Three Blind Wolves – O2 ABC2, Glasgow, Wed 14 Sep 2011
Solid line-up of Americana-tinged Scottish bands for No Mean City festival
Even in the context of the No Mean City festival, this gig is more Americana than most. The line-up spans the bluegrass, folk and country genres, with some indie rock and a smidgen of prog thrown in as well. While it’s not a flawless evening, each band proves proficient at ploughing their chosen musical field.
First on the bill is bluegrass quintet The Dirty Beggars, who own the stage from the opening of their first foot-stomping number. Their timekeeping as a single unit is a little raggedy at times, but the majority of the songs hurtle by at such a clip – including an up-tempo ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’, reclaimed for the Mississippi delta – that any minor slips are both excusable and barely noticeable. They are noteworthy too for their consistently flawless three-part vocal harmonies.
Folk-pop-rockers Washington Irving perform to an appreciative audience, but the effect is not quite so blistering. When the band stick to the template of melodic, almost pastoral folk ditties, they’re glorious, but they break out of this comfort zone every once in a while to have some indulgent proggy wig-outs, and the set suffers for it.
Three Blind Wolves have no such issue, having mastered the art of combining plaintive southern-fried vocals (again featuring flawless harmonies) with periods of raucous noisemaking. There is a note of frustration in the air, though – while Ross Clark’s voice issues forth with crystal clarity, the drums and guitars often fall victim to sloppy sound engineering, descending into a muddy wash that the crowd struggles to connect with (which, in turn, makes Clark a bit impatient). All memories of this sluggishness are virtually erased during the encore though, when Clark and co – accompanied by The Dirty Beggars – venture from the stage to the heart of the room and play a powerful, pitch-black acoustic rendition of ‘Put You in the Ground’. It’s a moment that unites both performers and audience, and goes to show that if there’s any band that can rescue a crowd from the brink of disaffection, it’s the Wolves.