Margaret Glaspy @ CCA, Glasgow, 9 Sep
Blending her debut album with new tracks and some sublime covers, Margaret Glaspy proves to be a captivating presence at CCA
As Canadian songwriter Leif Vollebekk takes to his pair of synths to kick off proceedings, we can’t help but be drawn in. Vivid, jerky movements, an outrageously strong voice and a jazzy air to his songwriting make him an incredibly intriguing proposition. He then throws in some finger-picked, effect-laden guitar work, and proceeds to blend his instruments together in a pleasingly eerie fashion.
Vollebekk’s bookish charm also shines through, in a way it can’t hope to on record. At one point he finds himself in an extended conversation with an audience member about the relative merits of analytic and continental philosophy, concluding with the punchline: “Well that’s one and a half songs’ worth of time used up.” Maybe you had to be there, but we suspect Vollebekk could find himself in chats with some of the same audience members when he next returns to Glasgow.
When it comes to captivating a crowd, there aren’t many as effective as Margaret Glaspy. While the New York-based songwriter’s two-piece backing band put in a solid shift, this is a show that soars in the moments Glaspy is alone at the mic, showcasing her incredibly expressive vocal with guitar in hand. Emotions & Math standout Somebody to Anybody is as beautiful and bluesy as ever, and her cover of Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away – preceded by a short speech on the need to let go of ego, partly directed at one D. Trump of Washington DC – is another high point.
Much of Glaspy’s fantastic debut album gets an airing, its blend of raucous guitar riffs and tender folk-inflected moments as potent as ever. The new material we hear tonight tends towards the grungier end of her sound, but Glaspy’s lyrical deftness and ear for melody remain at the fore (one new cut features barbs about its subject’s entire family; even the dog gets an earful). And the songwriter's ever-growing portfolio of cover versions is further bolstered in the encore with a blockbusting, breathtaking version of Elliott Smith’s Angeles.
Glaspy closes with Harvest Moon by Neil Young, to a crowd so rapt and attentive you can literally hear plastic pint glasses squeaking in hands on the other side of the room. You should have been there; if you have any sense, next time Margaret Glaspy’s in town, you will be.