It’s still enough of a novelty to go to a gig that much of the pleasure is derived from seeing faces from the past and catching up after almost two years of enforced isolation. Sure enough, Doghouse Roses’ return to a Glasgow stage tempted quite a few “regulars” out of hiding, and one of the main topics of conversation was the list of gigs folk are hoping to be seeing in the coming months. Surely, proof that Glaswegians are of glass half full optimism.
Anyhow, glowing reports of the previous night’s show in Aberdeen had set the bar high for Iona MacDonald and Paul Tasker and they did not disappoint. The pair were obviously on a high to be back playing to a paying crowd and there was much jocularity, between the band and the audience and between the pair themselves – they’re getting to rival The Handsome Family in on stage bickering. They were deadly serious from the start though when they launched into ‘Low’, taken from their latest album, ‘We Are Made Of Light’. A winter song, cold and dark, it was evidence that the pair can deliver a formidable update on classic folk rock while the following ‘Elegy For A Seaside Town’ showcased their fine harmony singing.
With Tasker switching between acoustic and electric guitars and clawhammer banjo, and MacDonald also playing acoustic on several numbers, the duo have expanded their live sound over the years. ‘Weather The Storm’ was a mighty rumble, with echoes of Greenwich Village like folk jazz and an almost psychedelic ending and Tasker’s Bleeker St. like guitar lines appeared again when the pair sang a very fine cover of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. ‘Why We Fight’ was dedicated to the eco warriors about to descend on Glasgow and it was given a blustery folk rock drive but perhaps the highlight of the night was an older song, ‘Thunder Of The Dawn’ which had echoes of Fairport and Pentangle in its guitar scales and MacDonald’s powerful vocals.
There were a couple of newer songs and tunes, written during lockdown. Tasker played a banjo tune, ‘Womble The Sausage Dog’ (dedicated to a dog he once knew and a title worthy of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and they unveiled ‘City Of Ghosts’ which has a fine impressionistic Glasgow feel to it. As always, seeing Doghouse Roses was a trip into folk, blues and beyond, and they closed the night with a raucous and bluesy cover of ‘Turtle Blues’ with MacDonald belting out the song just like Janis did.
The support act, Kim Oehme, was making her Glasgow debut and she was quite a revelation. From Aberdeenshire, she has just recently released an EP, ‘Clouds Of Age’, and she surprised all when she invited the EP’s producer, Cahalen Morrison, on stage to accompany her on a couple of the songs. Morrison of course first came to our attention with his and Eli West’s stark recreations of wilderness songs and Oehme ploughs a similar furrow with her songs coming across as if her neck of Scotland was nestled within the Appalachians. ‘Burning Blue’ was quietly transcendent while ‘The Whisky’, with Morrison on banjo, was quite chilling in its evocation of dark winter nights and the wonder and beauty of the wilderness. Ms. Oehme took some time introducing her songs and setting the scene. She spoke of stargazing with her nephew before singing ‘The Moonshadow Song’, another number rooted in nature and which reminded this reviewer of a Michael Hurley song. It was quite glorious, especially when she and Morrison harmonised the wordless chorus. ‘Clouds Of Age’, dedicated to her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s, saw her moving from back porch folk to a more formal song arrangement which recalled the likes of The Raincoats and Tracy Thorn. It’s always nice to discover a new artist accidentally and tonight Kim Oehme certainly fitted that bill.