The Songwriter’s Circle at MacGregors: Original Tunes on a Tuesday night

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A couple of thoughts behind the write up for this review.
One of them was the title. So many options for wordplay with the “Circle” motif for the Songwriter’s Circle!! And don’t think that we at TheNettle.scot are bigger people than putting in some poor pun action. We are not.
The original title thought was ye olde classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” Partly as it just played so well to the positive idea of wanting the longevity of these nights to continue unbroken into the future. Partly it was the lure of lazy writing. Again, don’t put these things past the good people at TheNettle.scot Me either, come to that..

Another aspect of this which I wanted to play with here is to have another element other than just a review. The logic behind this thought is that this is an ongoing thing. Normally the reviews are about a time and a place. This shall happen, but before this, a bit about the premise.

The Songwriter Circle is a regular 8pm-10pm thing. Tuesday nights at MacGregors. It’s run by Nicki Murray, and friends. Here’s a link to his stuff, and also a gratuitous link to an interview with the man himself by our buds at Inverness Gigs.
And fuck it, here’s him/ them in another incantation, playing at Sofar Sounds. Not massively them, to be honest, more Lydia Bennett. I’ll put this in though while I’m doing gratuitous plugs – not because I know her, but I have heard her before and her voice is lovely, so why not. We’re here to promote music, and she’s worth promoting, definitely, as is SoFar Sessions. You’re welcome.

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Back on track. Sometimes the Songwriters Circle has a small number of people playing, sometimes the place is rammed. I’ve been a few times, but finally with a camera and an inclination to write about it.

The premise of it is as it sounds. People come, whoever wants to turn up on the night. They play their own original music.
Whereas there’s a lot of crossover obviously with elements such as the MacGregors and Hoots Trad sessions, in that all are welcome and that people join in on the songs if they want, there are distinct differences which make it worth a look in its own right.
[*Note: unfortunately, I wanted to link to the details on the MacGregors website, but it was being slow, annoying and rather (read very) shit. For a good wee pub, they dropped the ball on this. These sessions also aren’t listed on their events calendar either it seems, but then again most don’t seem to be… However, here’s a link to at least something in order to get a feel of their other more traditional sessions. Hopefully close enough is good enough.]

The feel of these comparators is mostly just for the lazy drinking souls of us like me, though. If you’re a songwriter, and looking for a bit of community, or just an area to practice your songs with an audience, I’m sure there’s a whole world of difference to this weekly regular gig.

The chance to get there and have a bit of community was something that I could see looking into the Circle from my vantage point on the near outside. Hopefully this perspective is not a mere projection, or blowing wind up your arse, as it did feel like the support thing and the ability to share and have space and a voice were important components for those playing.

 

And for those playing on Tuesday the 19th of March [for those interested in structure, this is where the general ‘this is what this thing is about’ turns to the review of the night] this did seem to be the case, looking on.

This night, there was mostly Nicki, and one other playing. There was another guy there, the guy that you exclusively see the back of the head of from my photos. Don’t think that I’m doing him an injustice though. I got there a little late, but he was seemingly happy to be just a support for others in this. If he’s there playing another night, then maybe one of you good people will get the chance to see him tear it up, unlike me. However, I guess this is another element of the concept, that people can input as much or as little as they want, they can build their confidence over time if they want, they can do whatever they want. It’s that kinda place.

Nicky playing music, whatever the variation of performers on the night, is always something to see. The ease at which that bastard picks up on the music around him is a sight to see in itself.

 

A case in point. The guy in the photos with the beard. Sorry, didn’t get his name, but again, that’s not massively the point of these sessions. Anyway, he’s there sitting and talking about the next song he’s playing. He states that he had the chorus down pat, but that the verses came to him just the night before. International premiere of fresh virginal come down literally in the last shower song. Good song too, by the way, nice dark comedic tone of the way technology is sculpting our relationship with life these days. Anyway, he’s playing it for the 1st time, so working without a net. As he’s going along, Nicki decides to pick up a violin. He plucks it for a second, then decides that the best way to go is to draw the bow across the strings. And at that, they are off. Main guy having beautiful little support strings, with happy campers like me in the audience.

If I write about Nicki again, I’ll bore you with this again. But he has talent to burn. Lovely, raspy, soulful voice as well. And in these sessions, he has shown the ability to create these moments for audience as well as for himself, and for the other musicians.

I have been pretty positive in my reviews of late, but not going to change that here. It was a good night. It’s a joy to watch him do his thing. The eclectic range of what else you’re gonna get in these sessions is a bonus.

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Actually, for bonus, there were a couple. One was the voice of this lady shown here. It was indicative of what I’m trying to highlight. She was nervous but wanting to sing. She got care and support in the circle, and from this found her voice. I’m glad she did, it’s was a beautiful, crisp, tender timbre. Most excellent. She also found her confidence, surprising even herself by getting up again a few songs later for a second song herself.

Another bonus was the other main player for the night, who decided to stay on after the scheduled 10pm, just for the fact that he was enjoying playing, and we were enjoying listening. It’s the way things should work, and here, on this night, in this place they did.

If you like hearing new voices and original songs, it’s worth a look. I imagine that if you’re a songwriter and want a supportive space to try them out in public, I imagine that these sessions hold even more meaning and promise.

This is one of the good things going on for live music in Inverness. And what else are you going to be doing on a Tuesday night…

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