Friday, 1 February 2013

All Will Be Well Review : The Life and Songs of Michael Marra’ concert at Celtic Connections festival Glasgow 2013

Alice Marra
A diverse and colourful cast of musicians and singers took to the stage for a memorable night to celebrate Michael’s life and songs. Artists taking part - Alice, Matthew and Chris Marra, Andrew Mitchell (The Hazey Janes), Eddi Reader, Dougie MacLean, The Mackenzie Sisters, Pat and Greg Kane (Hue & Cry), John Spillane, Jimmie MacGregor, Kris Drever and Musical Director and host Rab Noakes. Dundee singer-songwriter Michael Marra died in October 2012. 

The concert opened with the entire cast and The Hazy Janes, Marra’s children, singing his songs When These Shoes Were New and The Midas Touch. Eddi Reader, Rab Noakes and Dougie MacLean next performed Dear Hank Williams, proved an iconic moment to see all three Scottish legends on stage together. We were then treated to the lovely female harmonies from the Mackenzie sisters who sang Happed in Mist and The Lonesome death of Francis Clarke.
Rab Noakes, Alice Marra, Andrew Marra
This was a concert of many voices. Dougie MacLean gave a moving interpretation of a song he said Marra had once sung at the Blair Gowrie folk club, a song that Marra never recorded called Goodnight To Lovely You. Hue & Cry sang Mother Glasgow and Like Another Rolling Stone - Pat Kane spoke affectionately about Marra and he said that quality would always shine through. 

Sylvia Rae sang one of Marra’s jazzier songs Under the Ullapool Moon with a captivating slow husky voice. Noakes put his melodic guitar spin on Marra’s song General Grant. Eddi Reader gave a rousing performance of Here Comes the Weak. Marra enjoyed his 'footba' and often wrote songs about the sport. Rod Paterson stood out with the Marra songs Hamish and The Bawbee Birlin and his deep gravelly voice sounded as if Marra was actually there with us. There was a top class band on stage with a saxophone player and more. 
Eddi Reader, Rab Noakes, Dougie MacLean
Hue & Cry
Near the close Alice Marra gave a haunting rendition of Michael’s favourite song Monkey Hair. There were tears on All Will Be Well when we could feel the warmth both on stage and in the audience. Scots Maker read a poem about taking flight. I am sure Marra would have been proud as the night ended with a poignant rendition of Hermless.  

Noakes proved an informed host and he drew from his many years in music. He said Michael was able to sing in different dialects and that he could switch easily from the mid-Atlantic pop music accent that they grew up listening to and a broad Scots Dundonian accent. Marra’s music drew from many influences – and there are many references in his songs from pop, Dylan, musicals, and more. Marra liked to think sideways. He mixed celebrities with the ordinary man in his songs and he looked at the small details. The music Labels wanted him to change his song titles and to smooth and soften the edges but Marra refused to compromise his music. He said that Marra wanted to have his name in brackets not in lights.
Rab Noakes & Jimmie MacGregor
Dougie MacLean
Mackenzie sisters
He was a wee man with a quizzical look, a big heart and a gift for expressing the absurd. To me Marra painted with words and I’ve never seen an audience so engrossed at a gig as at Marra’s Mugdock theatre one. He kindly signed a print for me there and said how much he enjoyed playing at small intimate venue gigs like this – where the theatre had a grand piano in the corner and tiered seating. I remember at his Milngavie folk club gig he oddly set his keyboard on an ironing board. He was a humble and keen observer of our human foibles and contradictions and the humorous side of life. Thanks Michael.  

PHOTOS - http://pkimage.co.uk/AllWillBeWell
SET - ALL: When These Shoes Were New/ Hazey Janes; The Midas Touch/ Hazey Janes; Dear Hank Williams/ Rab Noakes, Eddi Reader, Dougie MacLean: Niel Gow/ Tom Mitchell: Frida Kahlo/ Mackenzie sisters & Kris Drever: Happed in Mist/ Hue & Cry: Mother Glasgow/ Riley Briggs: Alter Boys/ Dougie MacLean; Goodnight To Lovely You/ Eddi Reader; Machushia/ Rod Paterson: The Bawbee Birlin/ John Spillane: The homeless do not seem to drink here

II Hazey Janes: Golden Slippers/ Mrs Gorrie/ Rab Noakes: General Grant/ John Spillane: Chain up the swings/ Sylvia Rae: Under the Ullapool Moon/ Dougie MacLean: Peddie Street/ Hue & Cry: Like another Rolling Stone/ Mackenzie sisters: The Lonesome death of Francis Clarke/ Kris Drever: Scenectady calling/ Eddi Reader: Here come the weak/ Rod Paterson: Hamish/ Alice Marra and Andrew Marra: Monkey Hair/ ALL: All Will Be Well/ Hermless
‘He can’t catch a rose between his teeth. I can’t lay my head on an olive branch.