Live Review
Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh 1995

"The Guardian" 19th Dec 1995

"Wee guy cuts the Celtic mist"

Home-town gigs at Christmas usually involve an element of tinselly frivolity, and this double bill filled the Pleasance Theatre with jolly folk types and Levellers lookalikes. But Dick Gaughan takes no prisoners, and his songs of the dispossessed were delivered with the electrifying passion of a zealot, cutting through any arran-sweatered Celtic twilight mist like a Stanley knife at a rave.

While Irish traditional music expands on to the international stage, the Scots have been somewhat overlooked. But Gaughan is one of the most powerful voices in the field. He takes "folk" and shakes it until it rattles, making songs from 1707 as relevant as today's rap rants. A hard-hitting vital force, Gaughan batters his guitar with the blurring speed of a thrash metal band.

He opened with the classic What You Do With What You've Got - covered by Eddie Reader and a dozen others - proving that no one comes close to his snapping, stark delivery.

Gaughan dismissed this year's vague celebrations of the 1745 rebellion - "Bonnie Prince Charlie was as much use to Scotland as a dose of cholera" - but welcomed next year's bicentenary of Robert Burns with a beautifully tempered blend of two Burns love songs which revealed his ability to raise the hairs on our necks with a lilting whisper.

Those who welcomed a return to social realism in pop with Bruce Springsteen's depressive The Ghost of Tom Joad, should seek out Gaughan's blast-furnace performances to hear how music from the gut really sounds.


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