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Top Floor Taivers Top Floor Taivers
Album: A Delicate Game
Label: TFT Records
Tracks: 9

I believe Marc Bolan changed the name of his group ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’ to ‘T Rex’ because he was worried that he wouldn’t get any radio airplay if Radio DJs were unable to pronounce a word such as tyrannosaurus. So I’m a little worried that Top Flight Taivers are limiting their potential airplay, as I’m afraid I don’t have a clue how to pronounce taivrers.

Of course, the world is a very different place now to when T.Rex stalked the charts. I guess nowadays, most bands rely more on youtube hits, soundcloud, bandcamp, facebook, twitter and spotify to promote their music and so maybe it isn’t so important to have a name that trips of the tongue of disc jockeys.

And of course, could be that my inability to pronounce taivers is all down to the fact that I’m an Auld Southern Sassenach. I’d guess everyone in Scotland have no difficulty with the word.

Taivers is an old Scottish word meaning muddled, so I guess Top Floor Taivers is a way of saying muddled in the head, or confused. There definitely doesn’t seem to be much in the way of confusion with this group, though they are an unusual mixture.

They are based in Glasgow, and both Claire Hastings (lead vocals and ukulele) and Heather Downie (clarsach – (a Gaelic harp) and vocals) are Scottish, but Tina Jordan Rees (keyboards and vocals) comes from Lancashire, and Grainne Brady (violin and vocals) is Irish. On the album, and apparently for the album launch, the four girls were joined by Tia Files on percussion, also from Scotland.

So the band are heavily influenced by Scottish music, but with a sprinkling of Irish and English in to the mix.

All four of the regular members of Top Floor Taivers are singer/ songwriters, but “A Delicate Game”, their debut album, comprises largely of covers, along with a couple of traditional songs, and only two self-penned tracks.

Tina was nominated as composer of the year in the 2014 MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards and Claire won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2014, so these girls are no amateurs.

“A Delicate Game” opens with a traditional Scottish ballad “Johnny o’ Braidieslee” about a deer poacher. The piano on this is astonishing. Hugely deep chords resound throughout, with a beautiful tinkling melody on top. Love the interplay between the violin and the piano as well.

I hadn’t heard Findlay Napier’s “Princess Rosanna” before, but their version is beautiful. The song was written after Findlay saw some graffiti that read “RIP Princess Rosanna”, but it feels to me like Princess Di’s death was also an influence.

Love their version of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”. It’s a sad tale about a girl who falls in love with a young motorcyclist on the wrong side of the law. He loves her because of her hair colour, she loves him because of his motorbike. In my opinion, this version is better than the original.

Another cover is Andy M Stewart’s “Ramblin’ Rover”. A nice version, but I do have this “Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie” image of Scottish lasses being demure, so it is a bit of a shock to the system when Claire swears.

Whilst listening to “Campfires”, a cover of a song by Heather’s friend Aaron Fyfe, I suddenly felt that I had heard Claire’s voice before. Then I realised that despite her Scottish accent, her voice is incredibly similar to that of Maz O’Connor’s. As I believe that Maz is one of our best singer songwriter’s around, you’ll realise that I’m pretty impressed with Claire’s voice too.

I’ve often said that I’ve never heard a Bob Dylan song that couldn’t be sung better by someone else, but it is very rare to hear a Cohen song sung better than the original. I think it’s very brave of anyone to try, and Top Floor Tavier’s version of “Everybody Knows” is a valiant attempt. They haven’t fallen in the trap of trying to play in a similar style, and their version is very much their own, but somehow the pain in Cohen’s voice when he sings about his lover fitting a meter to her bed just doesn’t seem to be there when it’s sung by a young Scottish lass.

The two best tracks on the album though are the two that they themselves wrote. “Jeannie And The Spider” was written by Heather and her brother Alasdair. The song tells of a young woman, Jeannie, who was the object of desire of various suitors, none of whom she could find a use for – why would you need someone to warm your bed, when it is warm enough already? Finally, a use for a man is found, when Jeannie discovers a spider in her bath.

“10 Little Men”, though, is my favourite track on the album, and is quite different from the rest. Claire Hastings based the lyrics on a nursery rhyme, but managed to bring in refugees. The tune is ethereal, and reminds me of “Close To The Edge” by Yes, though don’t worry, it isn’t a twenty minute prog rock epic.

As their song writing is so good, I would recommend that on their next album they include more of their own material. Not that their covers and treatment of traditional songs aren’t brilliant, but if all of “A Delicate Game” was as amazing as “10 Little Men”, this would be one incredible album. Their next could be that album.

Pete Bradley