Crikey. you go along to a mid week show in a cellar bar on a rainy night expecting to see the same old stalwarts in the fair to middling sized crowd that has turned up. Not tonight however as the place was packed. Had Nottingham’s prized purveyors of skiffle, folk and old time country started trending since your correspondent left the house? Snatched pictures of Al Rate and Kate Moss appeared on the Huffington Post or Barak Obama revealed they’re on his Spotify playlist? No. Truth is a couple of The Vaudeville Skiffle Show players moonlight as physiotherapists when they’re not whipping up a storm onstage and there just happened to be a worldwide physiotherapy conference going on in Glasgow this very week. Canny folk that they are the band slipped the word out with the result that this was perhaps the most cosmopolitan crowd Blabber’n’Smoke had ever hung out with. Australians to the left, Americans to the right and that was the English speakers. Indeed, there was a veritable Babel of chatter in between songs.
Now I don’t know how many of the audience were fans of the band before the show, perhaps just keen to investigate the ergonomics of playing a washboard or banjo, but I’d bet that by the end each and all were converts after a storming set. Skiffle, jugband and old time country are all kind of rabble rousing in their own way and the band stoked the crowd throughout ending up with a fair amount of them on stage scrubbing away at a variety of washboards and kitchen implements and wheezing into kazoos and whatnot for the final song, Mama Don’t Allow No Skiffle ‘Round Here. Indeed as one entered a kazoo was thrust into your palm with instructions to wait for the invitation to play.
It wasn’t all party music. On their album, Sons & Lovers, DH Lawrence and The Vaudeville Skiffle Show delivered some skilful and moving songs that draw from English and American folk traditions with several delivered tonight along with some choice covers. You Saw Me Fall was given a cool viperish vamp, Sons and Lovers (adopted from DH Lawrence’s novel, “he was a bit of an arse,” they said) portrayed their roots while their latest single, the somewhat awesome Black Rain did have the audience transfixed with its sinister delivery. However it was the good time element that had the crowd baying, a mass kazoo participation on Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus was great fun while keeping with the Jesus theme their rendition of Hayes Carll’s She Left Me For Jesus (with the band aping a gospel tent confessional) was a definite hit. The band with an ever revolving frontsman and with much swapping of instruments entertaining throughout the night.
Support tonight was Ciaran McGhee from Edinburgh, a chap you can catch at the likes of The Royal Oak. McGhee is in thrall to traditional Scots folk music and has a voice that can thunder out the throatiest ballad as evidenced on his powerful rendition of the Jacobean Macpherson’s Rant, at times reminiscent of Dick Gaughan in his prime. A songwriter himself McGhee sang several of his own songs which show promise including Hypocrite and Sing me A Love Song, the latter showing he is not all rant and rave. Perhaps to celebrate a night out in Glasgow he offered his take on Cod Liver Oil and The Orange Juice, a song popularised by the late Hamish Imlach. Steeped as it is in Glaswegian patois he obligingly translated the words into Standard English for the benefit of our visitors.