I first heard Perth Americana band Longstay when they played the Craigie Hill music festival last summer (you can read the review here). That day their numbers were bolstered by members of local Americana legends, Red Pine Timber Company, and their blinding set was impressive enough for me to seek out their recently released debut album 'Calling Me Home'. The young band financed the recording, release and marketing of the album with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Patrons of that campaign will not have been disappointed with the results, as 'Calling Me Home' is an assured, beautifully produced debut with songwriting that displays great potential. It's well worth a download.
I hadn't thought about Longstay for a while until one day I was walking down Perth High Street and spied members of the band surrounded by a film crew. I surreptitiously pretended to tie my shoe-lace (I was wearing slip-on's but I'm really good at mime) and listened in. Turns out Malcolm was being interviewed by Scottish songstress and TV personality Emeli Sandé. When I spoke to the guys they were close-lipped about the whole affair but a wee bit of googling revealed that Emeli was in town filming a BBC Scotland documentary about busking so it seems reasonable to assume that they are likely to feature.
This got me thinking about the band again and when none of the live music on in Perth this weekend took my fancy I decided to look further afield. My girlfriend Jo happened upon the website for Pitlochry pub The Old Mill Inn which had a terrific line-up of live music including Longstay on Saturday.
On Saturday Night when we arrived in Pitlochry, Perthshire was experiencing what is regarded in Scotland as freak weather conditions... sunshine. As a result, the Mill Inn and its beer garden were full of holidaymakers, day trippers and locals enjoying the last few rays of sunshine as day turned to night. We eventually managed to find an empty table in the busy bar just as Longstay started their show with a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover. The lads used the performance of 'Bad Moon Rising' as a sort of 'on the fly' sound check. By the time they launched into their second cover song, The Eagles 'Take it Easy', both the sound and performance were totally on fleek (as I believe the youngsters are wont to say).
Throughout their set, the band pitch the balance between original material and covers just about right. It's a Saturday night and although Longstay have a growing repertoire of strong original material, people are liquored up and want to hear familiar tunes that they can sing along and dance to. On this score, they certainly don't disappoint, taking in songs by acts as diverse as Stealers Wheel, The Waterboys, Green Day and Booker T and the MG's. My particular favourite cover was the Dylan penned, 'You Ain't Going Nowhere'. This song was part of the 'Basement Tape' cache of recordings Bob Dylan made in the late 60s with The Band. Longstays version, however, is very much in the vein of The Byrds wistful country rock version. Malcolm Swan and Callum Campbell's vocals create a great blend on the songs two-part Like a latter-day Levon Helm, Callum even provides lead vocals and harmonies as he plays.harmonies.
Even more impressive is the original material that Longstay sandwich between the cover versions. 'Too Long' has a great lead vocal from Callum and the songs is so good that I suspect most of the audience have no idea it's the lads wrote it themselves. Callum's main instrument is normally rhythm guitar but tonight their usual drummer's absence leads him to pick up the sticks. Callum knows the parts so well that you wouldn't know he wasn't the band's regular drummer and like a latter-day Levon Helm, he even provides lead vocals and harmonies as he plays.
Keys player George Staniforth provides a great percussion organ part on the bands latest single Grey Skies, a slightly moodier mid-tempo number. George obviously takes a lot of the limelight during a bravura run-through of Booker T and the MG's 'Green Onions' but bassist Cameron McCafferty and Malcolm on lead guitar also trade some pretty tasty licks. As their set comes to end, Longstay are plagued by a pretty annoying intermittent stage lighting fault which sees them plunged into darkness for minutes at a time. Undeterred, the guys leave it all out on stage with their final song, a boisterous 'Proud Mary' that has the Pitlochry massive dancing and singing along. Cannae beat a bit of Creedence, there's a reason they're the dude's favourite band. As last orders are called I contemplate an alcohol-free White Russian before I hit the road.
Colin review's Pitlochry Festival Theatre's 2019 production of Arthur Miller's allegorical play about the Salem Witch trials.
July 8th Monday 2019
Jim Mackintosh is Perth's premier poet, we take a look at his recent retrospective, Flipstones, in this week's Small City review.
July 2nd Tuesday 2019
Colin headed to Solas Festival at Errol Park at the weekend and enjoyed music from Kobi Onyame, HYYTS, Solareye, Stina Tweeddale and much more.
June 24th Monday 2019