Live Review
Leith Folk Club 11th January 2006

"Edinburgh Evening News"

Dick Gaughan probably wouldn't like being called legendary.

After all, he's just a lad who was brought up in Leith with a Scottish/Irish family, all of whom loved music, so he's just been keeping the tradition going. But a legend is what he is. Whether it's because he's been playing music for more than 33 years and has inspired a few generations of songwriters, or because his own songwriting has been mistaken for classic tunes of centuries past. He's done more than just maintain tradition, though - he's added to it and propelled it forward.

Leith Folk Club have had a brace of legendary performers playing under their banner, and Gaughan made his second appearance there last night at The Village, only two streets away from where he grew up.

The audience were already clearly revved up for the show, but support act Tim O'Leary, well deserving of a gig on his own, wound them up even more. It took a while for the cheers to die down after Gaughan was introduced, so that he could actually begin.

Gaughan is good at confounding stereotypes. In most of his photographs he looks dour and solemn, but onstage he's relaxed and funnier than many comedians. He sings folk music, much of it traditional, but it sounds contemporary.

He's known for his powerful voice, but actually he's also a consummate guitarist - many in the audience who hadn't seen him play previously were surprised at just how good he was.

His singing style is harder to pin down. While he sounds a lot like a folk singer, he feels more like a storyteller. It's as though he uses music as a vehicle for telling the stories, but not conventionally.

He seems to play with songs, varying the rhythm and the melodies to suit the mood, so that at the end of each one there's a sense of having been involved in a very emotional conversation without quite knowing why.

Gaughan's history is long. As a founder member of Boys of the Lough and the short-lived but sorely missed Five Hand Reel, as well as in his own right, he has amassed an enormous wealth of material from which to draw on.

His opening song, What You Do With What You've Got, could have been his own personal anthem. The line, "It's not how big your share is, But how much you can share" was echoed in song after song throughout the night.

Songs like No Gods and Outlaws And Dreamers were passion fuelled cries, encouraging people to stand up for themselves, while Both Sides The Tweed was a gentler encouragement to do the same. Old band-mate Brian McNeill's The Yew Tree was a huge crowd pleaser, as was Pete Seeger's anti war protest Waist Deep In The Big Muddy and, although most of Gaughan's songs were political in one way or another, there was never a hint of preaching but always a healthy dose of optimism to be found.

Audience Reviews

(Gig reviews in the Edinburgh Evening News also contain comments by members of the audience. I particularly liked the one about my being dead.)

Alan Mathieson :
I think Gaughan's great. This is the first time I've seen him live but I know his stuff well. I used to have a load of his records but most of them got nicked years ago. He's much better live than on record though, and he's a really good guitar player. He's dead funny too. His introductions are as good as the songs.

George Fraser :
I didn't really know who he was before this. I'd heard his name before, but I thought he was dead - I mean, I thought he was someone who'd been big years ago, I didn't realise he was still going. I'm not really a folky but I have friends that are and if Dick Gaughan's anything to go by, I can see why.

Tom Johnston :
I try to see Gaughan whenever he plays Edinburgh, but I missed him last time he played the Leith Folk Club. It's a really nice place to see people like him, it's so intimate. I mean, he was standing at the back of the bar when the support act was on, just listening. You wouldn't see pop stars doing that.

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