To great success, radio station Mojo Edinburgh held the first of their Diamond Dog Sessions; a series of evenings showcasing upcoming musical acts on the Edinburgh underground scene. Organiser and co-founder of Mojo Edinburgh, Milo Hynes spoke of the city’s notable absence of a scene for rising talent and thus his concern to create an accessible platform on which artists and appreciators may come together in celebration and sharing of such musical diversity.
The first of their evenings saw an entirely packed Sneaky Pete’s for a performance from Hector Shaw, supported by Katie Gregson-MacLeod and the Vanderblues. Inverness-Edinburgh based singer-songwriter Gregson-MacLeod provided a wholly compelling opening; her vocal abilities, heavily punctuated by modulation and a haunting tonality pushed thoughtfully crafted and original songs. Her performance was altogether a powerful and evocative one.
Gregson-MacLeod was followed by the Vanderblues who offered a smooth fusion of blues rock with an acoustic, indie aesthetic. The duo emitted a real dynamism for which the lead guitarist could be thanked. Their performance evoked a bleak, urban adolescence as told through a distant ambience and the seemingly effortless handling of a blues guitar that with certain drive blended their own compositions to smooth John Mayer covers. The lead singer’s Ed Sheeran-influenced vocal performance and a lyrical capacity that was unable to totally avoid the teenage cliché of songwriting, as is evident in titles such as ‘Demon in Me’, did somewhat limit the effect of their performance. However, the pair showed significant competency within their field and a harmony of partnership that strives towards a real musicality and spirit that shall be recognised in their potential on the Edinburgh scene.
Concluding the evening with his first ever headline show was singer-songwriter Hector Shaw. Shadowed by musicians, Shaw’s band delivered a powerful and compelling performance, his framework of folk influences spanning from the Celtic to the modern served to compliment his unique musicality and define his style as an accomplished lyricist. His compositions, with their intricate melodies, their colourful evocation of light and dark, rich chord changes and Shaw’s voice that is almost ethereal in its soft vulnerability suggests a sincerity of playing that begins to tread the circles of John Martyn and Joni Mitchell. Shaw’s stage presence was altogether charming; he showed great awareness and consideration for his audience which he entertained not only with his musical performance but also with his mere wit and integrity. Perhaps most evidently in tracks such as ‘Another Way to Love’ and lines like “we’re undressing the earth”, Shaw’s strong moral sentiments are made clear and alongside the emotion found in the arousing beat of ‘God’ and the gentle picking of ‘Peace of Mind’ which evokes an almost Nick Drake-esque landscape of feeling and rhythm, Shaw proves himself a sensitive and highly conscientious songwriter. His performance left the entire room charged and with many asking for an encore.
Platforms such as Mojo operate as key to the promotion and circulation of these acts, and if nothing else may have introduced a few to a name rising through the ranks of Scottish folk and underground culture. When walking around the city and your Spotify list seems to have turned stale there are moments in which, thanks to evenings such as this, you are simply left wanting to listen to Hector Shaw.
Image: Cameron Brisbane