Review: Gary Hall at Craigmore Bowling Club

Gary Hall in full voice at Craigmore Bowling Club.
Gary Hall in full voice at Craigmore Bowling Club.

Gary Hall may have spent the last ten years concentrating on producing other artists rather than touring and recording himself, but you wouldn’t have known it from his performance on Bute this week.

Hall, born in Liverpool in 1964, was once described by a national newspaper as a ‘Celtic soul man’, but before his gig at Craigmore Bowling Club on Sunday, he told The Buteman he was keen not to be pigeonholed into such a specific description.

“My inspiration is life, and it always has been,” he told us. “You can only write about what you’ve experienced. The ‘Celtic soul’ description came from a time when that style of music was very popular, but I would just describe myself as a singer-songwriter rather than anything more specific.”

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to draw comparisons between Hall and other artists: in the first few bars of the opening number in his Craigmore set, Claim On Me, you could have closed your eyes and imagined you were listening live to Neil Diamond, while elsewhere there were hints of Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in either lyrics, music or vocals.

Sunday’s set combined new material with stripped-down acoustic versions of songs first recorded by Hall and his 1990s backing band, The Stormkeepers. Most, as you’d expect from the description above, were inspired by true-life events, although there was one notable exception in the form of the emotional Red Dirt, the imagined tale of an Oklahoma girl trying to chase the dream in the music hotbed of Nashville, Tennessee, where Hall once recorded an album.

The real high points of his all-too-brief Sunday set, though, came in the form of two blues numbers - Feelgood Factor Blues, written to prove to a friend that the blues needn’t make you sad, and The Sinking Faster Than The Titanic Going Down Blues, much easier to sing than to say and dedicated to “my favourite banker”, the infamous former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond.