Live Reviews

  Mike Hastings, Jim Byrne and Alan Frew live at Big Sparra Vinyl in Ayr

It’s not often that my parole officer gives me leave to escape the confines of Glasgatraz but, today, freedom was on the cards with a trip to Ayr booked and paid for as part of my rehabilitation into normal society. Truth be told however, fresh air doesn’t really work for me so it didn’t take long before sanctuary was sought in a record shop called Big Sparra Vinyl where, such was my luck, Mike Hastings, Jim Byrne and Alan Frew were playing. It’s just as well that I had a pen handy.

Alan Frew was one man and an acoustic guitar and a beard and a flat cap. That might well be enough information to allow you to guess his song writing and performing style and, if you guessed melodic and blessed with guitar dexterity, then you would have been right. He had Hovis wholesomeness, if you like.

Also following the dress code was Jim Byrne. His hat exuded fashion irony but his voice, gruffer than you might expect of a purveyor of sentimental songs, kept his music on the straight and narrow with his spiritual destination being the Americana highway beloved of so many of his time. It’s a peace giving thing that he does.

Mike Hastings turned out to be what might rightly be regarded as a serious musician. Being part of the critically exalted Trembling Bells is proof of that but, even on his own, his talent on guitar and banjo was obvious with even his playful approach to tuning unable to deter the audience from adoration. That’s what you get when you’re fingerpicking good.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. I do like to be beside the seaside as long as it has a record shop. And ice cream. And beer. And a steak pie supper. And a train back to the big city.

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