with the backing of the band), and was glad to see Michael on top form tonight. A booming friendly voice echoed across the empty floor, but after the intro to second track 'Everybody's Scared' began, the crowd edged forward and closer to the stage. Like candy from a baby, it's hard to resist the mesmerising draw of the song. Michael's legendary on stage banter was present and correct, and helped create a warm and friendly atmosphere whilst he played familiar tracks such as 'Dancing At The Devil's Door', the above mentioned 'Battleships' and the track that won him the Gerry Rafferty accolade 'The Men Who Stood Beside Me In The War' a mellow and introspective song. There's also room for a new track, 'No One Else's Mine', which sounds a little more alt-country influenced. Closing off his set, is foot stomper '15 Years', which if you fancy a bargain you can find for free on our very first Scottish Fiction EP right here. And you should also pick up his self titled EP as well.
Who ever booked the support for this gig deserved a firm pat on the back, as following Michael Cassidy is the charming and extremely talented Beerjacket. Last album 'The White Feather Trail' still remains a favourite from 2011, and he's been teasing us with mentions of new material on Facebook and Twitter. 'Eggshells', the Beerjacket song not Rachel Sermanni's track, showcases exactly why so many have made the effort to be here early. There's a nice contrast between Beerjacket's voice and earlier support act Michael Cassidy's, with Beerjacket having softer vocals. After next track 'The Bar That Never Closes', it becomes apparent that many of Beerjacket's students (he's an English teacher by day) have made the journey down tonight, as he jokes with the crowd about marking papers. Much of the material on show tonight comes from the above mentioned album, yet there's room for new song 'Antlers', which after a much delayed start Beerjacket invites us to rate. It's an excellent song, showing musical progression and also the same wordsmanship that has served Beerjacket well. 9/10. Closing the set are crowd favourite 'Cave', which draws cheers and ukele driven 'Poor Captain Of The Soul'. Head over to Beerjacket's Bandcamp page and pick up a copy of latest album 'The White Feather Trail'.
I've said before on many occasions just how talented I think Rachel Sermanni is, and don't want to spend too much treading over the same water. All I will say is that Friday night for me was an affirmation of that opinion, and a truly, truly wonderful performance.
Beginning with 'Ever Since The Chocolate', Rachel stood solo, back lit by a single light, the atmosphere silent whilst her gentle voice pierced through. Last time I saw Rachel was with the backing of her band, yet sans the backing of strings and percussion her voice is the sole focus of the crowds attention. 'Breathe Easy' is simply stunning as 'Waltz'. The success of her 'Black Currents' EP and now début album 'Under Mountains', both of which were being eagerly snapped up by new fans from the merch stall, provided a cushion of confidence as Rachel conversed with the crowd and also opened up about the origins of several songs in the set. We found out that 'Sleep' is a rather bitter song, whilst 'Marshmallow Unicorn' was named such by a drunken Irishman.
The set consisted almost exclusively of tracks from the 'Under Mountains' album, with the sole intruder being 'The Burger Van Song' a jaunty, more upbeat number about the perils of working in the burger van. As the trains rumble overhead, and the moving lights pierce the silence, I find myself in awe at the spell which Rachel seems to have cast over the receptive crowd, each face intently looking, each set of ears hooked on the bewitching range of Rachel's vocals. The whole experience was quite other worldly.
Rachel closed her set and the evening in rather fine style, with a trio of the eerie sounding 'The Fog', 'Song To A Fox' sang completely acoustic and recent single 'Eggshells' rounding off a wonderful evening spent in the company of some of Scotland's finest.
Grab yourself a copy of Rachel Sermanni's début album 'Under Mountains' here and enjoy 'Waltz' below.