Gig review – Laura Marling

Laura Marling – The Caves, Edinburgh
February 4, 2015

Ahead of the release of her fifth album Short Movie, Laura Marling is playing a handful of dates in small venues. And given that she’s played venues like the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall, playing a venue like Edinburgh’s Caves is a rare opportunity to see her in a small place.

Her last album, Once I Was An Eagle, was a stripped back affair, but tonight, fronting a four-piece band and most playing an electric guitar, she’s more rocky. Whether this is a result of her living in the US or not isn’t clear. But for a performer who still has a reputation of being shy, this was a gig that showed she has gained in confidence, and is far better at stage patter than she thinks she is.

As she opens with one of the tracks of the new album ‘False Hope’ that voice leaves me pondering whether she may well be the missing link between Linda Thompson and latter-day PJ Harvey. Though she addresses the crowd in her honeyed Home Counties tones, her singing voice has far more of an American accent. It’s an interesting parallel between the slightly self-conscious person she seems between songs and the increasingly feisty person she seems when performing.

I’ve yet to hear the forthcoming album in its entirety – but the strength of the new songs like ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’ and the closing title track, mixed in with earlier songs from her back catalogue like ‘Master Hunter’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ suggests this is a record that will see her profile rise yet further and a new chapter in her recorded output.

Album Review: Laura Marling


Laura Marling -‘Once I Was An Eagle’ (Virgin)

My first encounter with Laura Marling was back in 2009, when I saw her supporting Daniel Johnston. I hadn’t heard her debut record Alas I Cannot Swim at that point but I was impressed enough by what I heard. However, when I did hear her solo records I didn’t really connect with them. I went through some years of being swamped in submissions of singer-songwriters, to the point that I was turned off musically by those of either sex.

In fact I horrified one friend when I dismissed Ms. Marling and said ‘Look! I’ve still got my Joni Mitchell records.’ Well, sorry Amanda and sorry Laura Marling, because it would appear I have done you a great disservice. I started to wonder if this album might be more up my street when I heard the first track to do the rounds from this record ‘Master Hunter.’

And then the album arrived. And with the opening salvo of ‘Take The Night Off’ and ‘I Was An Eagle’ that this album, recorded with Ethan Johns it’s really not another singer-songwriter record. There’s a toughness here, and yet a dreaminess at the same time. Proof that intensity does not mean that you have to put the amps up to 11.

And I’ve gone back to listen to this album again, and I’m impressed by how good it is. Like a lot of records, it does dip a little about two-thirds of the way through, and (maybe this is to do with being a child of the vinyl-era, when albums tended to be shorter), but it regains it’s stride on the last two tracks ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Saved These Words.’

It’s a fair cop, guv…I was wrong.


Once I Was An Eagle is out on Virgin on May 27.

Stream the album before release over at the Guardian

Gig review: Daniel Johnston


Daniel Johnston/Laura Marling/The Wave Pictures -The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh November 4, 2009

In many ways, Daniel Johnston might well be the living embodiment of what it means to be a cult figure. Lauded by the hip, and covered by many other artists, his reputation enhanced by time, he inspires devotion from many. I have been to many gigs at the Queen’s Hall since I moved to Edinburgh eight years ago, and the cult appreciation of him has swelled to the extent that the queue outside the Queen’s Hall was the biggest I have ever seen. His latest album Is And Always Was is a fine album, and if diehards moan that it’s not recorded on a $60 mono boombox, don’t let that detract from the enjoyment of it.

Opening the gig were the Wave Pictures. I’d not seen them before, and only heard a little of their work, but this three-piece band evoke early Hefner well (and indeed have backed former frontman Darren Hayman). Being third on the bill at a gig can be difficult as a support but they won the crowd over, no doubt by making it clear how pleased they were to be playing with Daniel Johnston later. ‘he’s absolutely on fire at the moment!’ they enthused, which pleased the excited crowd no end.

Laura Marling came on with just her acoustic guitar for her slot. Having seen many singer-songwriters do this as supports and struggled over noise, she proved that she can hold the audience in the palm of her hand. Though she didn’t appear with Johnston at the end, she won many people over, as much with her self-deprecating banter as her music. Despite the fact that she maintained – more than once – that she couldn’t make small-chat on stage, she does so, very well indeed.I have yet to hear debut album Alas I Cannot Swim, but I will add it to my ever-growing wish list.

When Daniel Johnston comes onstage, the air of excitement threatens to reach fever pitch from some members of the crowd. There’s a large number of teens and early twenties in the room, so many have clearly come to have their chance of witnessing him in the flesh. Whilst much has been made of Johnston’s health issues, he was indeed on fine form. He first accompanied himself with an electric ukelele. To those who are unfamiliar with his work, by his own admission he cannot sing particularly well, but there’s a real charm that is more than endearing, it is genuinely affecting.

Appearing first solo, then joined by a guitarist and then the Wave Pictures, he performed songs from his back catalogue that even if you didn’t know them (and there’s a thirty-strong album back catalogue) made you want to investigate further. I had never heard ‘Bloody Rainbow’ before, but I think I could love this as much as ‘Speeding Motorcycle’ or ‘The Beatles.’ Speaking of The Beatles, his love of them remains undiminished, and we get covers of both ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘Come Together,’ the latter with the Wave Pictures. With the former, it’s no longer the Beatles serenading Eleanor Bron, it’s Daniel Johnston serenading us, and it feels like a privilege.

Sure his work won’t win everyone over, and Is And Always Was is as likely as polished as he is likely to get. But it genuinely is the sincerity that’s likely to win people over. Sure Kurt cobain may have got more publicity for him by wearing that T-shirt, but on the evidence of this, Johnston’s doing just fine winning the people over himself.