Before going to see Vincent McCallum play, I had the opportunity of listening to his CD “Scottish Roots Portugese Hearts.” The album set me up for a great night of Portuguese flavoured music.
We finally arrived at the Allanwater Brewhouse in Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, after a small search as it is nestled away behind a hotel to find a comfortable, intimate venue.
The pub is full of the normal crowd you would expect to see on a Saturday night, as well as students from the nearby University of Stirling, weary from their studies looking for a place to relax. Unfortunately we were unable to get a seat at the wood burner and took our seats at the other side of the bar which was only three tables away from the stage (I said this place was small).
Starting the evening off was Mike Smith, a singer-songwriter from Airdrie who is influenced by Neil Young, Eagles, Crowded House and Tom Patty to name a few. Having previously opened up for artists such as Glen Tilbroock, Declan Sinnot and Bob Cheevers his music takes you back to when Scottish artists were riding the charts giving a flavour of Scottish-Americana; think stripped back Del Amitri and your almost there.
Three stand out songs of his set were “Sister Rain”; “Constant Thunder” and “Don’t Lay Down.” Accompanying Mike on a few of his songs was Vincent’s musical partner Johnny who brought the harmonica and flute to the table. Unfortunately, Johnny’s English was just as good as my Portuguese and could not really get a chance to talk to him. However his musicianship took Mike’s songs to another place, complimenting his raspy voice on “Don’t Lay Down”.
When asking Mike about his music he stated that he “loves to play off of the audiences reactions and live in the moment that’s why I asked Johnny to come up and play. I don’t know if it will go right or wrong but then again neither does the audience and I love being in that moment.”
After a small break we were introduce to Vincent McCallum.
As well as songs from his album, Vincent also played a few new songs he had been working on. This gave an eclectic mix of genre’s blending folk, Blues and jazz music with a nice 60/70’s feel to it. Vincent’s style and vocals far outweigh his calm exterior, playing soulful songs like “Purple Penguin” and “Tempos Que Já Lá Váo” and haunting songs like “Loneliness is my Fear” then rocking out with a few Blues songs that wanted you to sit back with a Bourbon on a warm summers evening.
With Johnny playing Harmonica on the Blues-ier tracks, it felt like he was ready to break into Roadhouse Blues at any moment, then moving to the flute gave Vincent’s Joe Cocker’esque vocals to play around with a more Jethro Tull feel to his other songs.
It was refreshing to hear a musician play his songs not completely different from his album, but enough to give you something new.
If you can, have a listen to some of his tracks on Reverbnation, however, keep an eye out for him returning to the UK to catch him live.
Links to both Mike Smith and Vincent McCallum: