ACOUSTIC MUSIC CENTRE @ ST BRIDE'S (VENUE 123)
IN THE midst of the bubbling musical eclecticism of the Fringe music
scene, there was an almost surprising pleasure in sitting in a small
room listening to these three strong and unamplified voices delving
with seasoned ease into their rich collective store of (largely
north-eastern) Scots balladry, accompanying themselves with the
unobtrusive strains of melodeon, whistle and fiddle.
Pete Shepheard, Arthur Watson and Tom Spiers have all paid their
dues over decades of the Scottish folk revival, while their material
ranged through the centuries, from Watson's opening Sleepytoon, a
rollicking North-east ditty sung with North-east smeddum, to
lesser-known and venerable material such as The Dun Brown Bride, which
Shepheard rendered in clear and articulate Scots, ending with the kind
of sanguinary denouement which seems near-mandatory for these hoary old
Spiers, a singer gifted with the relatively rare trick of
accompanying himself on fiddle, came up with the one-time folk club
favourite Tae the Beggin', but set to a different and somehow
older-sounding tune than the one we normally associate with it.
So the auld sangs wended their well-paced ways, spinning out the
farmhand or whale-fisher's complaints, lovers' laments or, in the case
of Spiers's Allan Water, a litany of courtship, deceit and suicide (as
Watson pointed out with indecent relish).
They were delivered with regard and infectious warmth, and shifted
across the country to Argyllshire for the closing Boys of Calliburn,
delivered poignantly by Shepheard over the gentle wheeze of his
melodeon, and with a strong-swelling chorus from his companions.
"Assist me, a' ye muses," implored an invocatory line in an earlier
song. On this occasion, however, the muses required little bidding.
• Tonight at 8pm and 9.30pm