Gig review: Gren Bartley


LEITH Folk Club's gatherings at the Village provide a cosy environment for performers, and East Midlands-bred folk singer-songwriter Gren Bartley has a gently personable way about him which fitted right in with these surroundings. He told cute stories about him and his girlfriend adopting a cat; about a time (pre-girlfriend) when he seduced a Russian girl he liked, only to fall asleep on sofa as soon as they got back to his flat; and about seeing Glencoe for the first time and only being able to soundtrack the experience with a copy of Prince's Greatest Hits.

All of which was very endearing, but it also served to sap his credibility when he digressed into blues territory. While his playing was consistently excellent, a version of Skip James's Look at the People Standing at the Judgement, for example, didn't exactly carry a huge biblical punch. At the other end of the spectrum, there were a few saccharine numbers – in particular, his take on Eric Bibb's Panama Hat – so sweet they could have dissolved teeth.

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In the middle ground, though, where the blues influences merge with folk roots and an MOR rock style, Bartley has a range of fine songs of his own and others' devising. Among the finest of his own tracks are the delicate ballads Favourite Red Coat and Some People Are Not Interested In Love, and the more traditional-styled The Shepherd Of Etive Mor, the song Bartley wrote in tribute to that view of Glencoe.

At one point, Bartley described a song as having been influenced by Morrissey: miserable lyrics to a happy tune, in his words. It perfectly summed up the best parts of this set, including covers of Blind Willie Johnson's You'll Need Somebody On Your Bond and Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.