James Vincent McMorrow has come a long way this year since his UK TV debut on Later... with Jools Holland in May of this year. There's been the critical acclaim and he's just completed a headlining tour of the US and Canada. Clearly in a touring mood, he's now in the midst of a UK/European tour. Tonight, he's stopping by the absolutely stunning Queen's Hall in Edinburgh.
There's a good crowd in the intimate venue, with tables set out in front of the stage. The remainder of the audience are housed in the stalls which surround the stage in vaguely horseshoe shape. Before we get to Mr McMorrow and his band, we have a set from the striking Canadian, Lindi Ortega. Flowing black locks, short skirt and bright red cowboy boys, Ortega makes an immediate impression on the audience. With a voice like Dolly Parton, a pretty impressive ability with her guitar and an easy manner she won over the audience immediately. There was a nice blend of songs and some really excellent guitar playing that made it a good warm up for the main act to follow. The audience certainly appreciated it and gave Ortega a warm send off.
After a brief interlude, McMorrow and his band take to the stage to a rousing reception from the audience. It's a set jam packed with tracks from his debut album. The small stage is fairly crammed itself, with a total of six band members including McMorrow and they don't half produce a wonderful sound together. From opener 'Sparrow & the Wolf' to 'This Old Dark Machine' the rhythm section are simply fantastic. Elsewhere McMorrow showcases his amazing voice. He goes from holding long, soulful notes that ring out in the lovely venue, to instantly taking the volume down and suddenly sounding the most vulnerable man on the planet.
Between songs, there's spades of Irish charm. After one song a loud, clear Irish accent in the stalls shouts out "Fair play to you son". McMorrow takes it in his stride, replying with a wry smile "And where might you be from?". It certainly eases him into the gig, coming early on. There's a really good rendition of the Steve Winwood song 'Higher Love', which gets a good reception. The song also happens to be the b-side of the new single 'We Don't Eat'. It's a set full of highlights and I can say with complete honesty that there's not a single negative thing to be about this gig. The band are tight and clearly enjoying themselves, as are the audience.
Mr McMorrow does himself no harm when he says how much he loves Edinburgh. An Edinburgh audience is always partial to hearing how beautiful their city is. There's a story about how nice the venue is compared to his last venue in the city (the popular but fairly spartan Sneaky Pete's) and a really funny anecdote about Prince firing a crew member for looking him in the eye. There's even a solo encore when we are treated to a cover of 'Wicked Game' by Chris Isaak. Cheekily though, McMorrow refuses to name the song title beforehand, believeing that would prejudice the audience against it. He correctly states we'll recognise it's greatness in time. Hard to argue with him once he delivers his version of the song. It's a pretty great ending to a really great gig. 2012 should see McMorrow rise to the top of the pile in the folk genre judging by this show tonight. He also drops the news that the new album should be out in early 2012. There's a lot more to come from this charming Irishman.