Austen George - Sound House, Edinburgh, Sat 1 Mar 2014 (3 stars)

Austen George - Sound House, Edinburgh, Sat 1 Mar 2014

A tender, heartfelt domestic performance from the singer-songwriter

There’s a natural cosiness to a concert in a house – the ready-made intimacy of the setting can amplify the straightforward beauty of hearing the piano, or the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar. Singer-songwriter Austen George’s gig at the Sound House, a townhouse in Edinburgh's New Town that's been hosting gigs for over ten years now, was one such night.

Singer and pianist Donna Maciocia opened with several self-penned tracks, using her distinctive and powerful vocal to front bittersweet lyrics and a visceral reflection on ‘total and utter despair’. George joined her in a ‘jam’ with another guitarist, layering the ebb and flow of piano keys with acoustic instrumentation. An increasingly complex and enjoyable sound, he swiftly displayed the innate musical dexterity which led to recognition at this year’s Celtic Connections.

His own songs followed and slowly flourished in impact – a lightweight vocal churning with sentiment; arrangements bred with an enviable kind of simplicity. Spilt into two satisfying halves, the second saw a guitar to piano transition, hushed audience serenaded with wistful melodies. As a performer George remained understated, letting the music grow in momentum. At times there were glimmers of greater artistry, a cinematic evocation of rugged landscapes and dreamy sixties influence reviving the mythical power of revered acoustic artists.

Maciocia returned to the stage for a range of duets, drawn – despite an initial finding the music notes hiccup – with bewitching synchronicity and vocal harmony. The duo’s versions of The Beatles treasures, lovelorn ‘If I Fell’ and ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’, were beautifully performed and stood out as highlights. George offered upbeat original numbers too, rousing closer ‘Match Collector’ showcasing a more dynamic and confident front, as the increasingly amplified post song applause hit its peak.

Overall it’s tender, heartfelt music, ready to wash right over you: curl up on the sofa and let it.

Austen George (unplugged) live in Edinburgh by John Williamson Music Productions (HD)

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