Russell deCarle Trio/Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Rob Adams

four stars

ANOTHER Traverse Music Mondays double bill delivered more good music than should reasonably be expected on a school night. Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards is a string band with a difference. The San Francisco-born, Boston-based Cortese has gathered together a string quartet – her own and Jenna Moynihan’s fiddles, Valerie Thompson’s cello and Natalie Bohrn’s double bass – to play her own rootsy pop songs and the occasional Scottish reel.

It’s a quietly potent combination with pizzicato figures giving the songs both an intoxicating, raw energy and certain direction and bowing introducing a lusher sound but with a confident, percussive drive. There’s no little charm to their music and their vocal harmonies underline this, nowhere more so than on their offstage, surround sound acoustic encore which achieved a lovely blend of understated drama and delicacy.

Canadian Russell deCarle has been around the block and done major time in Canada’s prairie roadhouses in a career that’s enjoyed significant success with country rockers Prairie Oyster. With accordionist Denis Keldie and guitarist Steve Briggs he presents a master class in slow burning country, Tex Mex and western swing that’s big on character and grows with the unflashy expertise and spontaneous creativity of Keldie and Briggs’ instrumental illuminations.

DeCarle has a fine, lean, mean and lived-in voice that delivers songs such as Hank Snow’s I Don’t Hurt Anymore, Charlie Rich’s Mohair Sam and his own celebration of Tanqueray Gin with absolute believability. After a generous set that roamed endless highways and rail tracks someone suggested that they just play all night and they sounded like they could without running out of gas or musical ideas.