Gig review: Mike Vass – In The Wake of Neil Gunn, Inverness

Mike Vass recreated the sailing trip taken by Neil Gunn evoking both rough seas and calmer times

Mike Vass recreated the sailing trip taken by Neil Gunn evoking both rough seas and calmer times

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Mike Vass read Neil Gunn’s account of a sailing trip around the west coast of Scotland in 1937 while recovering from a life-threatening bout of Lyme disease last year. He set about his own recreation of the voyage in May, writing and performing as they went.

Mike Vass – In The Wake of Neil Gunn - OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness

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This concert featured two additional tunes not included on the newly released recording of the project, including one for his nephew, who began his own life voyage at the time of the May jaunt. The nautical theme was paramount in the material, invoking rougher days on the water as well as calm reflection, accompanied at times by film clips from the voyage.

Although best known as a fiddler, Vass confined himself to tenor guitar and mandolin (the latter played with a felt drum beater, a technique also used by guitarist Innes Watson, bassist Euan Burton and the two lowest strings of the Cairn String Quartet during the show), with his fiddle heard only on film or prerecorded music.

His use of electronics added to the unconventional elements, but for the most part the music relied on the staples of simple, evocative melodies and insistent rhythmic momentum, and contrasted Jennifer Port’s oboe with Hamish Napier’s flute to good effect.

The most intriguing piece was the entirely pre-recorded Heave and Roll, created in the studio by Vass and Burton, and perhaps indicative of a direction worth developing.

Seen on 08.10.14

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