Live Review

Rick Redbeard, CCA, Glasgow

These songs are dark but mainly positive.

Photo: Michael Gallacher
Tonight’s support Sarah Hayes, going back to her folk roots in downtime from band Admiral Fallow, suggests that there are three main ingredients in folk songs – “Love, murder and talking animals.”

Rick Anthony of The Phantom Band, here in his solo guise Rick Redbeard, has a lot of folk singing in his background. His mother is a folk singer in his native Aberdeenshire and his sister Jo performs in a folk-influenced band, she also joins him on stage tonight to sing backing vocals.

‘Cold As Clay (The Grave)’ sets the pattern for the evening - deeply rich vocals, minimal playing, familial harmonies. Duncan Marquiss (also from The Phantom Band) adds atmosphere with his Fender – replacing the strings and piano that made up the core of album ‘No Selfish Heart’. Anthony tells tales of noisy Inverness drunks at the gig the night before, a contrast to the quiet of this evening, until a loquacious audience member with great timing counters with - “You want to hear what happened to me!”

In spite of such interjections, there is a delicacy here. Jo Anthony’s soft backing vocals, the moody electric guitar wash, acoustic picking. There is a musical maturity on new tracks as well as those from an album that was eight years in the making. The seated musicians offer a restrained musical palette – these songs are indoors where The Phantom Band’s are outdoors.

‘A Greater Brave’ with its unexpected falsetto wail, stands out from the pack as does ‘Now We’re Dancing’ with its distinctively Scottish folk-inflected refrain “1, 2, 3 and go round.” It becomes a joyful musical celebration - “Childlike with voices free we were as we belonged,” like so many of the songs from this solo LP it deals with the vagaries of memory and ageing.

A song about “the Golden Age” of a relationship captures its moment perfectly and contains the most poetic description of stepping in some dog-doo that you’ll ever hear. These are subtle, domestic love songs, highly personal and yet accessible. ‘Old Blue’ meanwhile deals with big themes like mortality and time passing, again a sign of the maturity of the song writing on display.

The traditional folk song ‘Kelvin Grove’ is repurposed, it speaks of an area of the city that is now a park in its pre-industrial days, but it could just as easily be about the place that Glaswegians still populate on rare days of fine weather. Album title track ‘No Selfish Heart’ takes a folk song framework and stamps Anthony’s distinctive identity on it, obeying the ‘less is more’ rule that has been observed throughout the evening.

These songs are dark but mainly positive. They’re not all about heartbreak or written in a log cabin, so maybe won’t reach the heights of certain big selling albums. This show and the one in Aberdeen sold out, testament the self-depreciating Anthony suggests, to the loyalty of friends in the two cities he’s spent the most time living in. It would be a pity if his reach is limited to places where he’s resided, as this reinvented folk has plenty of love and murder, maybe it just lacks the talking animals.

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