OVER THE past year, the charity Vox Liminis, in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, has been conducting songwriting workshops in a number of Scottish prisons with inmates, staff and other employees of the criminal justice system, producing a catalogue of more than 100 songs.
Distant Voices: In Song
Star rating: ****
Five of these can be heard on the newly released Silent Seconds EP, and 15 additional numbers from the sessions also made it on to the set list at this celebration gig, with many of the writers in attendance to hear their songs rendered by a talented troupe of musicians.
Four mini-sets were sensitively led by singers Emma Pollock, Donna Maciocia, Admiral Fallow frontman Louis Abbott and Andrew Howie, who helms the Vox Unbound get-togethers. Despite a rather ramshackle changing of the guard from song to song, the spirit of the enterprise and the quality of the songs shone through.
There was no Ballad of Reading Gaol to be heard here – instead, the lyricists had turned their gaze outwards to home life, favourite places, politics. Highlights included Travelling With You, a carefree indie pop number, Think, a bluesy, Beatley protest song performed by Abbott with co-writer Richard, and a freewheeling rootsy pop rocker A King That Never Falls, written by the wonderfully nicknamed Pete the Punk.
The pace was generally gentle and ruminative, with contrasting moments of grit and wistfulness, and some outright tenderness on the closing love song Breathe Life, beautifully arranged for piano, accordion and pedal steel.