The Red Dirt Skinners at The Greenhouse, Dingwall, 23/11/2014. A review.
The actual venue may have changed but the unique atmosphere of the Tea Cosy at the Greenhouse in Dingwall is, I am delighted to say, very much intact. In addition, the capacity to attract and host some very fine acts indeed still shines.
This Saturday, one of the hardest working and touring acts in the national scene stop by tea, cake and two fine sets inspired by country and western. The Red Dirt Skinners are husband and wife team Rob and Sarah Skinner, with Rob on guitar and Sarah on soprano sax and harmonica.
Lyrically, shades of light and dark shifting between witty smile-along songs to the darker side of life that makes you look away. On the darker side, ‘Black and White’. When Sarah has bad dreams she dreams in monochrome, this song is filled with all the clues needed to catch the crook that burgled their house. Sarah takes lead vocals on this song and it is indeed cinematic, uneasy and edgy. On the lighter side, I kind of want to know more about that train-driving monkey they sing about in ‘The Monkey and the Engineer’.
Elsewhere we have a couple of well chosen covers that have you double checking, a terrific version of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ featuring really fine vocals that gave the twins a run for their money followed closely by ‘Space Oddity’ . . .
On balance I think perhaps my favourite song of the day was their own ‘Lay Me Down’ – a lullaby about coping with just about anything if you have a loving partner.
So, country and western inspired perhaps, but there is a significant twist. What sets them apart is Sarah’s soprano sax, where you might have fiddle or guitar lead breaks the sax kicks in and you can’t ignore the bluesy jazz vibe that this creates. And, she is a really accomplished player, having picked up a British Blues Award for Instrumentalist of the Year.
Whether strumming or picking Rob’s guitar playing really is very good and he has an excellent voice – taking the lead today on all but one song. However their harmonies are exceptional, and today there were a few a’ cappella arrangements that had everyone’s full attention.
Like I say, they really are very hard working and the good news is that they are scheduled to be playing locally at The Market Bar on November 25th – well worth getting along to the finest small venue in Inverness.