On Saturday, I finally got to see Snowgoose after almost a year of missing them.
The first of these epic fails of taste was 4th May last year, when Snowgoose opened for the excellent Lightships at the CCA in Glasgow. When I met my friends Danni and Ruthie in Glasgow the next day, they spelled out for me what I’d missed the previous evening; I couldn’t even buy the album that day as it had only been out on vinyl as a Record Shop Day special (I did try…)
The second failure was even more regrettable; in August, I went to see Mark Lanegan in Edinburgh (the man whose feet never move throughout his entire set) but missed the support, only to be told, even before Lanegan’s set, that it had been Snowgoose. D’OH!
In retrospect, this makes sense, the connection being that two members of Snowgoose had decided they would form such a band while on tour with Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan in support of their duet record.
So nearly ten months later, I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see them as part of a bill at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh.
Snowgoose is comprised of Raymond McGinley and Dave McGowan from Teenage Fanclub, Jim McCulloch (former Soup Dragon, sometime BMX Bandit, former member of Superstar,) Stuart Kidd (The Wellgreen, The Pearlfishers, drummer in the live incarnation of Linden, sometime BMX Bandit) and Anna Sheard, who apparently hasn’t sung professionally with anyone before this band.
All bar Raymond were present for Saturday’s show (I believe Teenage Fanclub are rehearsing,) so I believe this was a stripped down version of Snowgoose I saw (i.e., without drums.) Stuart Kidd normally plays the drums, but was covering guitar, bongos and vocals tonight. Not only does Stuart seem to be able to play most instruments in his various projects, he does so with immense taste; but most importantly, he’s the guy who is singing the harmonies that you don’t necessarily hear, but which make the blend. Dave McGowan is similarly gifted – in Teenage Fanclub, he generally plays keyboards, unless it’s pedal steel, or guitar, or contributing to the TFC vocal wall of sound; tonight he was playing bass and a bit of guitar as well as singing harmonies.
The songs are mostly written by Jim McCulloch, tonight on guitar and vocal, another musician of impeccable pedigree and experience.
So it’s great to see how well Anna Sheard fits into this little supergroup and even better when you hear how well she fits. She’s exactly the right voice and person for this band and they know it.
The odd little bit of Snowgoose music I’d heard online had made me think they were in thrall to Pentangle, but there’s way more to it than that. Surely, the influence of jazz-inflected English folk is right there, but there’s also a big dollop of Laurel Canyon Crosby-esque harmonies and structures.
And what great harmonies; effortless four-part singing which is so difficult to pull off without it looking really hard.
Several new songs were performed along with most of the album Harmony Springs, (all new to me, of course,) as well as a languid cover of John Cale’s “Andalucia.”
I bought a copy of the CD afterward – it’s great stuff after maybe the second play…
Among instruments used on the evening was (I think, I couldn’t quite see the name on the headstock) a really old Yamaha 12-string. Being a 12-string, it was presenting some tuning difficulties to the extent that Dave promised it would be going in a skip after that night…
Preferences have already been expressed about Yamaha guitars on this blog – I sure hope he was joking. Interesting to see all the dinks and wear on the top of the guitar were very similar to those on my (not as old, eighties at best) Yamaha 12-string. They just go on and on…
See Snowgoose’s website here.
Thanks to Ruthie Blaney for her picture of Anna.