If there’s a band of odder bedfellows gigging regularly in Edinburgh, chances are you’ll be hard pushed to find them. With an age range from mid-20s to late-50s and a collision of haircuts and outfits, Fire and Rain Music seem to have been assembled at random.
Little wonder then that half the venue is looking nervous about what’s in store. The rest of the crowd, however, seem rather pleased with themselves. Do they know something we don’t? It turns out they do – they know we’re in for a treat.
Dressed all in black and with the features of a young Robert Vaughn, Larry Troy leads the quartet through some remarkably good covers, including Neil Young’s Four Strong Winds and The Beatles’ Please Please Me.
Inspired by the collaborative song-writing communities that formed in New York’s Greenwich Village and Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon in the 1960s and 1970s, the group actively encourage other musicians to join them on stage too, with acts travelling from all over the UK to play previously. Local singer/songwriter and regular cohort Ross Neilson is the man on this occasion to preview of some new work, with the help of his impromptu backing band.
It’s hard to know what’s more striking: the ease with which the foursome provide improvised harmonies and fills on these unfamiliar songs or the way they casually swap instruments – old-hand Dougie Mathieson even managing to play keyboards and guitar simultaneously during a brief blues interlude.
Then, suddenly, from beneath a mop of dark brown hair and bushy beard, Andy Macfarlane unleashes a thunderbolt. Until now, he’s been content with some impressive guitar work, but he steals the show with a vocal performance deserving of a wider audience.
With the entire room now onside, the unlikely lads continue with a mix of covers and original songs. It’s a sound steeped in the best traditions of country and folk rock, and they do a commendable job of emulating their heroes.
It all serves as a welcome reminder that, thankfully, first impressions can be deceptive.