Live Review | The Courthouse, Otley | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Greentrax label mates Rua Macmillan and Ewan Robertson embarked on their joint debut UK tour tonight at the Courthouse in the Wharf Valley market town of Otley. The refurbished nineteenth century magistrates court provided the ideal place to kick off this tour, which featured two Scots musicians known for their work in two successful Scots bands, The Paul McKenna Band and Breabach respectively. The concert was divided into two sets, one dominated by a selection of well-chosen songs, both traditional and contemporary, whilst the second set was totally instrumental. In good spirits, the young Carrbridge, Strathspey-born singer/guitarist Ewan Robertson, just 28 yesterday, made his solo debut kicking off with the whaling song “Greenland”, followed by a handful of songs from his debut solo album Some Kind of Beauty, including the album opener “One For The Ditch”, Dave Sudbury’s gorgeous “King of Rome” and Richard Thompson’s classic boy/girl/motorbike/disaster road movie “Vincent Black Lightning”, for which Rua Macmillan was invited up onstage to contribute some flighty fiddle playing. After a short break, the Rua Macmillan Trio, consisting of Ruairidh Macmillan on fiddle, Bodega’s Tia Files on guitar and Adam Brown on bodhran, brought much of the Tyro album to life with an instrumental set showcasing the trio’s command over traditional music from north of the border. Starting with “Ooh Pierre!”, the band gently eased themselves into their set, which would boast some remarkably intuitive and dextrous playing throughout. Whilst Tia and Adam remained seated, Rua dominated the stage with a storming performance, the vibration of which on more than one occasion sent chairs off the stage to the rear and little pedal gadgets off stage to the front. A powerful and energetic set consisting of various sets of jigs and reels, mostly from the debut album, together with pieces including “George, Donald and Sandy”, “Harv’s” and “Kitchen Criminals”. Whilst “Traditionally Incorrect”, featuring the tunes “The Ewie Wi’ the Crooked Horn” and “The Chancer” brought Tia Files’ confident guitar playing to the fore, it was Adam Brown’s demonstration of precisely how the Bodhran should be played that had the audience on the edge of their seats, with some virtuoso playing midway through the performance, courtesy of the young Newmarket musician, utilising the self-made instrument to its full potential. For the final encore, Rua invited Ewan Robertson back to the stage to join the band on fiddle this time, with a final waltz, completing an inspiring evening of music.