Gigs · Music

Saint Etienne, Queen’s Hall 09 June 2017

Sarah Cracknell by Claire Anderson
(Sarah Cracknell by Claire Anderson – thanks Claire!)

 

Saint Etienne were at the Queen’s Hall on Friday evening.

As when I’ve seen them before, the gender balance was 85/15 male to female, which split I guess is caused by a mixture of the guys in the audience being a) record collector types like Pete and Bob, b) guys that really fancied Sarah Cracknell or c) guys that really want to be Sarah Cracknell.  From the amount of awkward dancing going on, I think c) may have had a majority.

Or maybe all the girls were watching Robbie Williams at Murrayfield.

Whatever.  Saint Etienne continue to do the business really well…

Saint Etienne at Queen's Hall

 

…Sarah with her feather boa as seen in Claire’s picture above and the guys up at the back of the stage looking as if they are thinking about Pickettywitch b-sides (this is not a bad thing – Bob Stanley’s Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé is one of the finest books available on pop music, particularly his chapter on The Bee Gees.)

Saint Etienne Queen's Hall June 2017

 

I’d like to think the back-projection below was for the Edinburgh crowd…I tried to explain it to a girl from Nebraska standing beside me who was baffled.

Josef K - Saint Etienne

 

Gigs · Music

The Staves – Queen’s Hall 7th February

 

staves scotland jura
From The Staves Facebook page – “We got whisky…”

On Saturday 7th February The Staves returned to The Queen’s Hall, promoting their new album “If I Was,” out on 23rd March – which seems a bit daft, but it was meant to have been out before the tour, last week in fact. Atlantic Records delayed the release in what seems a truly anachronistic move; really, nowadays, who cares about chart positions or avoiding the competition? Are The Staves really needing to avoid a clash with Ed Sheeran or the next Taylor Swift single? If they’d had the album at the show on Saturday, they would have sold buckets, but when you get to a certain level in that game, that’s way too simple. Or maybe Warners are seeing The Staves as the new Corrs (and, to be fair, they cleaned up with The Corrs…)
Yada yada, what do I know..?
Anyway, the last time I saw The Staves was October 2013 and in the interim they’ve made the afore-mentioned album, toured a lot and released the “Blood I Bled” EP.

staves blood bled

“Blood I Bled” came out at the end of last year, has three tracks (only one of which is on the new album) and is wildly impressive.
I approached with care; having quickly learned to love the “Dead & Born & Grown” album, I was a wee bit scared that the greatness of The Staves had been bolstered by the production and mixing skills of Ethan Johns and his dad, who had worked together on most of the album.
It’s OK, nothing to worry about. All three tracks on “Blood I Bled” were produced by The Staves and are great. The track from the forthcoming album was recorded with Justin Vernon, who has worked with Bon Iver, which is supposed to be a good thing…best of the three is the only one they didn’t play on Saturday, “America,” where they seem to get Joseph Heller and George Thorogood name-checked in the same lyric.

Anyway, the show on Saturday was even better than the last one in 2013. A lot better attended. The act has tightened up a lot, Emmylou Stave has become Cruella de Stave and they’re still super-posh. Love ’em.

 

staves live edinburgh

Gigs · Music

The Staves in Edinburgh…

The Staves Edinburgh - I wander I roam

The Staves are coming to The Queens’s Hall on Wednesday, toward the end of another lengthy tour for them.

I’m quite intrigued by the prospect, having spent a lot of my listening time over the last couple of months with their Dead & Born & Grown album, the original cover of which is shown below.  It reminds me of The Millenium’s Begin sleeve, but I love the font and I’ve enjoyed albums for worse reasons than the font on the sleeve…

 

 

 

staves millenium begin

But seriously, I’m pretty excited by this.  I was first attracted to The Staves because of Ethan Johns’ involvement with this album – Johns, of course is Laura Marling’s producer and co-toiler in the garden of greatness (she would be as great without him, but it might not be as obvious,) and has also got a pretty good solo album, If Not Now Then When?

Ethan is the son of Glyn and the nephew of the late Andy (who produced Marquee Moon!) and he and his dad had allegedly (according to Atlantic records’ website) both shown an interest in The Staves; so, happily, they share most (although not all) of the mixing and production credits on D&B&G.  Ethan plays a few instruments too and contributes the great “live” vibe that he adds to Marling’s records – fingers whistling on guitar strings, stuff falling over…

So, with that pedigree of producer and given that posh birds with acoustic guitars seems to be where I’m at a lot of the time now, I got the “Special Edition” of D&B&G (we fall for it every time) which includes a live five track CD, which adds nothing, apart from maybe allowing a picture to be added to the front of the CD showing Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor (probably not from the rough end of Watford) in full on CSN supplication. That’s it below…

 

staves edinburgh live

 

 

CSN Carry On Crosby Stills Nash

Now, obviously, there’s only one CSN, but delightfully, there’s only one The Staves.  Maybe it’s the sibling thing, but the vocal blend they have is unique and striking, as on this YouTube clip below – I’ve been struggling to think what sort of post-production could have been going on to beef up the voices on this, but I ultimately don’t doubt that what we hear in this room is how they sound.  Anyway, I’ll find out in a couple of days.

As for the D&B&G album, I wouldn’t be without it now.  It took a couple of listens, but now I’m a big fan.  It reminds me more of the first America album than CSN, but that’s not a bad thing.  Some parts are better than others, but I love “The Motherlode” and especially “Snow.”  This is partly due to the presence (and appropriate silences) on bass of Pat Donaldson.  He played on the canonical Richard and Linda Thompson records, with the McGarrigles and was also the only member of Fotheringay never to have been in Fairport Convention, which is surely the answer to a pub quiz question in some awful circle of hell.  Also, apparently, a neighbour of Glyn Johns now.  And originally from Edinburgh.

Pat Donaldson really does take The Staves to another place.

Anyway, out of all that, I’ve convinced myself that The Staves at The Queen’s Hall will be the best thing ever…

 

Staves in car

Gigs · Music

My new favourite band

Snowgoose at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

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.

Anna Sheard Snowgoose

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…
NOOOOO!
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.