Blueflint

Venue: Edinburgh Folk Club
Towns: Edinburgh
Dates: 13/5/15
Website: http://www.blueflint.org.uk/

Blueflint is an Edinburgh-based Americana/bluegrass/folk band fronted by singer-songwriters Deborah Arnott and Clare Neilson, who started out playing as a duo ten years ago, when they discovered their mutual interest in writing songs and playing the banjo. A major breakthrough came in 2012, when Blueflint supported a tour by The Proclaimers, gaining the band a strong reputation and following across the UK.

Blueflint's UK tour to promote their recent third album, "Stories From Home", brought them to Edinburgh Folk Club on 13th May and, for this leg of the tour, Deborah and Clare (vocals and banjos) were joined by Dirk Ronneburg (fiddle), Rhuairidh Saunders (drums and percussion) and long-standing 'Flinter' Hugh Kelly (double bass). Clare and Deborah also played occasional keyboards, in order to re-create some of the rich musical textures evident in the new album (produced by the in-demand Paul Savage).

All eleven songs from the new album were played impeccably and it was clear that Blueflint have incorporated elements of urban alt-folk and indie pop into their signature Americana/bluegrass sound. These heartwarming songs were lovingly crafted in the Leith and Portobello areas of Edinburgh and the pleasing traces of Scots accents in the vocals underscored the honesty, integrity and uncompromising nature of the narratives and lyrics.

Clare Neilson and Deborah Arnott are both fine lead vocalists and their close harmonies are stunning. On the night, the particular gems which stood out from the impressive collection of new songs included the quietly defiant "Secrets of your Life" (featuring waltz-time banjo and piano and some elegant fiddle flourishes); the anthemic and uplifting "This is a Story" (with intertwining banjos, beautiful vocal harmonies and a stirring chorus which The Proclaimers would be proud of); the bluegrass swagger of "Hawk and Eagle", complete with punchy banjo and tub-thumping percussion; and the poignant and nostalgic "Patch of Green", which allowed rays of optimism to break through its bleakly-painted urban landscape.

Deborah and Clare quickly established a rapport with the audience and kept us engaged with amusing anecdotes and light banter. At one point, all five band members came down into the audience and delivered a mesmerising unplugged performance of another new song, the gently flowing "If that's what you want me to do".

The new songs were, of course, interspersed with a few favourites from Blueflint's first two albums, "High Bright Morning" (2009) and "Maudy Tree" (2011). The jauntily swinging and saucily tongue in cheek "Take your Shoes off" featured Deborah's sparkling ukelele and high-spirited vocal harmonies from the girls, while "Skippin and Skattin" was a real toe-tapper. Blueflint also mined their back cataloge for the two-song encore. Firstly, "I Climbed a Mountain" produced spine-tingling a capella vocals from Clare and Deborah and haunting fiddle from Dirk. The band then let rip with the closing number, "What Lies Beneath", a dark tale of murderous revenge, during which we were treated to edgy and bewitching vocal harmonies, ringing banjos, a driving rhythm section and some blistering bursts of fiddle. Quite a finish…..

This was a sparkling gig from Blueflint, whose fine songcraft and musicianship was enhanced further by the warmth and feelgood factor they generate in live performance. With gigs such as this and a critically-acclaimed new album, Blueflint seem set fair to widen their audience and fan-base further still.

David Ferguson

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