Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Blues! Roots of the Blues, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jim Gilchrist
He may just be a “grown-up skinny white boy in the wrong country singing the blues,” as he puts it, but Toby Mottershead, singer with the popular Edinburgh roots band Black Diamond Express, can sing naked blues with rough-grained eloquence. He was convincing enough to deliver this solo, all-acoustic gig, a new addition to the Blueswater collective’s Blues! Fringe series, with panache, showcasing early numbers by the likes of such seminal figures as Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell and the two Blind Willies – McTell and Johnson.
Though equipped with three guitars, including a resonator dobro, he chose to bookend his set singing a cappella , opening with an authoritative account of Dillard Chandler’s Short Time Here, Long Time Gone and closing with a nod to the American melting pot’s Celtic input with The Parting Glass.
In between was largely raw Delta blues, much of it accompanied by the melancholy whine of dobro, such as the heartfelt praise song I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down, or the sad slide of the Blind Willie Johnson instrumental Dark Was the Night, which led into the holler and stomp of Rollin’ and Tumblin’.
There were such world-weary gems as McTell’s Dying Crapshooter Blues, which Mottershead delivered with easy familiarity but not without a requisite note of pain, while Good Woman You Can Do No Wrong was his own riposte to the frequent misogyny of the blues canon.
The Train that Carried my Babe from Town, by the country-blues crossover artist Wade Mainer, may not have been the only train song in the programme, but Mottershead’s mournful guitar slides certainly helped us hear that lonesome whistle blow.
Space Triplex, until 29 August, 6:15pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
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