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The Pictish Trail/HMS Ginafore – King Tuts, Glasgow

The idea of the musical commune is one which is easy to disparage. It conjures up images of naive hippies smacked out on Haight-Ashbury, of anarcho-punks in squats in Brixton, of 2000 kids dressed identically yet proclaiming their individuality at a My Chemical Romance gig. It doesn’t, in the main, have a good image.

One of the few that is difficult to mock, however, is Fife-based Folk label the Fence Collective. Best known for label co-founder King Creosote and the acclaimed work of James Yorkston, they’ve inhabited their own world for a while now, releasing a series of excellent records with very little commercial drive which, paradoxically, have gone on to hit a much broader audience. Indeed, the audience all seem to know each other. A Fence Collective show isn’t so much a concert as a party.

We start with a rare performance from HMS Ginafore, aka one very beautifully voiced lady called Jenny Gordon, who sits and strums an acoustic guitar while singing sad, reflective songs laced with a delicate humour and enough bathos to stun Neil Tennent. She has a cold, she explains, which is why she is supping from a mugful of port. This being a Christmas show, she starts with a haunting rendition of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ before moving through a selection of her own work.

She’s funny, and she’s great and she’s clearly very nervous but the fragility only adds to the overall beauty of the music. She asks someone to bring her another drink, which arrives midsong and everyone laughs and you do feel a part of something more than just a show. After half an hour of gorgeous lo-fi melancholia, she ends with a haunting ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Lovely.

And then on to the Pictish Trail, which is the band name for label co-founder Johnny Lynch. Tonight it is basically a folk supergroup, featuring James Yorkston and Adem. Lynch has always been in the shadows of Kenny Anderson, label co-founder and the afore-mentioned King Creosote, but whisper it, he may actually be the greater talent. Starting with a solo acoustic run-through of Hot Chip’s ‘And I Was A Boy From School’, he really takes off when backed by the band. With a voice as sweet and warming as a good single malt, he bashes out some gloriously insistent electro-folk-pop, if such a genre exists. Well versed in the nagging, angular post-punk folk that Big Country (pre-big hair) don’t get the credit they deserve for, he absolutely raises the roof with ‘Secret Sound’ which is as white, sparkly and magnificent as a frost-covered field.

There’s some Nick Drake in there, some John Martyn, but also some Beck and Syd Barrett. it could be a mess, but it never is, for Lynch knows his pop as the Hot Chip cover shows and never allows this to become a racket. The show ends with the surreally beautiful sight of James Yorkston packing up his gear as Lynch plays his final acoustic song because he’s on the twenty to twelve train to London. That’s the Fence Collective in a nutshell. Gloriously oddball, wilfully brave and never less than interesting.

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2 Responses

  1. Hmmm…. Sounds rather good. Think that I will check both of them out! 🙂

  2. It really is very good stuff LO!

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