Gig review: Strands of Oak, Glasgow

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“How I write love songs is, it kinda starts sweet and then the world ends,” says Timothy Showalter, connoisseur of sparse, dust-blown country rock dirges with a lyrical heart of gold.

Strands of Oak - ABC2, Glasgow

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Sadly, the presence of just a few people in the audience only emphasised the resonating loneliness at the heart of Showalter’s music, some of it played on his own with a chiming electric guitar, some of it abetted by the dense, slowed-down beats of drummer Chris Ward. This didn’t make for the most action-packed show, but the sound and the surroundings were at least in perfect harmony.

It was hard not to warm to Showalter, however, a man born in Indiana and raised in Pennsylvania, whose gruff rocker’s exterior – flowing hair and beard, black vest and jeans – belied a personable and polite sensibility which had him declaring his love for Scotland at every opportunity. He apparently collects books on Scottish geography and the guitar tones he uses are all from listening to bands bred in these parts, and “if you see me homeless on the streets of Glasgow one day you can say, ‘oh yeah, I saw that guy play once’,” although hopefully the city will take him close to heart before that’s allowed to happen.

Showalter’s music is enduringly affecting even as it steps back from desperately demanding attention, with simple ballads about fantasising the death of James Belushi’s drug dealer (Daniel’s Blues, with its memorable couplet: “I stuffed everything in his mouth, everything that he was holding”), the ice cream parlour where he dated his wife (Maureen’s) and finding love with a divorcee who has children (Two Kids) merging into an engagingly confessional, narrative-driven whole. A larger audience would surely approve.