Vivien Scotson – The Glad Café – Glasgow – February 28, 2023. Support: Not Yet
Written by celtic music radio on March 1, 2023
Opening the show at a packed Glad Cafe, Anglo-Dutch duo Not Yet entertained with a lively mixture of original songs and covers – some of the latter unexpected, but no less welcome.
Tim Hoy (guitar, keys, and vocals) and Laura Brandenburg (stand-up electric bass) displayed a nice mixture of musicality with a healthy touch of self-deprecating humour. The interchange between guitar and upright bass is one that I’ve always loved since the days of John Martyn and Danny Thompson, and certainly came across well at Glasgow Southside’s premier small venue.
The effects of Tim’s ADHD on his life and music were wryly summed up in his song Ironing My Shoes, which not only upped the audience empathy levels, but was also a fine song, well-delivered in his strong baritone voice.
In the original material, there was a real mélange of influences, from the Americana-tinged Before She Came, to touches of flamenco, and even a bit of reggae in the class-critical number Enough – the politics of which was certainly enough to elicit audible approval from a Glasgow full house.
That same audience was also right up for a singalong, joining in with the catchier hooklines on the original songs, and becoming an informal choir on American Songbook standards like Fly Me to the Moon and Georgia, and, more gently, on Don McLean’s classic Vincent. Nicely done, Not Yet.
Vivien Scotson was playing her first full gig in 12 years. The Glad Cafe gig is the first step in re-starting a career that had seen her tour with Sandi Thom, Donnie Munro, and Charley Pride before taking a break to raise her family, and also to save the family croft in Sutherland.
She’s back in Glasgow, along with some little friends from the croft – including Erika the Hen who appears sitting on her shoulder and joining in, at surprisingly appropriate moments, in a viral YouTube performance of Vivien’s The Mackenzies of Oldshoremore.
She opened with a new song, Believer, which dealt with the difficulties someone on the autism spectrum, as she is, has in gauging the true emotions of others. She was then joined by cellist Laura Durrant whose emotional response to Vivien’s songs could not be doubted. Cello and voice wound around each other for most of the evening in a beautiful contrapuntal gestalt.
Colonsay was the first example of that in which a visit to the eponymous island with her then partner inspired a vision of a little boy running on the sand – a year later her son was born. The song recalls the romance of the moment, but also lets us in to Vivien’s strong feelings for the natural world.
Relationships are a recurrent theme in her work. In some hands, that could be seen as monotonous. It is therefore worthy of applause – as the audience enthusiastically agreed – when her examination of so many different aspects of love – requited, unrequited, close, distant – results in so many distinct and beautifully constructed songs.
The Lights Go Out moved to an insistent rhythm paralleling its comparison of the hazards of love to driving down a motorway in the dark. Train Tracks had a skipping motion that evoked a journey to a distant lover. Supplying harmonies to that song was Rob Branter, who soared above the melody like a Glaswegian David Crosby.
Stephen Gallagher (keys, synth) and Not Yet’s Laura Brandenburg (bass) came onstage providing additional musical texture and, particularly on the mash-up of The Video and Broken Love, provided a push that took the ambience into pop-rock for a while before moving on to Vivien’s new single, Milk Float, an upbeat song about “going with the flow” to mark Spring’s imminent arrival.
Vivien put down her guitar for Loved, a melodic “torch song” that reminded me of early Joni Mitchell, and then finished the set with a soul-type ballad she wrote with Polly Paulusma based on their similar early experiences of making music, You’ve Always Been There. Cue vigorous applause and an encore.
I mentioned The Mackenzies of Oldshoremore earlier. It’s a song about her own love of the Sutherland croft and the love of her Mackenzie ancestors for each other and the land. Even without the presence of Erika the Hen, it’s a real earworm of a melody allied to a beautiful lyric that ties in the shifting seasons, bees, butterflies, and wild orchids to an enduring love story in which the man “ties Mackenzie ribbons in her long brown hair.” A perfect ending to the evening that earned a standing ovation.