Richard Dawson, CCA, Glasgow, Wed 27 Nov
- Lorna Irvine
- 28 November 2019
This article is from 2019
Geordie singer-songwriter whips up a storm
Best bet with seeing Richard Dawson live is always to hedge your bets. His gigs are always mired in unpredictability, and he's an impish one. One minute, he's lamenting the Guinness stains on his jumper, and extolling the virtues of camomile tea; the next, roaring traditional folk music, often jumping into the crowd. Songs go across wild landscapes, dangle on precarious edges, and sail over tricky streets. Few songwriters navigate our troubled country as eloquently, savagely, or with so much wit.
Most of tonight's set is of course songs taken from his most recent album, 2020, and while 'Jogging' is a jaunty, meandering song with brutal lyrics, he builds unbelievable pinprick tension through sustained chords after referring to a racially-motivated attack on the character's neighbours, only for the song to explode into a Sonic Youth-esque guitar crescendo, featuring Pigs x 7's John-Michael Hedley. It's absolutely thunderous.
So while there are playful elements – opener 'Civil Servant' is like a staccato take on the 'Trumpton' theme, albeit with lyrics about 'smashing the skull' of a co-worker – other songs, like 'Ogre', have real grunge-inflected fury. Meanwhile, his adaptation of the folk ballad, 'The Almsgiver', a song about a mother and her imprisoned son, sung a capella, silences the room in one big gulp.
His own storytelling is wry, but pointed; full of hurt vignettes to quotidian struggles, but a paradoxical optimism also, a hope that good people will ultimately win, when all seems lost.