Men From Leith at The Queen’s Hall tonight has one thread running through its theme, and that is that all performers - Dick Gaughan, Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson) and Dean Owens & The Whisky Hearts - have strong Leith connections, and it is interesting to see and hear how Leith itself has helped shape the music of all of these performers in different ways.
Opening the show for us was Blue Rose Code (Ross Wilson), and a great set from Ross and the band that highlighted what a gifted songwriter and performer Ross Wilson is, and songs like “Ghosts of Leith” and “Pokesdown Waltz” are just a few examples of some of the amazingly well crafted songs performed in this set. Ross Wilson has that ability that all the great songwriters have, and that is to somehow capture little moments of life in lyrics and music. At times, the writing style reminded me a bit of Kris Kristofferson, and I mean that as a huge compliment. Blue Rose Code are going to be around I hope for a very long time and go very far in the music business. They are performing at The Fringe this year on 13th August at The Acoustic Music Centre at St Bride’s, so I will need to try and catch up with them again there.
Second performer for this show was veteran folk musician Dick Gaughan who with a sharp commentary on social and protest issues close to his heart reminded us all where so much of Scottish Folk music comes from. A passionate performance from Dick here of a song very close to his heart and Scots identity “Freedom Come Aa Ye” and fond memories obviously of his days with folk singer Hamish Henderson.
Closing the show for us were Dean Owens and The Whisky Hearts. Dean Owens is a songwriter of huge talent, and although a song like “The Man From Leith” (a song written about his own father’s life) is absolutely perfect for his show, it is only one of some great songs performed here. So many well crafted songs in this set, but “Evergreen” I think is one of my favourites at the moment.
Dean has been recording in Nashville, and that sound resonates through much of the music played tonight on stage by the band, but somehow it still manages to retain a strong and unique Scottish sound to it too. It is always interesting to me to hear just how at home with that Nashville sound many Scottish bands have been over the years. There is obviously a very common sense of musical identity between the two.
A great show, and a well attended concert by an appreciative audience. With bands like Blue Rose Code, The Whisky Hearts and writers of the quality of Ross Wilson and Dean Owens around, I think that Dick Gaughan can be pleased that Scottish music is in such safe hands for a new generation of people.
Also, as well as the music, everyone on stage is helping to keep alive that unique cultural identity that is Leith itself, an identity that has never been subsumed (despite many attempts over the years to do so) into the greater whole of Edinburgh, and I hope never will.
Review by Tom King