Tag Archives: West End Festival

Review: Martin Taylor & Alison Burns

Martin Taylor & Alison Burns, Oran Mor, Glasgow, June 15 2012 ****

Katharine Hepburn famously said of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers that he gave her class and she gave him sex appeal – and something similar applies to the duo of guitarist Martin Taylor and singer Alison Burns. They each bring something quite different to the partnership and that contrast is what makes it work. While the virtuoso guitarist adds colour and finesse to the double act, his singing daughter-in-law brings a warmth to the proceedings and makes Taylor’s technically dazzling playing more accessible. (Indeed, his numerous solo numbers almost seemed to belong to a different gig.)

That was certainly very evident at their Oran Mor concert last night, part of the West End Festival. When the pair were onstage together, they dished up some lovely duets. Burns, who has gained in confidence and presence since the last time I heard her (three years ago), has a velvety voice, tinged with Julie London-esque breathiness but considerably more assured.

Like London she doesn’t mess with the melody, and instead keeps it simple, paying attention to the lyrics and meaning – though only a few of the songs last night had any real emotional depth; moving readings of Stevie Wonder’s If It’s Magic and Sasha Distel’s The Good Life being notable exceptions. Her sugary Sophisticated Lady just served as a nostalgic reminder of Annie Ross’s gutsy, heart-wrenching take on the similarly themed Lush Life on the same stage four months ago …

* First published in The Scotsman, June 16 2012. 

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Review: Rose Room

Rose Room, Arlington Baths, Glasgow, Friday June 8 ***

They may have opened to members in 1870 but the Arlington Baths’ West End Festival gig last night was the first concert in its 142-year history. Anyone who inferred from the festival programme that they might be sitting round the pool watching the band perform was in for a surprise/shock as the hour-long performance actually took place in the cosy bar where the band looked set to contend with noisy weans, diners and oldies out for a Friday night pint.

From the off, however, this Quintet of the Hot Club of France inspired quartet grabbed the attention of the punters and held on to it for most of the gig. Their stock in trade is jaunty, unpretentious, feelgood, gypsy jazz and their not-so secret weapon; the element which elevates it above what it would otherwise be, is Seonaid Aitken who sings in a ladylike style that contrasts with the passion of her more reckless-sounding violin playing which is dynamic and occasionally dazzling.

Indeed, whenever the attention of the audience began to wane – unsurprisingly, given that the punters hadn’t paid for tickets and were (children aside) somewhat the merrier for the cheap bar – it was Aitken who drew it back. In a programme, and genre, dominated by fast or mid-tempo tunes, it was the ballads which stood out. Blues in My Heart was a stylishly arranged and executed example of Rose Room at its best, with lead guitarist Tom Watson serving up a particularly groovy solo and Aitken’s vocals a delight.

Ditto for the concert’s stand-out Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me on which the gentle swing of Watson’s and Tam Gallagher’s guitars plus Jimmy Moon’s bass proved the perfect setting for her dreamy voice.

Catch them in a full concert at Oran Mor on June 22.

First published in The Scotsman,  Saturday June 9

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