Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov Duo – Two Hours After Midnight live
(St Vincent’s Chapel, Edinburgh, 5 August 2023 – live review by Mark McKergow)
Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov brought their Two Hours After Midnight album to a rapt Edinburgh Festival Fringe audience, combining beautiful vocals and shimmering piano arrangements to re-present classic Scots folk songs.
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Louise Dodds’ star continues to rise on the UK jazz scene – nominated for best vocalist in the Scottish Jazz Awards 2022, and a studio album The Story Needs An Ending the same year. Her voice is rich and textured with plenty of power in reserve. Dodds was chatting with Azeri pianist Elchin Shirinov in London when (we hear) she broke into Robert Burns’ song Ae Fond Kiss. Shirinov was entranced by the tune and the feel, seeing parallels with traditional music from Azerbaijan. A project was hatched there and then, resulting in Two Hours After Midnight.
This collection of eight songs sees well-known favourites (north of the border, at least) with rediscovered works from the 18th century. The figure of Robert Burns looms large, not least as four of the songs are his, and he would very likely have known the others from his social circles. Burns is not only Scotland’s poetry hero, he is revered from Valparaiso to Vladivostok and is one of only two poets to have a national day of honour (the other being Hafez, Iranian/Persian poet of the 14th century).
This concert saw Dodds and Shirinov present all eight songs from the album. St Vincent’s Chapel gave a suitable acoustic which made the most of the sound palette, with Shirinov’s focused backings giving a foil for Louise Dodds’ precise vocals. Coming Through The Rye gave a rhythmic start to the set, bouncing along with subtle rhythmic shifts from both parties and some very recognisable Scottish lines in Shirinov’s brief solo.
Harold Bolton’s Loch Tay Boat Song brought more light and rippling piano, as if Debussy had slipped into a session at Sandy Bell’s folk bar. A bit more space for piano here, with a hint of eastern promise. Two more Burns classics followed, Ae Fond Kiss (the song that started it all) and Ye Banks And Braes which featured another effective piano interlude. Louise Dodds’ vocals were absolutely on point throughout, with the two performers appearing to mind-meld in their coherence.
Oh True Love Is A Bonnie Flower, while not being exactly an original sentiment, was a new tune for us. Dodds related how they had found it as a piece of sheet music and had failed to turn up any existing recording. In this context it fitted well, more of a ballad which (with the new piano arrangement) could work well in a conventional jazz set. Lass O’Gowrie is notable for being written by Carolina Oliphant (known to Burns as Lady Nairn) who kept quiet about her musical inventions during her lifetime. The song is a narrative about how the Lass goes out for a walk and ends up as Lady Gowrie – a trope which is still with us today in various forms, as Louise commented in one of her between-song announcements. These definitely added to the music and the occasion.
The other two tracks? Ye’ll have to find the album or go along; Louise Dodds and Elchin Shinrinov will reprise this performance on Saturday 25 August at 7pm (booking link below).
LINKS: Louise Dodds and Elchin Shirinov Duo perform again at Edinburgh Fringe, Saturday 26 August 2023 BOOKING
Two Hours After Midnight album on Bandcamp