Sometimes you just know that it is going to be a good night. The Bluesmobile finds a parking space right outside the venue. It is not even raining. That is unusual for February in Scotland. Another Free Candy Session as well. Free music. There might even be the possibility of beer. Hoorah!
Tonight's entertainment features Richard Holmes, Captain Howdie and Andrea Marini. We learn that first up to the microphone tonight will be Richard Holmes. We manage to squeeze in a few questions before he starts. He has not played the Liquid Ship before and he has a fixation on squirrels and spinach. So serious is his fixation of Popeye's favourite food that he intends to release one of his songs - "Spinach Fields of Stranraer" - on 7" vinyl, no less - later this year. BluesBunny respects a man with a plan. In one of those essential dichotomies of life moments, we wonder why he looks older in photographs than he is yet sounds younger than he is. Fortunately, we do not have to philosophise about his musical abilities. The songs are humorous and poignant. Sort of the Proclaimers meet Mike Harding or even early Billy Connolly (i.e. when he was still funny). We especially liked "Still Squirrel" and the aforementioned "Spinach Fields of Stranraer". The audience had gone from indifferent to interested. Obviously, they liked him too. Without any inter song banter, Richard Holmes proved to be an unassuming performer but sometimes it is better to let the music do the talking. So dig out that old turntable because it looks like there will be something worth playing on it soon. The BluesBunny one line summary? Young free and twisted.
Captain Howdie are on next. What have we here? Perfect pop music, that's what! They brought a posse along with them to fill up the bar. Not that they really needed them, as opening the doors and letting the music out would have brought in everyone who passed by. Playing a bunch of new songs, they prove to be confident and entertaining. Louise Hendry's vocals have a folksy feel that suits the quirky material well. We were also impressed with the almost hyperactive Stephen Merrick who deftly swapped between instruments during an all too short set. Sonically, we thought of comparisons with late period Beatles and even the Flying Burrito Brothers. Seventies' California meets sixties' London. Whilst light and fluffy, the songs make you smile and are remarkably commercial. They produced the "humming along to tunes inside your head" effect on the drive home. Just the thing to attract the attention of the constabulary at the traffic lights. Have you been drinking, sir? No officer, I am just happy. Highlights were "Sunshine Blues", "Guilty" and - judging from the audience reaction - an old favourite "Sinful". We wonder why music this enjoyable and commercial is not being pumped out of radios everywhere. It would be good for the morale of the country. There is an album apparently. Do the Sherlock Holmes thing and solve the mystery of where you might buy it. It is the right thing to do.
Last up to the microphone tonight is Andrea Marini. Impassioned vocals and storming, flamenco tinged guitar are the order of business. He remarks on the difficulty in tuning his guitar in the distinctly subdued lighting of the Liquid Ship. One day soon he will no doubt have a roadie to do that task for him. Failing that, any second cousin with a history of alcohol abuse and a personal hygiene issue will suffice. We liked "Trains" although we thought his guitar was going to burst into flames as he made those strings sing. His voice is like Tom Waits without the cigarettes. He plays that guitar like he has 40 spare strings at hand. Accompanied on many songs by the sweet voiced Eileen, we get an interesting sonic combination. She also plays the fiddle with a practised dexterity that seems at odds with the firebrand, improvisational style of our Mr Marini. BluesBunny had heard the recorded version of the closing song "Paris" before. A good song but truly brought to life tonight. We did not know that you could shake the walls with only an acoustic guitar. You cannot be indifferent to him. Perhaps irritating to some ears, Andrea Marini is indeed a compelling live performer.
Tonight's winner? That would have to be Captain Howdie. BluesBunny is known for his excellent taste in popular music (and also for his appalling taste in women) and they hit the bullseye. We have said it before but once more for the record. A night at the Free Candy Sessions is always worthwhile and sometimes you encounter a real gem. This was one of those nights.