With the release of her fifth album, "Undercurrents", earlier this year, Amy Duncan, the Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, followed up the critical success of her 2013 album, "Cycles Of Life", in some style and, in doing so, enhanced her growing reputation as one of the most accomplished and original singers, songwriters and musicians in Scotland. Amy has been a regular performer at the Edinburgh Fringe over the past few years and her gig in the Main Hall at the Acoustic Music Centre on 21st August
provided the opportunity to play a selection of songs from "Undercurrents", re-visit some older material and introduce a sprinkling of brand new songs. For this performance, Amy Duncan (vocals, guitars and piano) was joined by a talented and versatile band comprising Fiona Rutherford (harp), Lawrie Macmillan (bass), Rick Bamford (drums and percussion), Pete Harvey (cello) and Lisa Rigby (vocals).
The impressive acoustics in St. Bride's (a former church) were a perfect match for Amy Duncan's pure and graceful vocals and the absorbing and intricate arrangements to be found in many of her compositions. This was immediately apparent in the opening song, the magical and dream-like "Constant Without Me", with its gently-shifting bossa nova beat on the verses and a towering instrumental passage in the bridge. The delicate and elegant end of Amy's impressive vocal range was to the fore in the moving and uplifting "Song To Myself". The first of the new songs appeared in the form of "A Severed Head", its edgy and dark lyrics and musical content having been inspired by a dream. This segued cleverly into the second new song of the night, the melodic and quietly affecting "Alison".
The sweeping and majestic "When The Dead Are Watching" was another highlight, featuring soaring vocals from Amy Duncan, underpinned by feathery backing vocals and inspired interplay between the musicians. Another new song, "Get Ready", had something of a traditional feel and accentuated the gentle Scottish lilt in Amy Duncan's vocals. Amy's quietly compelling and heartfelt vocals and chiming acoustic guitar were in evidence again on the poignant "No Harvest". The life-affirming "Navigating" was swept along by rippling flourishes of harp and bass. "Fragile From The Storm" was notable for some exquisite harmonies, vibrant cello and sparkling harp. The rhythmic intensity of "Ivory Tower" drew a passionate and defiant vocal from Amy Duncan and some muscular playing from the band.
The band delivered a virtuoso performance, individually and collectively, on the bold, imaginative, jazzy and Pentangle-esque "Different Dimensions", which swung and swayed exotically, heightened by some eastern-flavoured percussion and cello. Amy Duncan delved deeply into her back catalogue to treat us to the graceful "Walk Away" (from her debut album, "Pilgrimage" (2006)), accompanied mainly by her own delicately picked electric guitar.
There was a subtle change in mood and dynamic for the closing section of the gig, as Amy Duncan took to the piano. In "Lights In Houses", the warmth and richness of Amy's vocals contrasted vividly with the ambient minimalism of her elegant, sombre and repetitive piano chords, enhanced by layers of graceful cello. The final song, the haunting "My Silver Net", featured more elegant piano, coupled with intricate harp and cello interplay, and finished with a short passage of delicate, cool and sweet jazzy improvisation, allowing Amy to conclude matters with a last, lingering piano note…
This was yet another mesmerising and engaging evening of music from Amy Duncan and her band. Her elegant, eloquent and captivating songs deal openly and honestly with universal and thought-provoking themes and make a quietly powerful and personal connection with the listener. The quality of the new songs gave a strong indication that Amy's next album will be another one to savour. Keep an eye out for its release next year.
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