Live Review
Edinburgh Folk Club 2008

"Edinburgh Evening News", 10th Jan 2008

"All manner of folk are in the firing line"

Take a look round the Pleasance Cabaret Bar and you'll see lots of old photographs: black and white pictures of entertainers who once thrilled crowds in this very same bar throughout the last 15 of the Edinburgh Fringe.

The majority of them have since faded into the background of peoples' consciousness, or, in the Cabaret Bar's case, blended into the woodwork. One man who surely deserves to have his muzzle pinned up in the bar, then, is Dick Gaughan.

A folk-singing legend, the grizzly old Leither has not only played here several times since the Edinburgh Folk Club began hosting gigs here some 13 years ago - the 59-year old's career has lasted at least three times as long as any of the faces adorning the Cabaret Bar's walls. Not that the Glasgow-born singer would care a hoot anyway. For just like the pioneers of traditional folk music, Gaughan plays without want of recognition or reward. In short, he just straps on his guitar and gets on with it.

Kicking off with a peppy version of Si Kahn's What You Do With What You've Got, if there's one thing people love about Gaughan it's his rants about politics as well as his tunes about those lingering on the fringes of society. Donald Trump, the scrapping of apprenticeships by the Government, and, of course, Gaughan's support for English Independence all came under the receivership of his stinging tongue.

Even more compelling was the subject to a lyric located in No Gods and Precious Few Heroes ("I heard a fat politician who had the nerve to say/ He was proud to be Scottish, by the way") no doubt because of the abundance of possible candidates.

The best song of the first half, however, was the dark-but-beautiful The Devil and Pastor Jack. It concentrated on one Jack Glass, a controversial religious figure who, Gaughan said, was a "nice guy if you weren't homosexual, Catholic or black". The audience loved it, and responded in kind as the second half soon got under way with an airing of Gaughan's favourite song: Robert Burns' Now Westlin Winds.

Another famous unknown, Tom Paine (the man who kick-started the American Revolution and inspired the French Revolution) was introduced as a great troublemaker who got up everyone's nose. The resulting Tom Paine's Bones cajoling even the more muted audience members into song.

By now, Gaughan was in full swing, and even when not in mid-song, he still likes to noodle away on his guitar as he introduces the next number. Indeed, Gaughan's constant strumming and perennial tuning throughout can get a little irritating, but it's a small price to pay to hear a master at work.

As he brought a fine evening's entertainment to a close, it was both surprising and fitting that Dick Gaughan should sign off not with a rabblerousing number, but with a subtle, more tuneful instrumental instead. Perhaps it's time for the Edinburgh Folk Club and the Cabaret Bar to start talking about putting up some new pictures.

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