We see a lot of Rich Hall on panel shows these days: QI, Have I Got News For You?, Eight out of Ten Cats, Never Mind The Buzzcocks. His acerbic wit is always a welcome addition to these shows but the format does reduce his ability to showcase his work as a musician.
As alter-ego Otis Lee Crenshaw he has, along with his bands, the Black Liars and the Honky-Tonk A**holes, been responsible for two national tours and two studio albums and with Rich Hall’s Hoedown he gets a chance to show off these musical chops to an Edinburgh audience under his own name.
Hall pitches his material perfectly at his audience – songs like the Rose of Hawick (pronounced ‘hoyk’) and Take Me Back To Cardiff sitting side-by-side with Tennessee Love Song (‘Roberta, you gotta quit that Ku Klux Klan…’), Tight Wranglers and the barnstorming George Foreman Grill. There is the occasional bum note – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (From Behind) feels like a bit of a cheap joke – but, most of these ‘comedy’ tracks are also excellent country and western in their own right and genuinely get your toes tapping.
Nevertheless, as good as Hall is, the show definitely benefits from his excellent choice of support acts. The night I saw it featured the incredible Ellie and Immie Mason, two sisters whose featured performance, Time To Get a Gun, is just lovely. Their vocal contributions, clear voices cutting through the slide guitar, added a soaring layer to the down-home tunes. Of course, the excellent support of guitarist Rob Childs, bassist James Morgan and drummer Mark Hewitt is the glue that holds the performance together, never missing a beat.
At 90 minutes, ‘Rich Hall’s Hoedown’ is unusually long for a Fringe show, but it doesn’t drag for a second. If you’re looking to finish your day on a high or even set yourself up to keep going until dawn, this is the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs.