Butefest 2016: Introducing ... Tom McRae

Tom McRae - singer songwriter (Pic: Abigail Silvester)
Tom McRae - singer songwriter (Pic: Abigail Silvester)

He’s been showered with awards and critical acclaim, his music has cropped up in countless TV programmes, he’s a respected writer, and yet Tom McRae remains something of a best-kept secret.

No doubt about it, he is one of the very best singer-songwriters to emerge from the UK in many a year - and he has a hugely loyal fan base who’ll travel many miles to see his shows which mix heartbreaking ballads and stories rich in humour and warmth.

It’d come as no surprise to see more than a few of them to pop over to Rothesay to catch his appearance at Butefest.

I first encountered McRae when a friend took me along to his Hotel Cafe project as it rolled into what was then the Waterloo Bar in Edinburgh, circa 2007.

She knew most of the crowd there already thanks to the online network who exchanged views, gig info and forged friendships that led to catch-ups in the front rows of venues across the UK.

Hotel Cafe was a rolling review of musicians who shared the same bill, and acted as the backing band before then have their moment in the spotlight.

Back then, McRae was joined by a raft of amazing performers - Jim Bianco, Greg Laswell and and Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies.

During breaks in the show they’d mingle with fans, chat about music and you’d go home with a CD or two - or, in my case, a CD plus a pic of me with Brian Wright whose musical links with McRae have endured over the years

The last time I saw him was in The Arches at Glasgow accompanied by a wonderful string quartet. Again, his music soared round the brick tunnel of a venue.

His albums are rich with memorable songs - ballads which can be sombre or a powerful confessional, as well as stirring the senses with rousing, swirling choruses.

He’s had all the comparisons - Nick Drake, Dylan, Nick Cave etc - while his growling lyrics on his 2015 album ‘Did I Sleep And Miss The Border’ brought to mind the remarkable Tom Waits.

His seven albums released over a decade and more have undoubtedly merited much more attention, but to his fans, they showcase a truly outstanding singer-songwriter.

If his music is new, then check out ‘My Vampire Heart’ or the thundering ‘Bloodless’ on Youtube - and if you like them, then time spent unearthing his past work will be richly rewarded.

While the songs may often by serious and even sombre at times, McRae - like so many other singer-songwriters - is witty and engaging on stage. He’ll make you laugh and then he’ll make your jaw drop with a song from the heart.

And if you think you’ve heard him somewhere then ... you have.

His songs have cropped up in numerous TV shows - take your pick from Hollyoaks to Skins, from Buffy to Six Feet Under, and even Holby City have all turned to his playlist to capture a moment of anguish, loss or a life-changing event.

He’s also a songwriter with lots to say - on social media and in print and blogs, McRae is eloquent, witty and direct. His open letter to Russell Brand on the eve of the last General Election simply started ‘’oh, shut up ...’’

A festival such as Butefest is the perfect setting to be introduced to his music and his live shows. Treat yourself ...

>> For tickets and full info on Butefest 2016 visit Butefest