“The way to kill a song,” says radical folk singer Dick Gaughan, quoting the late Labour MP, Norman Buchan, before regaling the audience with a slow version of Hamish Henderson's masterpiece, Freedom Come All Ye, “is to make it a national anthem.” Gaughan has lost none of his righteous fire, nor the sense of humour that accompanies it in a glorious appearance at Scot:Lands, the nine-venue New Year's Day gadabout Edinburgh's Old Town for a feast of themed bespoke performances.
Gaughan was performing as part of High:Land, which saw Ullapool's Ceilidh Place reconstituting the venue's speak-easy vibe in the old Bristo Hall, where the likes of Nancy Nicolson and The Cast played short sets across two floors. Shetland Arts did something similar in Greyfriars Kirk, aka Shet:Land, with sessions from harpist Catriona Mackay and fiddler Chris Stout among others. Elsewhere, King Creosote formed a super-group with fellow traveller Withered Hand at Lobster:Land, the Pathhead Music Collective presented micro-gigs by Karine Polwart, Dave Milligan and others at Heid:Land and folk trio Lau transformed thre Roxy into Lau:Land.
Theatrically, there were mummers plays at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, a mini-version of Cora Bissett and David Greig's after-hours music-theatre compendium, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, and contemporary dance from Smallpetitklein set to a live Philip Glass score in a paper-strewn St Giles Cathedral. Best of all was New:Found:Land, a slow-burning candle-lit musical meditation in Old St Paul's church, which saw the band FOUND combine downbeat acoustic-led vignettes with pedal-steel and analog electronics augmented by Emily Scott's upright bass-playing and RM Hubbert's unique guitar flourishes. Performed in the round, its mix of ancient and modern was a near-ritualistic experience to treasure.
The Herald, January 3rd 2014