Fringe Music

Rob Adams

The Red Guitar

theSpace@Surgeons Hall


Christine Bovill’s Paris

The Famous Spiegeltent


Jamie Laval: Master Fiddler

Acoustic Music Centre@St Bride’s


THERE IS a moment in The Red Guitar, as John Sheldon brings his song The Grand Parade from germ of an idea to finished article, when it becomes clear that his fifty minutes are drawing to a close far, far too quickly. It’s not every Fringe show that has such moments but Sheldon makes the time pass through his storytelling and real guitar mastery across the musical spectrum.

He begins in 1954 when America and Russia are vying to see who can build the biggest bomb and Leo Fender unleashes a weapon of mass seduction, the Stratocaster. Sheldon is too young to cotton onto its attractions just then but it’s not too long before the guitar enters his life, courtesy of his dad buying himself one. Soon after it departs into the hands of one James Taylor.

What follows is brilliantly observed and beautifully told. There’s the inhalation of music and information from LPs, Taylor’s generosity with his own guitar discoveries, and the splendid watershed when Sheldon learns the connecting lick in Jesse Fuller’s San Francisco Bay Blues. These are followed by cheeky putdowns, mental breakdowns, rock ‘n’ roll deaths, and shoulders rubbed with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Hodder, the ill-starred Steely Dan drummer.

One of the best bits has Sheldon adapting a chord progression from jazz guitar hero Grant Green only to have it appropriated by Van Morrison. You might know it as Moondance. There’s a lot of information, some of it arcane, but Sheldon makes it all easily digestible by being so downright human and such great company. I’d go again.

Run ends August 20.

IT WAS raining outside Christine Bovill’s Paris on opening night but the Glaswegian Francophile soon had the seasons turning with the masters and mistresses – in every sense – of chanson. Bovill is a French teacher and I’ll bet she’s a good one because her enthusiasm for the language shines through every syllable she sings. She imparts the songs of Charles Trenet, Gilbert Becaud, Charles Aznavour et al as if she’s lived them herself, and maybe she has.

Singing in both English and French to lovely, clear piano accompaniments, she shares insights as well as lyrics and takes a nice little detour into her younger self’s Don Everly fixation as well as making a seamless transition from pondering the possibilities of “love everlasting or love ever lasting” to retailing the Rabelaisian excesses of Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam.

Run ends August 21.

JAMIE Laval: Master Fiddler is an hour in the company of an American symphony orchestra violinist who came out of the closet as a fiddler with a passion for Scottish music. Laval has the technique to carry off James Scott Skinner’s trickier pieces but this session of what the Irish master Kevin Bourke would call “naked fiddling” – Laval has only his tapping and dancing feet as accompaniment – is really more about communication.

The stories behind the tunes are as fluently related as the tunes, much of them from the piping tradition, complete with gracenotes, are flawlessly played and Laval’s feeling for a Hebridean air is conveyed in soulful, tenderly executed phrasing. At a later hour he might also have had the audience accompanying his Breton gavottes with a pinky dance.

Run ends August 20.