Borders based bluegrass country group, The Dirty Beggars have been one of the quieter success stories in Scottish music over the past five years. From humble beginnings they have supported a host of well known roots and Americana artists, been championed by Trampled By Turtles, busked across the Southern States and released a well regarded album and EP. For some reason they’re taking a break hence the banner for this packed show at Glasgow’s Stereo, sold out we believe and it’s certainly the case that Blabber’n’Smoke has seen several well known acts here and it’s never been so busy. Getting near the front was nigh impossible and even the usual space at the back by the bar was crowded.
Dressed for the occasion in suits the five piece band ( Kieran Begbie Vocals, Guitar; Finn Begbie Vocals, Harmonica, Mandolin, Guitar; Pete Begbie Vocals, Banjo, Guitar; Stuart Printie Double Bass, Dobro, Mandolin; Pedro Cameron Fiddle) launched straightaway into Hey Hey, a song that just about sums them up. Rollicking bluegrass, fiddle blazin’ and banjo flailing away it’s easy to see why some folk have called them Scotland’s answer to Old Crow Medicine Show. They soon slipped into the first of several covers of the night, a gently flowing version of Jackson Browne’s These Days which was lapped up by the crowd. By now the temperature was rising and soon the jackets were off as the band withstood the heat for almost two hours playing songs from Bite The Bullet and their EP along with the crowd pleasing Galway Girl from Steve Earle. The gentler songs however were all but lost among the chatter from the punters at the back of the room. The closing song, their inevitable rendition of OCMS’s Wagon Wheel tipped the crowd into a frenzy and ending up as one big singalong. Hopefully the band will return recharged after their break as talent such as theirs will be much missed.
Here they are with that crowd favourite from a few years ago.
Borders’ band The Dirty Beggars have been busy honing their skills with gigs a plenty including several festivals since we mentioned their superb debut album Bite The Bullet back in January 2012. A very talented bunch indeed they came across as a local version of Old Crow Medicine Show and importantly had the writing chops to back up this claim without a traditional song in sight. Well they’ve been back in the studio and the first fruit is this excellent E. P. of three songs all written by vocalist Kieran Begbie. From the opening bars of Bury The Past it’s clear that the Beggars are on fine form as they skittle their way through this uplifting number. With banjo and fiddle well to the fore and some fine harmony singing the song is driven by well scrubbed guitars while Begbie’s voice has a well worn quality to it. It’s an assured, jaunty number with a fine hook in the chorus while the lyrics capture the sense of an elder offering advice to the young. A damn fine start. Unforgiven begins with a burial as the singer regrets his hell raising days and tries to get on with his new life as a farmer. It’s a powerful song with wonderful hints of penance and redemption on what is an almost cinematic tale. From the baleful opening the harmonies rise and momentum builds up as the band pile in. The fiddle playing here is particularly fine resonating with a lonesome howl. Come Away With Me closes the disc with Begbie inhabiting a younger soul looking to make a future for himself away from a dead end life. Again the Beggars nail it with a sound that’s as old as the hills and a fine sense of a rural America that’s slowly dying as its young are forced to look for work away from their small town existence looking for a paradise just a few States away. A melancholic desperate air pervades the song despite the optimistic goal with fiddle soaring as the guitars and banjo drive on and Begbie sings with an authenticity that beggars belief.
All in all this is a collection that builds on their debut with the band portraying an uncanny ability to capture a sound and feel that one can only imagine they’ve picked up from some dedicated listening. We look forward to hearing what they do next.
The E.P will be available from the 29th November and The Dirty Beggars have a launch gig at The Classic Grand that day.
Blabber’n’Smoke first came across this young band from the Borders when they supported The Wilders back in May of last year. Since then they’ve been to the States and now unveil their debut album to coincide with their slots at Celtic Connections. Nailing their colours firmly to the mast Americana music is their thing with bluegrass and string band playing well to the fore. It’s to their credit however that they’ve populated the album with nine originals and not an American song in sight. The one cover is the title song which was written by the late Peebles artist Bryan Begg and it’s of note that this is the second release in the recent past we’ve come across which has been dedicated to his memory (the other being Old Dollar Bill’s Across The Tracks EP).
Much in the way of Old Dollar Bill The Dirty Beggars have drunk from the well of traditional American music to the extent that they can regurgitate songs that sound as if they were whittled out of experience and hard living in the Appalachians and frontier towns. They can deliver lighting fast string driven hoedowns and wearied ballads although they shine best on the latter. Tunnel Light in particular is a splendidly nimble and poignant song with some fine playing and wise words from such a young band. Nashville Wave Goodbye is a great cautionary tale of a would be musician’s life lost in the drinking dens of Music City. With a great chorus and splendid harmonies this could be a hit in that titular town if anyone would listen. Underneath The Sky captures the band playing at their best with all the elements coalescing into a classic song.
Of the faster songs Too Tired (To Work That Farm Today) has a charming country bumpkin lift to it while When The Cockerel Crows skitters along with zest. The band cap the album with a fine and tender rendition of the Beggs’ song Bite The Bullet, a sombre note perhaps but a fine end to what is an excellent introduction to this fine young band.
The Dirty Beggars play Celtic Connections today. There’s a fine interview with them here.
Nashville wave Goodbye