ALAN REID & ROB VAN SANTE *** PLEASANCE CABARET BAR, EDINBURGH
BOTH members of this occasional duo are best known via those much-loved Scottish stalwarts, the Battlefield Band – co-founder Alan Reid as its sole remaining original member, and Dutch-born Rob van Sante as its long-time sound engineer.
Performing together is presumably a kind of busman's holiday from the Batties' extended stints of international touring, and a chance for van Sante to get out from behind the mixing desk. His role here, in a set largely dominated by Reid's original songs, was primarily that of accompanist, playing guitar in a variety of open tunings while Reid switched between piano, accordion and his own guitar. Both the strengths and weaknesses of Reid's singing and songwriting were equally evident, with one of his loveliest compositions, The Pleasure Will Be Mine, occurring early in the first half. Its winsome melody, vivid vernacular lyrics and tender sentiments, an ideal match with his warm, gentle voice, were echoed in later highlights such as The Riccarton Tollman's Daughter, while his storytelling took on a darker hue in What Can A Lassie Dae?, and the slippery-slope momentum of The Arran Convict.
Elsewhere, however, his propensity for stock-sounding tunes, phrases and rhymes, and for cloying, pawky nostalgia were equally highlighted, as in Hector and Bessie, a paean to the Clydesdale horse, and The Last Lighthouse Keeper.
Also on the plus side, though, were a few fine contemporary-ballad covers sung by van Sante, and a compelling introductory floor-spot by the young Glasgow singer Alistair Ogilvy: definitely a talent to watch.