Live Review: Neil Bob Herd + Boulder Fields. Leith Depot, Edinburgh – 4th April 2024

Off then to this recently endangered venue in Edinburgh’s Leith Walk to see Neil Bob Herd, a man described by some (AUK actually) as a Scots Nick Lowe on the eve of his latest release, ‘5-reel Feature’, an EP recorded with his “Dirty Little Acoustic Band.” Despite the band’s name the EP is a sumptuous dive into noirish americana with plenty of twang on show and although Herd is playing solo here he still manages to summon up the darker and more devilish moments from the record.

Herd has a long pedigree but he’s probably best known for his stint in The Coal Porters along with Sid Griffin. His solo adventures are more muscular, less bluegrass and more twang, as evinced on his album ‘Every Soul A Story’, the opening song of which kicked off his set as he launched into ‘Bad Land’, a jumping jive rockabilly number which did remind one of Nick Lowe’s earlier and earthier numbers.  This was followed by ‘Unhappy Anywhere’, a song which Herd said only a Scotsman could write, before heading into the easy confines of ‘Everyone’s Got A Book Inside’, a jaunty number with Herd’s guitar picking more than matching the original’s western swing vibe.

Moving on to the EP release, Herd tangled with ‘Who’s Gonna Dance With Me’ followed by his cover of Frankie Valli’s Northern Soul stomper, ‘The Night’ and again he charged through these without the need for a full band line up. The highlight of the night was his spooky rendition of ‘Angel At My Table’ while his tale of living in a house once owned by H. G. Wells led into an intriguing song about time travel before Herd wrapped it up with a fine rendition of ‘Best Song’, again a number which rumbles quite magnificently on record but well able to be delivered solo tonight as Herd and his guitar rumbled along just as well as on the record. Aside from his songs, Herd’s a born raconteur and throughout the set he regaled us with tales from his past and on the songs’ origins.

Herd was ably supported by Boulder Fields, led by Cam Fraser (full disclosure, Cam writes for AUK) who has returned to the music scene with what he calls his Americana/folk band. He’s another artist with a hefty pedigree, albeit it was carved in the post-punk/pre-grunge years via his stint in the Cateran. Tonight, the movable feast which is Boulder Fields comprised a four-piece acoustic set-up keen to display songs from their upcoming album, the first of which was ‘Commerativo’, delivered with a strident beat and followed by ‘Light Like A Knife’, dedicated to political prisoners everywhere. ‘Strings’, described by Fraser as an angry song, allowed guitar player Jamie Watson some space to shine while he also played some excellent, almost Flamenco, licks on the following ‘Horse In A Sling’. ‘Take Off’ and the band’s new single release ‘Measures’ had hefty hints of power pop days (an east coast response to Glasgow’s claim to be the curator of all things post Teenage Fanclub?). They closed with Fraser damning our current Tory leaders in a powerful delivery of ‘This House Will Hold’.

About Paul Kerr 432 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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