Monday, June 8, 2015

The Holy Ghosts - Ardrossan Music Experience, 6 June 2015

Arriving at the second night of the Ardrossan Music Experience, local keyboard whizz made good Ian Parker is on stage.  Having made a musical career playing with the likes of the Tom Robinson Band, Clannad and The Hollies, Kilwinning-born represents the sense of possibility that’s inherent in the event.  And you have to say that someone who can flit between ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, and an ELP style version of ‘The Sabre Dance’, with a variety of keyboards and samples clearly demonstrates all sorts of musical possibilities.
The heart of the evening from a blues perspective though, is Edinburgh band The Holy Ghosts, who kick off their set with ‘Twist Of The Knife’, copping a fair old whack of ‘Brown Sugar’ in a way that typifies their Stones influences.  With regular lead vocalist Jacky Sandison laid low by glandular fever, lead guitarist Jon Mackenzie has a decent stab at a Jagger-esque vocal, and indeed does a sterling job on the vocal front throughout.
The Holy Ghosts - pretty in pink
There’s a country rock-cum-blues vibe to much of their set, exemplified by ‘Ride On Baby’, with its southern rock feel, occasionally recalling the likes of Skynyrd and the Black Crowes.  With several songs in this vein there’s a danger of things becoming a bit samey, though ‘Staring Down The Barrel’ is leavened with harp from keyboard player Andy Barbour, whose rock’n’roll piano on ‘We Were Kings’ turns it into one of their stronger songs.
Mackenzie serves up some nicely twangy lead guitar along the way, peaking with the strong riff and slide on ‘Little Kickstarter’ where he has an ‘up on the drum riser’ moment.  Combining ringing chords a la ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ with kick ass drums from Angus Ross, it’s the best example of their Stones-in-country-mode sound.
The highlight though, is ‘Hounds Come To Call’, which opens quietly with reflective piano over a shaker, before bringing together moody slide guitar with a bass figure from Billy Kay that echoes ‘Come Together’.  It’s grittier and dirtier than anything that’s gone before, an extended keyboard spot with a Doors feel giving way to a crescendo of powerhouse drumming and riffing, and a wailing guitar solo.  If that shows what they could be capable of, ‘Ol’ Snake Hips’ gets back to basics in ‘Johnny B. Goode’ gone a bit wonky fashion, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Things cool down for a bit after that, as the educational side of the experience is brought to the fore.  Having been coached by J.J. Gilmour, once of The Silencers, a group of local high school kids get up to perform a song of their own, and do themselves credit, especially with the vocal harmonies from a couple of the girls.
Tom Hingley follows, once of the Inspiral Carpets, with a set that sounds less Madchester than The Jam recreated.  With a powerful rhythm section behind him, he sets his enthusiastic bark of a voice against tense, jagged riffs, featuring some interesting chords and spikiness, but all in all a little goes a long way.

To these old ears the same is true of The Dunwells, a young Leeds four piece who also sport impressive bass and drums, but in the service of an energetic but ultimately rather tame set of indie-style stuff.  But then their target audience ain’t my generation, and the younger crowd seem to be happy enough as they bring the night to a close.

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