A new series of live music evenings opened at Stirling’s Tolbooth Theatre on Sunday 14th. The Golden Hum featured the transcendent vocal and sparse instrumentation of Brigid Mae Power, Gareth Dickson‘s graceful songs and mesmerising finger-picked guitar; and event organiser Constant Follower‘s début live performance.
Local musician, Constant Follower‘s background is in electronic music, and those influences are in evidence as he embarks on the début outing for his instantly compelling songs.
A sonorous analogue bass synth augments the delicately picked acoustic guitar; his deep, mournful vocal, reminiscent of Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan in its approach, is laden with loss before guitar brings a hint of morning. With that guitar work moving between delicate atmospheres and a light intricacy, the resigned honesty and fragility of his songs result in an emotionally charged performance. The set has all the ingredients of something memorable and moving – an open heart, a longing to share and complete trust in his audience. With a début as strong as this, Constant Follower is one to watch.
Gareth Dickson‘s intricate guitar opening and breathless vocal provide an emphatic nod towards the influence of Bert Jansch and Nick Drake. The mesmerising, extended guitar introductions for Gareth’s songs display a fondness for the bass register that’s instantly appealing and a perfect match for his soft voice. This Is The Kiss provides not only a memorable example of both but a short, sweet flavour of the elegant poetry in his lyrics.
This is the kiss
It is all there is
Take it, it’s for you
Only now you don’t exist
You hear the void insist
What kind of choice is this?
Those more obvious influences, though, are only one aspect of the Glaswegian’s fascinating music. His guitar skills have seen him work with the likes of Vashti Bunyan and Devendra Banhart; while the way his subtle use of delay and reverb combine with the soft assurance of his vocal, mark him as very much his own man. Eight releases over the last ten years testify to the range of his skill and his commitment to a constantly developing repertoire.
At times Gareth’s songs appear moribund and questioning, laden with an unsettling discord before the rich complexity of the strings offers a resolution. His affable stage presence and gift for lyrical composition, however, instil his songs with a freshness that speaks more of the dawn, than the gloaming.
Very recently, Folk Radio UK’s review of Brigid Mae Power‘s eponymous album (review here) spoke of the mysteries that surround her music, even her previous releases. The album itself has been hailed as mysterious, exhilarating and strongly individual. Bringing her unique songs to the live stage, she offers a stripped back approach that contrasts the album’s rich soundscape and tapestry of strings.
Brigid’s vocal grips the senses just as effectively from the stage as it does from the studio. Opening with It’s Clearing Now, accompanied by an indolent guitar, her lulling yet powerful vocal, and that constant explorative melisma, make a compelling introduction. The intensity of that opening is lightened by How You Feel with both guitar and vocal releasing the tension before her sleepy delivery of I Roved Out acknowledges the influences of her Irish upbringing and especially that of Andy Irvine and, as mentioned when it featured as a Song Of The Day on Folk Radio UK recently, confirms Brigid’s wide-ranging skill as a solo artist.
Although Brigid’s accordion remained tantalisingly in view, but unused, in this set, her hand-pumped Indian harmonium was there to accompany two songs. The first, immediately recognisable from the album as the austere dream of Let Me Hold You Through This, was a perfect partner to a song from one of her many location recordings (and her 2014 album, I Told You The Truth) Let Love.
A move to the piano seemed to bring a sense of serenity, initially with the warm, melodic optimism of Sometimes, then as Brigid sings to her young son in the beautiful intimacy of Looking at You in a Photo and its Jarrett-like piano exploration.
Closing the set with a trio of songs that hark back to earlier recordings, We Are Quiet Now paints vivid images of emotion; I Don’t Know How To Do This Naturally returns to the languid guitar and ornate vocal of the opening. Finally, in another nod to her trad influences, Brigid pays tribute to Irish traveller Margaret Barry, with a largely unaccompanied She Moved Through The Fair.
In a single, hour-long set, Brigid Mae Power introduced the Stirling audience not only to a more intimate setting for the songs from her enthralling new album, but also to some of her music that has yet to find a place in the spotlight – whether her own compositions or the results of her earlier folk influences.
The inaugural event for The Golden Hum at The Tolbooth has provided exactly what the organisers promised – ‘An intimate night of spectral live music from the fringes of folk, indie and experimental music‘. I’ll be looking forward to many more.
Golden Hum – https://www.facebook.com/goldenhumstirling/
Brigid Mae Power – http://brigidmaepower.com/
Gareth Dickson – http://www.garethdickson.co.uk/
Images by kind permission of EINDP Scotland. www.eindp.co.uk