A review of RM Hubbert and Shamble Miller at The Bothy,Inverness on the 27th of October.
The intimate top of the house setting that is The Bothy at Hootanannay was perhaps the perfect venue for this evening’s double bill. Not only did The Bothy showcase the performances particularly well but provided the perfect metaphor in respect of what was on offer. The stereotypical bothy night was a cosy place for storytelling, humour, ballads and an attentive audience and that’s precisely what we got.
Shambles Miller was last spotted in these parts performing at the GoNorth event earlier in the year and created quite an impact. One man and his guitar with a hatful of well observed scenarios, Shambles Miller turns an often sardonic and satirical eye on the everyday stuff of life and to newsworthy items delivering them in a fashion that can deceive the listener. Should you really be smiling at accounts of domestic abuse? Relax, that’s a rhetorical statement, but it does highlight the genius of Miller, a fine folk oriented vocal style delivering funny and at times controversial content.
The ‘heavier’ material is offset by for example ‘Deadpool’ – a creative comic book account of life as a cyborg, so guilt free laughing is of course also on the menu. Technically these might not be the most avant garde acoustic offerings but they are fine melodies that are easy on the ear and which allow the lyrical content to take centre stage. And that is entirely the point.
End of a trilogy
RM Hubbert follows Shambles onto The Bothy stage. Hubby is on a fifteen gigs in fifteen days tour and this is day three. By happy coincidence this is also the official release date for the final album in the trilogy, ‘Breaks and Bone’, although it is no more than coincidence because from Hubby’s perspective this whole tour is about the album release. In Hubby we have another generous storyteller – but the essence of Hubby being that his stories document his life, covering subject matter that can be deeply personal and intimate.
The set comprises of compositions from all three albums that make up the trilogy, the other two being First & Last and Thirteen Lost & Found. There is perhaps more of a narrative link between the new album and his debut First & Last, an album that recorded his response to the death of both parents. This new album is an attempt by Hubby to finally let go of that episode in his life, and, to help him manage his well-documented chronic depression.
Given all of this I was taken by surprise at just how funny Hubby was in his exchanges with the audience. Using language fit for a bothy, he had us laughing every bit as much as we had been with Shambles. In performing the traditional folk song The Scots Bride alongside a cover of Nicola Roberts’ (former Girls Aloud member) Cindarella’s Eyes, Hubby also gave us an insight to the diversity of his musical influences.
From the trilogy, we were treated to explanations behind the compositions along with words of advice. For example, not too long after he wrote one of his few love songs, ‘For Maria’, his wife left him. So don’t write love songs, but it also helps if you ‘wash yer baws’ occasionally.
What sets the new album apart is that Hubby sings on it. His voice is as previously reported a more melodic version of his talking voice – and very pleasing it is too. It has a vulnerability about it that suits much of the material. This singing business is good news for me as he includes ‘Car Song’ from award-winning album Thirteen Lost & Found in the set. The vocals go to Aidan Moffat on the recording, a very different voice, but Hubby certainly does it justice this evening.
The audience demanded an encore and had clearly had a wonderful evening. Both of these artists had us laughing tonight, both were fine proponents of very different aspects of ‘typical’ Scottish humour, often self-deprecating and ranging from the sardonic to the bittersweet, it was all good. If RM Hubbert is appearing at a bothy near you, go see him, you will not be disappointed.