Letham Nights #56 – The Jellyman’s Daughter

February 15th, 2018
by Letham Nights

The Jellyman’s Daughter

with Al Shields

Saturday 17th March 2018

Doors 7.30 until Midnight

Tickets Here>>

When Scottish duo The Jellyman’s Daughter came calling it was hard to resist.  Two years ago at LN#40 (go back and read the review!!) this frighteningly talented duo played as openers to Cera Impala and the New Prohibition.  We said then that they could just as easily have topped the bill such is their class. And now they are launching their second album,  Dead Reckoning, with their own headlining show at Letham Nights on St Patrick’s Night.  What a hooley we are going to have!

The Jellyman’s Daughter lands squarely in the middle of a strange crossroads between bluegrass, post-rock, folk and soul. Mixing their unique vocal harmonies with wild and visceral cello, driving guitar and sweet mandolin, Emily and Graham write their songs together with brilliant technical musicianship and beautiful creativity.  The result has all the class and quality and spine-tingling soul of any of the great duos in this genre whether it be the Civil Wars or Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings.  And here they are!  Right here at Letham Nights on 17th March!  Have a wee listen to this and then get booked!

Tickets Here>>

Introducing Al Shields

Al Shields is an Edinburgh-based songwriter, with influences rooted in old-time country, folk and blues music.

Originally from the small Scottish island of Bute (where he grew up on a healthy diet of country and folk music from his mother’s record collection), Al moved to Edinburgh in 2005, and is a founding member of indie outfit Ardentjohn, with whom he has enjoyed independent success. Their debut album ‘On The Wire’ garnered very favourable reviews in mainstream music press, with Uncut magazine describing the band as “refreshing new arrivals”.

With the band on hiatus, Al returned to his musical roots, recording and touring his country-tinged solo album ‘Slow Burner’, and gigging regularly with his band The Wilted Roses. He has recently had the privilege of supporting a number of international touring acts, including legendary Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy, Joe Pug, Neal Casal, Red Sky July, and LA country rockers Dead Rock West.

Tickets Here>>

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Letham Nights #54 – The Review – Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra

January 17th, 2018
by Letham Nights

Letham Nights 54 – The Review

Let the wild winter wind bellow and blow, I’m as warm as a July tomato.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. As the landscape around paled into a frost-bitten melancholy of mists and mellow fruitfulness departed, and the fields hardened their hearts against Jack Frost’s nimble advances, those of us within The Hall were warmed literally and figuratively by that pot-bellied stove of rhythm and righteousness in the form of none other than our good friend and fellow traveller on the road to enlightenment and sweet fortune, Jez Hellard.

But patience, folks. More of old friends later. Before any of that came our support in the shape of Dundee and Fife’s own, The Mnemonics. This bunch are new friends in more ways than one, after all the guys were barely six years old when Letham Nights first opened our doors way back in the mists of time when phones were dumb and presidents were smart. Yes, The Mnemonics are just starting out on their voyage through the starry-eyed romp that is popular music but on this evidence they’ll be around for some time yet. From soon to be single, ‘Sunrise’, to set closer, ‘Bones’ their twinkly guitar interplay and solid rhythms jollied along strong lyrics and melodies and left no toe untapped. All the more impressive as they had eschewed their usual electric axes for acoustic instruments for the evening. Nice bit of African influence in the lead guitar at times too. Nice!

And then for the main event. Transitory Troubadour and veteran of the road less travelled, Jez Hellard, has haunted our house of harmonies on no fewer than three previous occasions but this was the first time he had brought members of his cosmic collective, The Djukella Orchestra. With him this evening were submariner, Nye Parson, on upright bass and fruit of the loins of myriad dangerous radicals, James Patrick Gavin, on violin. We’ve come to love and revere Jez’s virtuosity on harmonica and flat-picked guitar and his musical compatriots on this tour turned out to be maestros in their own right. Starting with the power-waltz instrumental of ‘Southwind’ Jez tickles the six-string and hands out the solos to Nye and James both of whom contrive through genius exertions to go the entire evening without playing the same note twice. C’est impossible? Non, mon ami! The trio power on through jigs (‘rashers and sausages’) and reels, calling in at reggae and the mouth-organ masterpiece of ‘Miners Picket Waltz’. Not content to just warm our cockles the gang then break our hearts with a soaringly beautiful version of our unofficial anthem, Scott Cook’s ‘Pass It Along’. And what more fitting climax could there be to Act One than the much anticipated Atlas Tango with our very own Ron & Janey gliding round the dance floor as if it was a bar in Buenos Aires. Poetry in motion!

Then on to the second set where, I confess, your humble reviewer somewhat abandoned the written form and gave in to bonhomie, joie de vivre and those seductive pleasures of Bacchus for which our species has such weakness. And so suffice it to say that there was mesmerising music, dizzying dancing and a very late bedtime for all and sundry. Just grand!

Check out Jez and The Djukella Orchestra here >>

Check out The Mnemonics on Facebook here >>

Review by Mick Pritchard

Photos by Caroline Tosin and Roy Campbell











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Letham Nights #55 – The Railsplitters

December 10th, 2017
by Letham Nights

The Return of the Railsplitters!

And introducing Steph Fraser

Saturday 27th January 2018

Doors 7.30 until Midnight

Folks, don’t delay – this one is going to sell out.  For sure… IS SOLD OUT!!


Tickets Here>>

The Railsplitters bring their high energy brand of unconventional bluegrass from Boulder, Colorado back to the village! Although rooted in traditional bluegrass and old time music, The Railsplitters push the boundaries of those genres in every sense.

Look forward to hearing lush harmonies, instrumental virtuosity and non-conformist songwriting. This hugely entertaining band draws on a range of influences including folk/roots, Americana, modern pop and rock & roll as well as bluegrass pioneers like Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. Featuring banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass, The Railsplitters have the kind of raw power that will knock your socks off! The line-up features Mississippi-born Lauren Stovall and her luminous vocals in the lead, Dusty Rider’s melodically intricate banjo licks, Peter Sharpe’s Brazilian and bluesy flair on mandolin, Joe D’Esposito’s New England and Italian-inspired fiddling and the ever-so-groovy Jean-Luc Davis on the double bass.

Check this out!

Having got their career off to a flying start by winning the band competition at the popular and influential Rockygrass festival, The Railsplitters have spent much of the last few years on the road honing their craft. With three albums and two extensive UK tours under their belts, the band has received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic for their songwriting talent, outstanding vocals and exceptional musical range. Though they operate with the instrumentation of a bluegrass band, The Railsplitters are making music totally unlimited by tradition. This is music for the open road, the open dance floor, and open ears – music of the American West, made for all.

Startlingly original and very exciting to listen to” – Bluegrass Today

The Railsplitters embody two of my favorite musical elements: high quality musicianship and great original songs. They use both to make them, without a doubt, one of the best bluegrass bands to emerge in the last few years.” Andy Hall, The Infamous Stringdusters

Introducing Steph Fraser

And we are delighted and excited to welcome Steph Fraser to open the evening. Steph, originally from Blackpool has been playing live for ten years and is now based in Scotland. At 15 she toured Ontario Canada, making her showcase at Canadian Music week. Steph signed a deal with Island Records at 19 however parted company with the label at 21. Since then she has toured across Europe, lived and played in Nashville and was part of a band which supported Mumford and Sons. She continues to perform and record independently. Her extraordinary, haunting voice has depth, range, power and tenderness, hooking you into her beautiful lyrical melodies.  Check her out here >>

and here…

It’s going to be quite an evening!

Tickets Here>>

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Letham Nights #54 – Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra

November 9th, 2017
by Letham Nights

Saturday 9th December

Doors at 7.30, Music from 8pm – Midnight

RETURN OF THE JEZ!  And this time he’s bringing the orchestra!


Tickets Here>>

Much loved balladeer and folk warrior, Jez Hellard, returns to Letham Nights in style, this time bringing an amazing trio of troubadours, The Djukella Orchestra to entertain you and sting you into action.  The band have prepared a whole set of beautiful music as he says: “specially designed to counteract the effects of Trump, Armageddon, talent shows, fracking, dolphinoplasty, Paul Nuttalls and the curse of magnetic lettering, and to encourage you to walk with a charismatic sophistication to your step”. The Djukella Orchestra includes some of the finest young instrumentalists on the UK folk scene.  They will offer you an aural cornucopia of ballads, jigs, and reels as well as some rumba, tango and reggae, from their latest live release D’rect From The Shire all designed to make you dance like a dervish.

As you will remember if you were at his previous Letham Nights performances, Jez Hellard is a singer of potent songs, a virtuoso guitarist and a simply stunning, smoking harmonica player. His lyrics are often stinging political swipes at the establishment, railing at the injustices of current and past events.  Add to this some silky double-bass and fiery fiddling and you have a blend of virtuoso musicianship, witty political comment and a deep repertoire of powerful songs that will leave you breathless.  So, get a move on and get booked!

Tickets Here>>

Opening set from The Mnemonics

We are delighted to introduce fantastic new local lads, The Mnemonics.  The band are from various parts of Fife but ply their trade mainly in Dundee.  As far as we are concerned then, this is a home gig!  They combine great songwriting with an excellent sense of melody and driving, poppy-rocky rhythms. Add to that great taste in music – they cite The Jacksons’ ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ as their favourite song!  We can’t wait to see them live!  Have a wee listen…

Tickets Here>>

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Letham Nights #53 – The Review

November 8th, 2017
by Letham Nights

Adam Kay

with special guest Sully O’Sullivan

The raft that laughed. The chariot of chortles. The five door of haw haw.

Yes, for one night only, the Letham Nights rock n roll behemoth became instead a vehicle for amusement and smirkful appreciation of the dark arts of the stand-up comedian.

At this point a lesser reviewer would offer up a corny play on ‘laughter being the best medicine’ and ‘who better to mend a broken funny bone than a qualified doctor’ and ‘doctor, doctor, my sides have split with mirth’ and other such baloney. But we’d never do that….. Never in a million years…… Well, erm…. You see we’ve never had a proper comedy night (complete with full blown comedy legend) so we’re a bit nervous about committing our stodgy witticisms and feeble gags to posterity lest we be judged for the ill-bred toothless simpletons that we, admittedly, are. Be that as it may, there was a night, and oh, what a night. A night of laughter and pathos. Of stage-diving and c-bombing. Of Matt the Knob and ‘Steve’ the King of Latin. Of old booze and new friends. And to cap it all there was the semi-mythical heifer of beneficence, shaking her mighty udders over all assembled and causing them to spill great filthy wadges of cash into the milk-bucket of kindness and making a sh*t-load of money for MacMillan Cancer Support in memory of great friend and Mutley-wheezing, teary-eyed joker, Iain Macaulay.

First up was Kiwi Mancunian (Mankiwian?) hepcat, Sully O’Sullivan. Sully had us pretty well sized up (somewhere between pre-theatre and social club) before he’d delivered his first line. Sure enough, his mischievous patter hit all the right notes and his bits on Britain’s national animals (‘we’ll see your dragon and raise you a unicorn’) and religious fights between Paisley school kids had us all in bits. I’m afraid poor Matt came in for a bit of stick but if you will sit fifteen rows from the stage what do you expect, Matt? It was prudent that we had doctors in as Sully’s Dirty Dancing finale with ‘Steve’ could have ended badly but turned out to be a thing, nay a shimmering crystalline moment in time, so achingly beautiful as to bring a tear to the eye of all who could bring themselves to watch. The time of our lives, indeed!

Then our main turn, ladies and gentleman. And we were in the company of comedy royalty. Author, performer, writer of radio and television gold, qualified doctor and all round good egg, Adam Kay was in the house and rocking a rather fetching medical shoe for an injury caused by a randy bull…possibly. Adam’s performance was less stand-up comedy and more subtle comic rhetoric with musical accompaniment and political overtones. So a hilariously uncomfortable excerpt from his ‘young doctor’s case book’ about patients with (how to put this) self-administered ad-hoc internal prosthetics are followed by medical reworkings of popular hits. Who could forget Paul McCartney’s jaunty tribute to urinary issues, ‘Oh Bloody Bladder’? Or that timeless paean to pulmonary decay, ‘The Girl with Emphysema’? But it’s not all hits and giggles. Adam has been leading us up the garden path, boys and girls. By way of finale he offers us the harrowing story of his final outing as an obstetrician. It’s not pretty and it’s not funny but it is big and clever and it leaves no one in any doubt of the point that Adam has been craftily leading us up to. It seems our medical professionals are not in it for the money or adulation and Secretaries of State who claim otherwise are disingenuous at best and perhaps even a little bit shitey. Well, quite.

Adam’s generosity didn’t stop at waiving his fee. He also provided us with ten, personally dedicated copies of his amazing new book, ‘This is Going to Hurt’, for silent auction. And our amazing Letham Nighters went above and beyond the call of duty with the books and takings fetching a cool £1,760 (one thousand, seven hundred and sixty pounds) for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Then, with lessons learned and laughter laughed we supped a while under the auspices of Roy’s iPod. And best of all, we made a shed-load of cash for a brilliant charity whose work has, tragically, touched almost all of us personally. Because amongst all the laughs and the craic, this was an evening to remember those we’ve lost along the way, to help those who can still be helped, and to restate a promise that one day we will beat cancer for ever. LN x

Find Adam Kay here:                         http://www.adamkay.co.uk/

And Sully O’Sullivan here:             http://www.sullyosullivan.com/

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Calling All Letham Nights Lovers!

October 28th, 2017
by Letham Nights

We need your help!

How much do you love Letham Nights?  Do you want to see our shows continue?

Could you do ONE THING ONCE?

Yes?  Then get in touch!

Planning and setting up the shows and clearing up after takes a lot of work and at the moment this is down to a very small group.  If a few more folk could give up the occasional hour here and there, then we are sorted.  If not, then without meaning to alarm you, things get a bit tricky.

So what do we need you to do?  Any of the following…

  • Postering in your local area
  • Collecting our sale-or-return order for the Clap & Tipple bar on gig Saturdays at 3.30pm
  • Returning what’s left on Sunday or Monday and paying the bill
  • Buying food for the performers, ice for the bar and any last minute stock
  • Helping to set up the hall from 4pm (chairs and tables, bar, lighting, signage)
  • Volunteering on the bar on the night
  • Collecting and cleaning glasses
  • Clearing up on Saturday night
  • Finishing the clean up on Sunday morning
  • Washing & ironing the tablecloths
  • Taking photos and video on the night
  • Sharing, commenting and enthusing on social media

If you would like to help – even doing ONE of these things ONCE a year then it would make a HUGE difference for us

So… PLEASE get in touch:

e. mike@lethamnights.org

m. 07838 820659

And if you want to become more involved and help us with our future planning, then please come along to our next AGM…

Letham Nights Annual General Meeting

Date: Sunday 12th November 2017

Venue: Off The Rails Arthouse, Ladybank Station

Time: 2pm


Up and Coming Gigs

Saturday 9th December – Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra

Saturday 27th January – The Railsplitters – more info soon

Saturday 17th March – The Jellyman’s Daughter – more info soon



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Letham Nights #53 – Adam Kay

August 27th, 2017
by Letham Nights

Saturday 7th October 2017

Doors at 7.30pm

The Doctor Will See You Now – Our first ever COMEDY NIGHT with best selling author and comedian Adam Kay

2 weeks to go!
Don’t miss out!

Tickets Here>>

At Letham Nights, you know us… We like to branch out, push boundaries, give you something you didn’t know you wanted.  This time we are going for the jocular and we think you will be very amused.

Writer and comedian, Adam Kay, has just finished a second completely SOLD OUT  run of his acclaimed comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe.  He also did a completely SOLD OUT run in the West End and has toured internationally.  He is a previous winner of the London Cabaret Award and writes extensively for TV, film and radio.  Credits include Mitchell & Webb, Very British Problems, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Crims (co-creator), Mongrels, Up The Women, Flat TV, Our Ex Wife, Child Genius.  Adam is a regular voice on Radio 4’s “The Now Show”, and also appears on BBC 2’s The Culture Show.  His first book “This is Going to Hurt” was published by Picador on September 7th 2017 and shot straight into the best-sellers list.  The book has been showered with a deluge of positive reviews from all major news outlets from the Sunday Times to Buzzfeed as well as effervescent endorsements from Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, Mark Haddon and Shappi Khorsandi. The book – and his live act – is a painfully funny and very moving account of his 6 years as a doctor in the NHS.  It will split your sides and break your heart.

So get booking folks!  You will be rewarded with some of the best laughter medicine money can buy!

You can also see Adam at Toppings Book Shop in St Andrews on Sunday 8th

The reviews speak for themselves

“Blissfully brilliant” Mail on Sunday

“Left us with eyeliner streaming down our face” Cosmo

“Electrifying” Guardian

“Filthy and incredible funny” Three Weeks

“Fantastic” Broadway Baby

“Never less than utterly clever” Telegraph

“This made me very, very happy” Stephen Fry

Two funny… Sully O’Sullivan

And of course we won’t short change you!  We have booked not one but TWO acts.  Opening for Adam will be another comedy genius of the Fringe, Sully O’Sullivan.  Sully was a highlight of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival by The NZ Herald, a highlight of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival by The Scotsman, featured on Australian TV’s The Comedy Channel, hosted a sellout standup tour of Croatia, won Canada’s annual Improvaganza Tournament, and completed 2 UK national tours.

Hall Joking Aside…

This will be a special memorial show to a great friend of ours, Iain Macaulay, with Adam taking no fee and the proceeds going to that amazing charity MacMillan. There will be opportunities on the night to contribute, and if you want, our quirky ticketing system will allow you to pay double, triple, whatever you like, over the minimum asking price…

Tickets Here>>

Go on, have a laugh!  You’re bound to end up #ROFLetham

Age Guidlines: 14+

Warnings: Contains strong language, medical and sexual references.


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Letham Nights #52 – Rachel Sermanni – The Review

August 1st, 2017
by Letham Nights

Pure Enchantment!

There are 52 cards in a full deck and our friends at Letham dealt us a real cracker of a hand for the next installment of the Letham Nights story. I would call the line up of Rachel Sermanni with Hannah Jarrett-Scott in support represented a ‘Royal Flush’ that certainly deserved a ‘Full House’ and for those in the audience that came knowing nothing about the singers – well they certainly came up trumps!! (Ron really knows how to keep a pun going! – Ed)

Hannah Jarrett-Scott is a young Scottish singer-songwriter and whilst this was one of her first solo gigs, she quickly showed that she is used to being in the spotlight, drawing a warm and appreciative response from the Letham Nights audience. Trained at the Royal College of Speech and Drama – she has a CV that includes Katherine in ‘Taming of the Shrew’, Rosie in ‘Cabaret’ and Richard II in ‘Richard II’. Accompanied on keyboard by Gill Higgins – who also added sweet harmonies – Hannah switches between achingly beautiful ballads to upbeat quirky songs with both genres giving us insight into what this young talent is all about. In ‘Those Days’ you get the full range of Hannah’s voice – the athleticism, power, tonality and warmth. In ‘Granny Song’ you get a glimpse of Hannah’s personality, humour and skill with words – “If I don’t see you at the weekend, I’ll see you through the window” – and anyone who gets the line ‘from Kelty to Kirkcaldy’ successfully embedded into their lyrics has my respect. This voice is at the start of an exciting journey and I hope I don’t have to wait too long for another encounter. (Check out her EP ‘Pictures’ available on iTunes).

Reverting to my deck of cards theme Rachel would be our Queen of Spades, if I believe the press that our chanteuse is a leading exponent of ‘Folk Noir’. Rachel, it is said was born under a rainbow, and whilst there are dark tones in those whimsical magical songs – there is an overriding tenderness in her pure, pure voice, the fragility and vulnerability of which belie its immense power. It is three years since I last saw Rachel and it has been far too long. To see this elfin barefoot sprite grace the stage in Letham with Jen Austin and Thomas Cauldwell at her side and transform a village hall into what felt like a clearing in a pinewood as the Northern Lights danced around you was pure enchantment.   One of the pleasures of hearing any song of Rachel’s is that it always feels that you are hearing it for the very first time. It seems so fresh and personal to you – this is especially true in ‘Gently III’ and ‘Banks Are Broken’. Maybe, it’s because the songs come straight from her heart and dreams that gives the audience such a sense of intimacy. But like the Lady of Shallot you feel always that mirror will soon crack from side to side – ‘Tonight is the last time I get to hold you fast’ she sang as the Letham audience were thralled deeper and deeper into her web of mystery. We drank in ‘Wine Sweet Wine’ and ‘Tractor’ from ‘Tied To The Moon’ and as ‘the Fog’ gently cleared it was all too soon time to say adieu. Rachel ended the night by coming off the stage to say goodnight with Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ and I am sure one or two did – but at Letham Night No 52 she made my dreams come true – Thank you, Thank you Rachel!!

Ron Montgomery

And how about this lovely rendition of The Fog

You can catch up with Rachel soon on her autumn tour of the UK – click here>>

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Letham Nights #52 – Rachel Sermanni with Hannah Jarrett-Scott

June 3rd, 2017
by Letham Nights

Rachel Sermanni

with special guest Hannah Jarrett Scott

Saturday 17th June 2017

7.30pm – Midnight


Tickets here >>!

It’s going to be a special night of exceptional female voices…

We had to pinch ourselves when the amazing Rachel Sermanni gave us a resounding YES! when we asked if she would headline our 52nd show on Saturday 17th June. How exciting is that!!  And then the added bonus of the talented Hannah Jarrett Scott…

The music of Folk-Noir Balladeer, Rachel Sermanni, has the flesh of Folk but, if you were to cut the skin, you’d find it pumped with contemporary, genre blended blood.  Born under a rainbow, in Raigmore hospital, on the 7th November ’91, Rachel Sermanni has grown into a writer, musician and artist. In all that she creates, it seems, there remains a preservation of the pure and mystical, symbolic in that beam of fragmented light that shone, 25 sun-spun years ago.

In 2011, Rachel Sermanni released her first EP, The Bothy Sessions, recorded quite spontaneously, deep in a Highland forest with 10 friends. Soon to follow came the studio EP, Black Currants. And on the 12th September 2012, Rachel’s debut Album, Under Mountains, was set free into the ether. Produced by Ian Grimble (Travis, Manic Street Preachers, Texas…) and recorded at Watercolour Studios nestled among big, purple hills in the West Highlands, Under Mountains was Rachel’s first full musical contribution to the world. And the world opened it’s doors.

Have a listen to this gorgeous track…

In March 2014, hiding in the sticks of Nova Scotia, Rachel sowed the seeds of a new creation. Tied to The Moon is Rachel’s sophomore studio album. It was released in July 2015 to wide spread critical acclaim. The songs follow the theme of being ‘Like a Moth’; of being in darkness but drawn to the flame. To hear it is to take a walk in the moonlight.

Her most recent release was a small EP named Gently. And it is as the name would suggest. Gentle. Listen and weep…

Rachel Sermanni’s creativity hasn’t burgeoned without help, of course. Friends, family members, peers, teachers and employees have always been supportive and often very wise in their advice or observations. And you’ll find that most of her astrological being resides in the 5th house, otherwise known as The House of Fun. Whether you adhere to horoscopic notions or not, it works as a succinct explanation in this case: Having so much planetary energy in the 5th House means that Creation equals Existence; Creative expression equals Happiness.

Tickets Available – Click Here!

Introducing Hannah Jarrett Scott

We are also delighted to announce our opening act for this show – the fantastic Hannah Jarrett-Scott who has just launched her first EP, Pictures, to critical acclaim.  Watch this lovely film of Hannah busking or go to her Soundcloud Page

Tickets Available – Click Here>>

So you think you’re funny?

At Letham Nights we are no fans of walls and boundaries.  So on October 7th 2017 we will be breaking boundaries again and hosting our first and undoubtedly hilarious COMEDY NIGHT!  This will be a special memorial show to a great friend of ours with our main act taking no fee and the proceeds going to MacMillan.  Again, we will keep you posted with details.

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Letham Nights #51 – She’Koyokh – The Review

May 25th, 2017
by Letham Nights

It was the first of the next 50…

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…!

Letham Nights #52 – Rachel Sermanni with Hannah Jarrett-Scott

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