Gig review: Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, August 4.

Over ten years of living in Edinburgh has convinced me that the place with the best programming (particularly for leftfield music) has got to be The Queen’s Hall. That period has seen me see some great acts here (Tindersticks, King Creosote, Low, Sons & Daughters, Yo La Tengo, The Delgados, Mogwai, Divine Comedy, Echo and the Bunnymen, Daniel Johnston, Idlewild, Broken Records, Elbow…those are just the ones I can think of, off the top of my head), and tonight is no exception.

It’s a triple bill that has pulled together three excellent acts, and is compered by Josie Long, who is hysterically funny and a reminder that whilst the fringe goes on outside, there are plenty of great acts in amongst the dross. First on is Darren Hayman, whose prolific output is all the more impressive given how high in quality it is. He begins at the piano for three songs, including the absolutely beautiful ‘Ship’s Piano.’ There’s no outing for tracks off his forthcoming Lido, but we do get an insight into yet another project he has on the go, all about the Essex Witch Trials. He told me afterwards that it has all been written -so I think we can safely expect to see this in about six months.

The first time I saw ballboy was at this very same venue -supporting The Delgados. That night he blew our minds with a reworking of ‘Born In The USA.’ Tonight, he gives us several new songs ‘Slip Into The Ocean Slip into The Sea’ and ‘The Parade.’ His dry sense of humour makes us laugh when he introduces ‘I Gave Up My Eyes To A Man Who Was Blind’ by telling us that someone once asked him -apparently in all seriousness -if it was a true story. Gordon McIntyre is a lyrical genius, and it’s clear why the late, great John Peel (and many others) have and continue to hold him so high.

Now, Dan Willson AKA Withered Hand started recording after Peel died -but I’d be willing to bet that he would have had as many entries on the hallowed Festive Fifty as the two other guests of the night. Dan arrives on stage solo, and the version of ‘Cornflake’ he gives us is brilliant. He’s joined by a number of guests, the first one of which is Neil Pennycook from Meursault, who joins him for a new song ‘Love Over Desire.’ Malcolm Benzie from eagleowl contributes violin and mandolin to much of the evening’s proceedings, including ‘Gethsemane’ from this year’s Heart Heart EP and another fine new song ‘Jubilee.’

THe first time I saw Dan live was third on the bill at the much smaller Cabaret Voltaire at the end of 2009. He’s come a long way in profile since then, but he still seems genuinely humbled to be headlining the Queen’s Hall. Yet there’s so many people here, so thrilled for him to have got here. He dedicates ‘New Dawn’ to the BBC’s Vic Galloway thanking him for his support (Galloway is one of many from the Scottish music scene in the hall tonight). It’s now been three years since his debut LP Good News, and I’m itching for the follow-up, when he’s ready to give it to us. There’s a new 10″ that he’s been teasing us with on his web page.

THe highlight though is the expanded Withered Hand line-up bolstered by the Second Hand Marching Band for ‘Religious Songs.’ On vinyl, this is a joy -but I hope someone recorded tonight’s version, because with the crowd singing along to every word, the effect is brilliant, and I don’t know whether to cry or scream for joy.

Three very talented songwriters, all who have given us so much already-and who, hopefully, have far more left for us to hear.

In Edinburgh this week


I was sernt an email by Bart Owl of the rather fine eagleowl about this gig two days ago. He’s helping organise this fundraiser show for Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity.

Apologies for not writing about this sooner, this does look pretty bloomin’ excellent. I will make no excuses, just advise you to get along if you can.

Should you need more encouragement…

In honour of Rabbie Burns


I have made some odd decisions in life -but something I am very glad I did was to move to Scotland, ten years ago this August.

Robert Burns was Scotland’s national poet, and very much a hero still. he’s probably best known for writing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ but he also wrote many other fine numbers, including ‘My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose’ ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’ and the epic ‘Tam O’Shanter.’

So as today is January 25 -Burns Night in Scotland and in Scottish communities across the world – I give you four of Burns’ best known songs, done by Scots artists.

Delgados -‘A Parcel Of Rogues.’ mp3

ballboy -‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That.’ mp3

Camera Obscura -‘I Love My Jean.’ mp3

Camera Obscura -‘A Red, Red Rose.’ mp3

One thing i would love to post here -but have no knowledge of any footage in audio or video form is of Belle and Sebastian performing in Sweden singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. In Swedish. As you do…



Just how different would the music scene in Britain be without the likes of DJs like Steve Lamacq?

Thoroughly annoyed at the news about 6Music looking likely to be closed down by the BBC. This has been blogged about by many other people far more eloquently than I I feel I could do right now, but suffice to say: There is the demand for it. There is a need for it. Can I listen to it in the car? No, I can’t – but listening to local radio play the likes of Hard-Fi, Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs, Biffy Clyro and various other ‘indie bands’ who crossed over, the point is that we need stations and DJs to champion this stuff. Is this mainstream indie? Of course it is, but the likelihood of hearing Biffy or Snow Patrol on daytime local radio 10 years ago seemed remote. The Beeb has always had a more adventurous music policy – and radio is still key to breaking bands in the 21st century.

Tom Robinson at 6Music was one of the very first DJs to play 17 Seconds Records’ music, and it meant a huge deal. There is some talk of Radio 2 being sharpened up – but dammit, what I wanted was for 6Music to be easier to get hold of, not to have to scratch around for decent music on the radio. People like Steve Lamacq, Jarvis Cocker, Lauren Laverne and other 6Music DJs who actually care about music shouldn’t be having to worry about their jobs. The Beeb wouldn’t axe Radio 3, even though its’ listening figures are not drastically higher than those of 6music. And whilst I have to confess I haven’t listened to the Asian Network either, I hope these two stations fight their corner. Maybe if the Beeb stopped paying inflated salaries to certain presenters…? Hate to point out the Emperor is actually stark bollock naked, but, y’know…

I think this hits the spot very well…

Ballboy -‘All the Records On The Radio Are Shite.’ mp3

Update: watch Adam Buxton offer Mark ‘Tommo’ Thompson out for a fight!

Album Review: Money Can’t Buy Music


Money Can’t Buy Music -‘The Universe For Beginners.’ (Pony Proof)

Money Can’t Buy Music is a collaboration between Sweden’s Maja Mångård and Gordon McIntyre, probably best known as frontman of the legendary ballboy (yes, that is meant to be a lower case ‘b.’) Having been colaborating since 2005, they now release their debut album together.

And it’s an absolutely gorgeous album that showcases just what a strong pair of talents they both are. McIntyre’s vocals and songwriting are much in evidence here, but there’s a definitely separate approach in sound to that of the five ballboy albums. There’s a spirit of electronica running through the album that mixes well with the acoustic pop. it reminds this listener (in a good way) of Postal Service’s album Give Up, another album that saw two indie stalwarts broadening their indie palette with electronica.

McIntyre’s best lyrics often tell a story and represent a stream of consciousness that manages to be crafted and articulate at the same time, no mean feat for any human being. Highlights from the ballboy back catalogue have included ‘I Hate Scotland’ and ‘The sash my father wore’ (no, not the bigotry anthem, but an attack on it). Here in collaboration he adds to an already impressive back catalogue and ‘beautifulgirlssunnyledges’ with its’ character list – the ugly kid on the way to private school with his dad, the girl he’s observed reading books in the same cafe day after day, year after year from childhood onwards, is a definite highlight too.

Gorgeous, dreamy and beuatiful, this Scottish-Swedish collaboration is worth your time and your attention.


The Universe For Beginners is out now on Pony Proof

Money Can’t Buy Music -‘Love Will Break Your Heart.’ mp3

Money Can’t Buy Music -‘The Ghosts.’ mp3

Money Can’t Buy Music website/Money Can’t Buy Music myspace

More Peel, anyone?


Ok, just as it says on the tin.These are tracks that made John Peel’s Festive Fifty, which have proved difficult to get hold of!

Thanks to everyone who has helped! I’m very grateful to all of you.

Melys -‘Eyeliner.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty, no.38)

Cinerama -‘Don’t Touch That Dial.’ mp3 (2003 Festive Fifty, no.1)

Cinerama -‘It’s Not you, It’s me.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.14)

Aphrodisiacs -‘If U Want me.’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.45)

Ballboy -‘I Lost You But I Found Country Music (featuring Laura Cantrell).’ mp3 (2004 Festive Fifty no.17)

Jah Woosh -‘Freedom.’ mp3 (1977 Festive Fifty no. 24)

Motors -‘Bring In the Morning Light.’ mp3 (1977 Festive Fifty no.56)

Oldham Tinkers -‘John Willie’s Ferret.’ mp3 (1977 Festive Fifty no.52)

Dr. Feelgood -‘Paradise.’ mp3 (1977 Festive Fifty no.33)

Age Of Chance -‘Bible Of The Beats.’ mp3 (1986 Festive Fifty no.27)

400th post -STILL keeping it Peel

(John Peel in 2004. If it’s good enough for him…)

Well, seemingly just a couple of months after I did my 300th post, here is the 400th. There will be many more to come in the following few days, my interiew with Foxface, my review of Sons and Daughters/Black Kids/Broken Records’ gig…but to celebrate, some more music that made John Peel’s Festive Fifty:

First up, given that this blog has done its’ best to champion scots indie, one of Edinburgh’s top acts:

Ballboy -‘I gave up my eyes to a man who couldn’t see.’ mp3

This was actually only a b-side originally, to ‘True Faith’ but was later remixed and a hit in its own right in early 1995.

New Order -‘1963.’ mp3

I haven’t featured the Smiths so far on these Festive Fifty posts, not because I don’t love them – I do very much, but couldn’t decide what. Anyway, in the end it’s this one, very appropriate for the 400th post:

Smiths -‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish.’ mp3 (1987 Festive Fifty no.40)

This band weren’t on the c86 compilation, nor were they scottish, but it’s easy to understand how people might think they were both of these things. How this only reached no 50 is a mystery, but hey…

Talulah Gosh -‘Talulah Gosh.’ mp3
(1987 Festive Fifty no.50)

Pete Astor, who also recorded as The Wisdom Of Harry, and the Loft, is one of the greats of underground English indie:

Weather Prophets -‘Almost Prayed.’ mp3 (1986 Festive Fifty no.13)

These two tracks were ones I had never heard of before I did research into the Festive Fifty…but I’m glad I did:

Membranes -‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder.’ mp3 (1984 Festive Fifty no.6)

Frank Chickens -‘Blue Canary.’ mp3 (1984 Festive Forty no.42)

…and another goodie from 1984. A bad year politically in so many ways, but a great year for music:

Propaganda -‘Dr. Mabuse.’ mp3 (1984 Festive Fifty no.31)

Welsh act melys topped the Festive Fifty in 2001 with ‘Chinese Whispers’ but they had some other entries including this excellent track the same year:

Melys -‘I Don’t Believe In You.’ mp3 (2001 Festive Fifty no.35)

And another welsh act to finish:

Helen Love -‘Girl About Town.’ mp3 (1996 Festive Fifty no.10)

Thanks to all my readers for support and comments, here’s to the next…?

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey?

John Peel in 1976

OK, slightly rubbish heading but I’m running out of funny original titles.

Anyway, it’s been a few days since I did a post resting on John Peel’s Festive Fifties, so here we go:

In recent years, it is increasingly being considered that John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten)’s post Sex Pistols band, Public Image Ltd (PiL) may, in fact, have been far more groundbreaking than the Sex Pistols. No kidding.

Public Image Ltd.- ‘Public Image.’ mp3 (1978 Festive Fifty no.9, 1979 Festive Fifty no.9, 1980 Festive Fifty no.11, 1981 Festive Fifty no.26, 1982 All-time Festive Fifty no.20)

Famously, John Peel’s favourite ever song was this, the opening lines of which are now on his gravestone:

Undertones -‘Teenage Kicks.’ mp3 (1978 Festive Fifty no.10, 1979 Festive Fifty no.2, 1980 Festive Fifty no.7, 1981 Festive Fifty no.6, 1982 Alltime Festive fifty no.8, Millennium no.2)

There seems to be a bit of a link between teaching and rock’n’roll, despite the fact that the two might seem to be diametrically opposed. Step forward, in this case, Gordon MacIntyre and Katie Griffiths from Ballboy.

Ballboy -‘All The Records On the Radio Are Shite.’ mp3 (2002 Festive Fifty no.10)

There have been a number of cover versions making the Festive Fifty over the years, including this one (a fair bit of ‘goth’ made it onto the FF over the years):

Bauhaus -‘Ziggy Stardust.’ mp3 (1982 Festive Fifty no.14)

…and despite the accusations, it wasn’t all white boys with guitars in the Festive fifty over the years either

Broadcast -‘Echoes Answer.’ mp3 (1999 Festive Fifty no.36)

Though some of those white boys with guitars did make some excellent records, though:

Pavement -‘Range Life.’ mp3 (1994 Festive Fifty no.14)

‘At least once a week I drive a nail through my foot for not seeing them while I had the chance’ said Peel of Big Black. Maybe I’m just afraid of pain. Main man Steve Albini went on to produce Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Low and the Wedding Present.

Big Black -‘Colombian Necktie.’ mp3 (1987 Festive Fifty no.18)

Finally, many thanks to Steve at Teenage Kicks for posting these, without whom I wouldn’t be able to post these here:

Sabres Of Paradise -‘Wilmot.’ mp3 (1994 Festive Fifty no.

Ministry -‘Jesus Built My Hot Rod.’ mp3 (1992 Festive Fifty no.3)

Very Things -‘The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes.’ mp3 (1984 Festive fifty no.27)

Will be more music here over the weekend. Keep it tuned, so to speak. X

A Peel-approved Burns’ Night! (Part One)

This post is jointly dedicated in respect of Robert Burns and John Peel, and features three scots bands, beloved by the late Mr. Peel covering Burns related songs.

Today is Burns’ Night in Scotland, in honour of Robert Burns (1759-1796), scotland’s National Bard. No other literary figure – not even Shakespeare- can really be eclebrated as he is. The man was a legend, and his inspiration runs through to this day, inspiring many. Maya Angelou (I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings) discovered Burns when she was eight and said ‘He was the first white man I read who seemed to understand that a human being was a human being and that we are more alike than unalike.’ At the Burns and a’ that Festival in 2003, Patti Smith performed a rendition of ‘Afton Water.’ Kofi Annan gave the inaugural Robert Burns Memorial lecture in New York, using Burns’ ‘A Man’s a man for a’that’ as the touchstone for his remarks. Written in 1795 and covered by Ballboy (see below), this ‘anthem of radicalism’ was described by his later biographer Auguste Angellier as a ‘Marseilliase of Equality’ and was chosen to open the new scottish parliament.

Ballboy -‘A Man’s a Man For a’That.’ mp3 (Available as a free mp3 from their website)

My all-time favourite scottish band The Delgados covered ‘Such a Pacel Of Rogues In A Nation’ for a Peel session a few years ago. The Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation refers to the English and England, and is Burns’ scathing attack on the Union Of Parliaments in 1707. Some see it as evidence of his nationalist tendendies, but others have suggested that he was just being provocative.

The Delgados -‘A Parcel Of Rogues.’ mp3 (available on their Peel sessions album)

Burns was a love machine par excellence, fathering nine children, not all of them with his wife Jean Armour. But she inspired ‘I Love My Jean’ set to music by Camera Obscura a few years ago, who also wrote music for ‘My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.’

Camera Obscura -‘I Love My Jean.’ mp3

Camera Obscura -‘A Red, red rose.’ mp3 (from the I Love My Jean single)

Other than that, amongst many others are Eddi Reader, who has released a n entire album of Burns’ songs and also, Belle and Sebastian have covered one of his best-known songs ‘Auld lang Syne’ in swedish (if anyone knows how to get hold of this please let me know).

There will be more scots, John Peel related music later. Watch this space.

For more on Robbie Burns go here

Six of One and a Dozen Of The Other

Well, the Jock’N’Roll albums poll may not have posted any results…yet – but I figured that you can never have too many reminders.

So here are six great Scottish bands, with two mp3s apiece. Enjoy!

Aereogramme – ‘Zionist Timing.’ mp3

Aereogramme -‘Wood.’ mp3

Arab Strap – ‘Cherubs.’ mp3

Arab Strap – ‘The Love Detective.’ mp3

Ballboy -‘Sex Is Boring (John Peel Session 21/3/00).’ mp3

Ballboy – ‘Sex Is Boring (John Peel Session 21/3/00).’ mp3

Delgados -‘American Trilogy.’ mp3

Delgados -‘Sink Or Swim.’ mp3

Sons and Daughters – ‘Johnny Cash.’ mp3

Sons and Daughters – ‘Dance me In.’ mp3

Teenage Fanclub – ‘What You Do To me.’ mp3

Teenage Fanclub – ‘It’s All In My Mind.’ mp3

As always, if you like what you hear, go and support the bands by checking out their MySpace sites and becoming their friends, buying the music from iTunes or Amazon or your local independent shop, seeing them in concert, and of course, voting for scottish acts at Jock’n’Roll

Hope you had a good Easter, Ed