It is rare for me to go to a gig specifically to see the support act but I made an exception for Fraser Anderson.  I had reviewed Fraser’s excellent album Under Cover Of Lightness earlier this year and has remained a regular listen. When I found out at the last minute that Fraser was gigging, I was determined to attend.  

I had no idea whether this would be a solo or band gig but the presence of a stand up bass at the back of the stage gave me some hope that we would in for a close facsimile of the sound of the album.  Sure enough, when Fraser took to the stage he was accompanied by Ali Ferguson on electric and acoustic guitar, Bex Baxter on vocals and Chris Agnew on bass who provided superb backing.  Shorn of some of the album’s production touches such as brass and electronic beats, Anderson’s songs are  ably supported by Agnew’s supple bass lines and Ferguson’s filigree guitar, while Anderson and Baxter’s vocals mesh perfectly. fraser_anderson_edinburgh_live

Opening with a couple of songs from his earlier album’s, Anderson takes the opportunity to showcase songs from his latest album.  Fraser’s vocals have drawn comparison with John Martyn’s – which is a good thing in my book – but the  similarities are serendipitous rather than studied.  Please Let This Go, Crying With My Heart, The Wind And The Rain and With You All all make their case for Under Cover of Lightness being an essential purchase.  Unfortunately, tonight’s gig being the end of a Scottish tour, the supply of CDs at the merchandising stall has dried up and Anderson is left having to encourage the audience to buy the couple of LPs he has remaining or to order the CD online.  The  set ends with Beautiful Eyes, which on the album has an almost Portishead production but tonight is given more breathing space and includes some excellently executed audience participation.  Fraser Anderson has been given 40 minutes tonight to show what he can do.  Let’s hope that next time he plays in Edinburgh he’ll be headlining.

Before tonight’s show, Callahan Morrison and Eli West were unknown to me but by the reaction of the audience, I am clearly in the minority.  The Seattle duo arrive on stage to a rousing reception and are treated like old friends.  From the outset it is clear that their old time bluegrass music is deeply rooted in tradition; this is no banjo ransacking,  hipster friendly fad like Mumford & Sons. Multi-instrumentalist Callahan dazzles on banjo and mandolin while Eli is equally impressive in guitar.  Their close harmony vocals evoke the ghosts of an earlier age, whether on traditional songs, their own material or covers of artists such as Townes Van Zandt.  Like Fraser Anderson before them, Callahan and Eli are also out of luck at the merchandising stall.  Their tour car was stolen in Leicestershire along with 160 CDs. With wry good honour Callahan tells us that he hopes that at the very least the thief  might now be a fan and is happy to offer him the opportunity to become their UK distributor.  In compensation, tonight’s audience are offered the chance to purchase a download code for their three albums, I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both Hands, The Holy Coming Of The Storm and Our Lady Of The Tall Trees for the bargain price of £10.

I came tonight for Fraser Anderson and stayed for Callahan and Eli and I’m very glad that I did.  A splendid night all round.

John Scott

You must be logged in to leave a reply.