Sometimes music does more than simply entertain you – sometimes it grabs you by the scruff of the neck and makes you sit up and listen. Dick Gaughan’s music is exactly that kind, which is perhaps unsurprising given his contribution to Scottish folk music. Joined by a brilliant band and some smooth vocal backing from The Bevvy Sisters, Gaughan offered up a powerful night of music.
Gaughan has a bold, commanding voice, belting out tunes with a raw honesty. At times he simply spoke the lyrics rather than singing them, giving the words a subtle emphasis. Gaughan’s music is unapologetically political with strong didactic lyrics and big things to say. There is no question about Gaughan’s political stance – he tells us straight away that he is a firm advocator of an ‘independent England.’ Topical as it may be, this music isn’t really about the independence debate and Gaughan was quick to counteract any potential hint of nationalism by quoting Audre Lorde: ‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.’ Not so much solely nationalist, instead the music has a strong socialist kick to it and an anger against any sort of political or social injustice.
The evening didn’t just consist of Gaughan’s own songs. Instead it was a pick n’ mix of old folk songs from the likes of Robert Burns, amongst other gems such as a brilliant tribute to Johnny Cash and a rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ on which Gaughan ended the evening.
The band were fantastic. In fact, they were almost too good, often managing to drown out Gaughan’s forceful voice. This was a real shame because it meant there were far too many songs where the lyrics went unheard. Given the type of music this is, much of its power was lost when the lyrics couldn’t be deciphered. Whilst The Bevvy Sisters complimented the songs nicely, it was also quite difficult to hear them. Only when they were left to do their own cowboy song did it become apparent that they have strong voices.
In between songs Gaughan told stories and jokes but these jokes were few and far between and the political stuff got a bit overbearing. This isn’t music for music’s sake – it’s music with a strong, political backbone. Even if you disagree with Gaughan’s politics, this is passionate, honest stuff which manages to be exhilarating and challenging at the same time.