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Glenbuchat Hall 30 May 2015

You’d never fit that 1970s Grateful Dead PA on Glenbuchat Hall’s stage, and a Polyphonic Spree show here would probably see half the chorus lining the twisting avenue leading down to the Strathdon road. With five players, a voluminous double bass and all three vocal/instrument mics placed stage centre to capture every semi demi-quaver of The Railsplitters’ set, space was tight. The constant movement of all five, jockeying for position to have their defiantly-unplugged instrumental solos, vocals and sumptuous harmonies picked up, added a delightful visual choreography to a finely-honed and rapturously-received set.

Their debut album drew reviews full of praise. The Faster It Goes, just released, is the focus for the current ambitious UK tour. Like its predecessor, it is grounded in bluegrass, but as fiddler Christine King explained, “Then it goes elsewhere, and we’re not sure about the genre”. And all the better for that.

Whilst the two albums provided the bulk of the material played, the band dug deep into tradition and called up Carter Family, Dillards and Buck Owens songs during the evening. Yet their own songs, mostly written by Dusty Rider (“a banjo superhero name” according to Christine), stood proudly, on equal footing with the country classics. Lauren Stovall, diminutive of frame but gigantic in voice, range and phrasing is a consummate vocal interpreter, with ‘Met That Day’, ‘Boarding Pass’ and the aching doo-wop of ‘Tell Me’ particular highlights. All but bassist Leslie Ziegler took turns at the main mic, but she contributed hugely to the vocal harmonies which added depth and further beauty to melodies that Glenbuchat took to its communal heart.

All five are players of the highest quality too. Orchestral teacher Leslie adds timbre, plucking and bowing sympathetic basslines, often owing as much to rock n roll and jazz as they do to bluegrass. Dusty’s banjo is ever-present, whether adding percussive rhythm or fleet-fingered soloing to the overall sound, and mandolinist Peter Sharpe, responsible for The Faster It Goes instrumentals ‘Estuary’ and ‘Goosetown’, showers the set with intricate fills, trills and solos, often with a delicious bluesy edge. Christine is the new girl and the extra emotion her fiddle adds to The Faster It Goes has enhanced The Railsplitters’ sound immeasurably, and whilst it is for her outstanding singing that Lauren is becoming renowned, she provides significant attack and depth on guitar.

They’re good people too. Visibly delighted by Glenbuchat’s appreciation, they are affable and humorous onstage and delight in each other’s company, staying behind long after the final notes of second encore ‘There Is A Time’ to chat with an audience now being exposed to some of North America’s finest roots acts in a tiny corner of North East Scotland.

Further tour dates:

Sun May 31: Universal Hall, Findhorn

Mon June 1: Traverse Theatre Bar, Edinburgh (with The Hot Seats)

Tues June 2: The Memorial Hall, Kilbarchan (double bill with The Hot Seats)

Wed June 3: Swaledale Festival, North Yorkshire

Thurs June 4: The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

Fri June 5: Jumpin Hot Club, Cluny 2, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Sat June 6: St Cuthbert’s Seahouses, Northumberland

Sun June 7: Gate to Southwell Festival, Notts

Mon June 8: The Corn Exchange, Devizes

Tues June 9: The Barn at Three Horse Shoes, Towersey

Wed June 10: The Garret Sessions, Queen’s Head, Fyfield

Thurs June 11: The Green Note, Camden

Fri June 12: Royal Native Oyster Stores, Whitstable

Sat June 13: Exchange, Bristol

Sun June 14: The Live Room, Saltaire

Tues June 16: The Red Room, Cookstown

Thurs June 18: Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Fri June 19: Balor Arts, Ballybofey, Co Donegal

Sat June 20: Seamus Ennis Centre, Naul, Co Dublin

Sun June 21: The Green Room, Black Box, Belfast (2pm matinee)

Date added: May 31, 2015

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