A TRAINED actor who, in a former life, was renowned for his Frank Sinatra-style jazz musings – Frank Burkitt has re-cast himself as something of a bluegrass-folkie in recent times.
With his swish waistcoat, devilish goatee beard and penchant for liquor – in both song and tipple – the Highlander adorns the appearance of a late 19th-century Wild West saloon bartender.
Burkitt, though, is more likely to serve up songs about whisky, life in the jail or shooting your wife than an array of fancy signature elixirs.
“Pretty much all my songs are about drinking and prison,” he said, before one enthusiastic punter quipped that, “being in prison (at least) keeps you off the drink”.
It was a light-hearted heckle – a friendly shout that suggested “we’re on your side”.
And onside this bustling, welcoming audience at Leith Folk Club most certainly were last night, as Burkitt – backed by his four-piece band, Big Red – hollered, crooned and generally swooned his merry way through a plethora of footstomping ditties.
The very funky Change The World, for example, didn’t so much swing as rock back and fore in its hammock.
Whereas, the Randy Newman-penned Louisiana 1927, meanwhile – a rather topical, yet superiorly devastating ode about the US floods of 1927, in Great Mississippi, and how its government did little in the way of aiding its citizens – was done a considerable justice by Burkitt when, in other, less experienced hands, could have ended up a disaster all of its own.
Despite a nervy beginning, the gifted singer-guitarist promised to get all “bluegrass on your ass” in the second half and he didn’t disappoint. Well, not too much.
Persistent tweaking of out-of-tune guitars between songs displayed a little lack of professionalism and, while the banjo player struggled to be heard above the others, the tunes, you felt, would have benefited from just a little more zip.
That said, by keeping his band together – and by continuing to source the Appalachian Mountains for inspiration – Frank Burkitt and the Big Red could very well be getting all bluegrass on your derriere for many years to come.