Michael Marra review: Display just oozes class

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Michael Marra ***** Leith Folk Club DESPITE the music industry's best efforts, music still refuses to be categorised, pigeon-holed or homogenised. Boy and girl bands will come and go, but musicianship and song-writing ability, fortunately, still decides who gets a career and who becomes one or two hit wonders.

Big budget tours, all star shows and pull-all-the-stops-out extravaganzas are just spectacle. Real music can connect with an individual or an audience regardless of scale, and last night at the Leith Folk Club, Michael Marra connected more deeply and personally than many are capable of.

Slight of frame, the Dundonian made his way through the crowd to offer up another fabulous, understated show of favourites and new songs with no entourage or ego, making do instead with intelligence, wit and emotion.

Marra brings to mind a host of other performers: he had all the wit of Loudon Wainwright III, Randy Newman and even Tom Lehrer put together, coupled with all the social conscience of Woody Guthrie, albeit with a very Scottish accent.

His deep, deadpan brogue introduced songs that induced laughter, occasionally sorrow but also nostalgia. There was a Broons and Oor Wullie sentimentality to his words and melodies, but never at the cost of realism or believability.

Classics like Dr John Visits Blairgowrie and the harmonica driven Bob Dylans Visit To Edinburgh sat alongside stoaters like Mincing Wi Chairlhi and Niel Gows Apprentice, but for Marra, the songs were never enough. All of these slices of Scottish life have a life of their own, and for every one, he had a mini-biography to relate.

Sometimes the stories were sad, while the songs were funny or bitter-sweet, sometimes it was the other way around. The one thread that ran through them all was that they were, every one, heartfelt.

Marra's songs he sings, and the worlds he describes are too big for any stage to contain. All he really needs is an audience willing to listen, and he has that, and much more already.