Snug and Pint might be more appropriate, as the basement room of the Glasgow pub is jam-packed for this solo acoustic show by Ian Siegal.
Never mind, the man himself is in good form tonight, perhaps reflecting an episode the night before in the Isle of Man, in which – if he is to be believed – he was dumped in a Jacuzzi fully clothed at one in the morning. Whatever, he goes on to deliver a breezy set lasting nearly two hours, leaning heavily but not exclusively on the material featured on his Man & Guitar album.
'The Silver Spurs', originally recorded on 2009’s The Dust, gets things out of the starting blocks, featuring some hammering slide guitar. 'Mary Don’t You Weep No More' follows, a great example of Siegal’s affinity with for aged songs with timeless, beckoning melodies – the set closer of Stephen Foster’s 'Hard Times (Come Again No More)' being another. He doesn’t mess around with songs like these, he lets his delivery release the emotional content in both the words and the music.
|Ian Siegal - he's the train|
Elsewhere though, there’s fun to be had, whether it’s the introduction of a blues stutter into 'Mortal Coil Shuffle', his stab at emulating the finger picking of Charley Patton on 'Pony Blues', or his self-deprecating name-dropping. (Sample: “I’ve met Jason Isbell [formerly of the Drive-By Truckers] three times. But each time I’ve managed to forget I’ve met him already. The last time was the worst, because he’d stayed at my house the night before.”)
Highlights include ‘I Am The Train’, which he notes won a Blues Award even though in his view it’s a country song. To which the obvious response in these parts is “Aye right, Ian”, since the delivery is so blues-driven. Conversely, his take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ confirms that it makes for a delicious piece of country music – check out the version by Crooked Still for another example.
Siegal is a human jukebox of the interface between blues and country, of course, whether classic or obscure. So in keeping with tonight’s upbeat vibe we get a rollicking version of Taj Mahal’s arrangement of the traditional ‘T’ain’t Nobody’s Business’, with its speed freak rap in the middle. And for a first encore – “this is my time”, Siegal suggests with relish – we get treated to a laugh-out-loud outing for Dr Hook’s ‘Michaelangelo’ (their misspelling not mine), which is entirely more salacious than its title suggests.
Siegal is well known for the depth of his vocal growl, enabling him to channel Howlin’ Wolf to great effect. But tonight he also has time to test his theory that a Johnny Cash vocal can lend gravitas to any old schlock, with a burst of Britney Spears followed by Bryan Adams ‘Summer of 69’. Fittingly though, the night closes with a rendition of ‘Take A Walk In The Wilderness’, the plaintive classic by his Glasgow pal Big George, which he is close to making his own.
Due to travel delays I only caught a few songs from Edinburgh’s own Jed Potts. But his solo versions of ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Take Me To The River’, armed only with electric guitar, showed off his ability to get to the heart of these “barn burners” (as he described them). He’s got a good melodic voice too, which could have done with less reverb on this occasion. I look forward to catching him again soon with one of his numerous bands.