The Mercenary Fiddler AKA Elsa Jean McTaggart

Aberfeldian self-taught fiddler and singer-songwriter, Elsa Jean McTaggart, enters stage left, playing electric fiddle and wearing red tartan skirt, and jaunty baker boy hat. One thing's for sure: she looks the part and she has the tourist contingent firmly onside for this 50-minute show that sadly fails to make much of an impression.

McTaggart appears to be a confident performer, who uses the venue well to make us feel included, by walking up the aisle, sitting on the stage, and taking ownership of the space.

Accompanied by Gary Lister, her husband, on the keyboard, the couple play a selection of McTaggart's original compositions and well-known tunes, such as Orange Blossom Special (which mutates, worryingly, into Y Viva España), Devil Went Down To Georgia, and Lord Of The Dance. Many of these tunes showcase McTaggart's ability to play faster and faster, while still maintaining accuracy, and smiling throughout. But while technically impressive, it wears thin after the second or third time that the audience is asked whether we want it faster. I don't imagine McTaggart would take no for an answer.

McTaggart's own pieces are largely autobiographical: hanging around for a perpetually tardy guitarist – lateness being an Irish trait, apparently – in Waiting On Wallace; dreaming of seeing dead relatives planting flowers in Edinburgh Gardens; returning to live in Scotland after a twenty-year absence in Coming Home. The clip-clop of the rhythm machine is reminiscent of something from Eurovision, particularly on the closer, Fiddle in the Tax Office, a song that makes me think of Cotton Eye Joe – the audience has been primed to shout for 'more' before the penultimate song, and we oblige, with good humour. Elsewhere we have sang an awkward refrain – 'skiddly iddly dee diddly dum' – and clapped along.

McTaggart appears to be a confident performer, who uses the venue well to make us feel included, by walking up the aisle, sitting on the stage, and taking ownership of the space. There are flashes of nerves and a little edginess to proceedings – her eagerness to please and be appreciated is noticeable in the brightly lit hall. Nothing here to damn, but nothing to write home about either.






Reviews by Ella Moran-Jones

theSpace @ Symposium Hall

The Mercenary Fiddler AKA Elsa Jean McTaggart

★★★
The Jazz Bar

Nick Harper

★★★★
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride's

Mairearad and Anna

★★★★★
The Jazz Bar

Newt North

★★★★
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride's

John Renbourn and Wizz Jones

★★★
The Jazz Bar

Americana Road Trip

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Five-star and ThreeWeeks Editors' Award winner 2012, Scottish fiddler and singer/songwriter Elsa Jean McTaggart returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with her new show The Mercenary Fiddler. The show will feature well-known fiddle songs like The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Orange Blossom Special, River Dance, and Fairytale, plus some of Elsa's original songs: Fiddle in the Tax Office, Phantom Fiddler, and many more! This is a high energy foot-stomping show for all ages that will have you singing, clapping along and dancing in your seats. www.elsa-jean-mctaggart.com