Advertised as part of Edinburgh’s Ceilidh Culture spring fling, the Wee FC had a visit from Debra Cowan. Since the capacity of the room is around 30, the 25 or so bodies in the audience made for a more than respectable showing.
Californian in origin and now settled in Massachusetts, Debra told us she had stayed in Edinburgh for a while in 1997, when she had regularly hosted a session in Sandy Bell’s. She was obviously pleased to be back, and played a very relaxed and comfortable gig. She opened with an unaccompanied ballad from the singing of Frank Proffitt, a version of the Prickly Bush story (Hangman, stay thy hand…). This demonstrated immediately that she has a very attractive voice, clean and true, with just a little vibrato; and that she can get inside a traditional American ballad with conviction, and tell the story convincingly. To these ears, this is the material that suits her best, and she soars with it.
She also does a nice line in more contemporary material, and regaled the room with a few from a variety of mostly US songwriters. In the second half, she cast her net a bit wider and we had songs learnt from Enoch Kent (The Working Man), Louis Killen (Topman and Afterguard) and Ewan McVicar (All the Tunes in the World).
This is a lady who is completely at home in a folk club ambience and who likes to tell stories in song. She’s also a more than competent guitar picker, and astounded the audience by telling us that her very nice-sounding guitar folds up in the middle to fit into an overhead locker on a plane. (Now that could catch on!) It was a very enjoyable evening.
Brian Miller, BBC Scotland