We wondered how it would be possible to follow our 50th party with the extraordinary King Creosote…
But we needn’t have worried. Read on for a wee review from Ron…
After the heady gig of Letham Nights’ half century with King Creosote, I felt a mixture of fear and anticipation as we embarked on the next instalment of our musical journey, wondering how we were going to manage to follow LN#50. I then recalled that when travelling in India, 51 was seen as a lucky number in the sub-continent – indeed you will be often paid £51 as opposed to the £50 price on the ticket; – it is a blessing to receive the extra coin: 0 signifies an end and the £1 signifies a beginning or a gift that you have been given to increase. And in inimitable Letham Nights fashion the night was a gift that signalled many new beginnings that I am sure will produce a heavy crop in years to come!!
First to grace the Letham Nights stage, was the raven haired Nicola Madill, an emerging singer songwriter from Tayside, ably supported by the strings of John Curran of Leveebreakers fame. I was concerned when she stood up to give us the first of the beautiful songs she has written, as the packed hall was unusually restive. But should I have worried? Definitely No! By the end of the very first line of ‘There is’ she held the heart of every man and woman in that hall in the palm of her hand and you could have heard the proverbial pin …. By the end of the second song – Diamond and Rust (Joan Baez’s lament for Bob Dylan) she had totally ensnared us in her web as she made this song her own.
I may be putting myself out there – but in my opinion at Letham Nights 51, we heard a voice that will be listened to for many years to come. In ‘Invisible Strings’, a track from her album Solene (to be released in June), Nicola sang “I don’t hear you knocking at my door’ – but I heard her hammering at the door of the music industry. She has a tenderness and a melancholy in her voice that I have not heard since the late great Sandy Denny. But just like Sandy she can put her pedal to the floor and ramp up the power of her voice at the flick of a switch. It is not just about the notes that she sings that speak to me, it’s in the gaps and her phrasing that she takes her art to another level. I suspect there is a great blues singer in there too and I look forward to hearing more. There was also a real sense that this singer has lived the songs she has written and if you missed this performance, I urge you to follow her journey as I know its going to be long and epic.
Well, I thought how could you possibly follow that. But She’Koyokh did and did it with great style and panache – a heady mixture of humour, virtuoso musicianship, spiced with the frenzy, joy and soulfulness that is inherent in klezmer music. The 5 piece band (they are usually 8) had the Letham Nights faithful first tapping their toes, then stamping their feet and by the end of the night cavorting around the dance floor inventing their steps as they whirled around like dervishes. Yes, it was an evening full of energy and musical exploration and you got the feeling that for these exceptionally talented musicians the act of making music and having fun while they were doing it was an end in itself.
The troupe was led by the mesmeric clarinet of Susi Evans who was like an elfin artful dodger as she picked the pockets of our souls – and as she led, we certainly followed. Just as prominent was the violin of Meg-Rosaleen Hamilton who took us on a journey through the Balkans (she honed her art with gypsy fiddlers in Rumania) then into Turkey with her spiralling notes. At the core of the band was the drumming of Christina Borgenstierna and the guitar of Matt Bacon, both graduates of the Plodiv Music Insitute of Bulgaria. But what about the vocals – well they were the icing on the musical cake that is She’Koyokh – Cigdem Aslan appeared like a kurdish Snowwhite that has flown in straight from plains of Anatolia – a voice like a nightingale that had dined on a dish of mulberries and with her coquettish theatrics she was a joy to watch and a delight to hear. This was one class act!
The gig was a platform for their new CD – ‘First Dance on Second Avenue’ – they entertained us with songs about love and romance , Thracian folk songs, an Armenian story of forced migration and loss to jigs from Greece. They led us a merry dance through the olive trees and vineyards of the Balkans with a humour and frenzy that will live in the memory a long time – Haste ye Back to Scotland She’Koyokh – I think I have become a klezmermaniac!!
And so to the next one…!