Transclyde Music’s Bute gigs don’t often major on folk - but that only ensures that when an evening of folk music does feature on their programme, it’s sure to be a night to savour.
Such was the case with Ewan McLennan, who made his Bute debut on Saturday, February 14 with a performance at Craigmore Bowling Club which was as excellent as it was understated.
McLennan is a relative newcomer to the folk music circuit - still being some way shy of his 30th birthday - but his performance on Saturday coupled a maturity beyond his years with a freshness which left no-one in any doubt why he’s been chosen to feature in the acclaimed Transatlantic Sessions series on BBC television.
The opening song in his set, a cover of Burns’ A Man’s A Man For A’ That, set out his stall clearly, treating the age-old song beloved the world over with the utmost respect while still leaving the feeling among the audience that they were listening to something new - and from that moment on, whether performing one of his own compositions or the work of another, he had his new Bute fans in the palm of his hand.
Promising “a healthy Valentine’s menu of heartbreak, misery and all the rest of the subjects that folk music encompasses”, the examples of McLennan’s own work which featured on Saturday included the beautiful Out On The Banks - apparently, according to a recently-received royalty payment, used by the UK Health and Fitness organisation, possibly in a gym considerably less frenetic than most - and the hard-hitting Joe Glenton, the true story of a British soldier jailed for refusing to undertake a second tour of duty in Afghanistan on legal and moral grounds.
Not all was doom and gloom, though, with the happy ending which features in Whistling The Esperanza, a tale of the San Jose mine rescue in Chile in 2010, the best example of the breaking of one of folk music’s cardinal rules - the other two, in McLennan’s own words, being “I wrote the song myself” and “it had a body count of zero”.
But the rich folk music traditions of Scotland and of Britain make it almost impossible for any folk session not to feature the work of others, and McLennan’s selection of one of the Child Ballads - so called not because they’re suitable for children (in fact they’re generally anything but), but after their collector, one Francis Child - and Alistair Hulett’s The Granite Cage, about the time spent in Peterhead prison by John Maclean of ‘Red Clydeside’ fame were but two of the numerous pieces whose original creators could only be impressed by McLennan’s treatment of their work.
* Next up for Transclyde Music is former Wolfstone frontman Ivan Drever, who plays live at Craigmore Bowling Club on Saturday, March 21.