Wednesday, 27 May 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: He Don't Love Me Anymore by June Carter

Of course Johnny had to have her, she's as funny as she is purty and she makes me want to run back home now and for forever so I will never, ever, ever lose my southern accent. That, and I have GOT to get myself to the Grand Ole Opry.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Saturday, 23 May 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Hard Headed Woman by Wanda Jackson

Hotdog! This here's the first lady of rockabilly, the one and only fujiyama mama, and one hell of a hero of mine. I may have just majorly screwed myself into working on a night when she will actually be playing in Scotland, in the flesh, and therefore am drowning in a sea of self-loathing-soaked tears.

Friday, 22 May 2009


Savvy stuff


The cocktail menu alone is worth a perusal. Following the lengthy bubbles section, there are four pages of 'Our School Cocktails,' many incorporating a little fizz. The gentleman serving us rightly recommended an Incognito (Wyborowa Almond vodka with Briotet crème de mure and pineapple juice, Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, £7.50) to my friend, and to me, a fan of tasting flowers, The General (Hendrick's Gin with St Germain elderflower liqueur, white sugar and Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne, garnished with a peach bitters-soaked cucumber baton, £7.50).

The delicious drinks satiate us until the arrival of our starters: stuffed cherry tomatoes for my friend and for myself, mini crab cakes. The tomatoes are poached and filled with goat's cheese, always an enticing combo, and accompanied well with toasted pine nuts and cased in filo. The cakes aren't phonies; they're full of fresh crab meat and a curry sauce make them a sweet summer treat.

My friend's main is chicken that's smoked in-house and served with a rich green pea and spring onion risotto, its star ingredients being shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil. Mine is a healthy dish of asparagus, soft poached egg, goat's cheese croutes and a peppery rocket salad, flavours that entwine with ingenuity.

The pudding menu endangers a guilt-free night and is too good to resist. We indulge in chocolate flavoured Panna cotta with blood orange compote that refreshes the palate, and a peanut butter and chocolate bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice cream that is mind-blowing for any fan of the Reese's Cup flavour combo!

Sampling the food is as much of a must as their expert cocktail menu (they also fancy themselves knowledgeable in the Art of Absinthe!) and it is these things as well as the tranquil, smart surroundings that should send them ascending their first summer on the shore.

Bond No 984
Commercial Street
0131 555 5578

Mon-Fri 4pm-1am
Sat 12pm-1am
Sun 12pm-12am
Also published in Bite Magazine, June 2009




The reason to dine out


Located above The Old Bell pub, The New Bell has an old charm illustrated with mismatched wooden chairs, white linens and Miles Davis playing quietly overhead. It's a relief to settle in here from the rain and sink into a bottle of some highly drinkable Australian Shiraz (Katherine Hills, £17.95).

The menu is full of imaginative tradition. I recognise a combo of pear and blue cheese that I adore so I go for this salad with chicory and sherry vinaigrette (£5.50). It's very good but my healthy endeavour ends in envy of my friend's luscious plate of MacSween's haggis-filled crepe surrounded by whisky sauce and sheathed in crispy-fried leaks (£6.75). Just grand.

My main is poached and grilled chicken engulfed with sun-dried tomato mousse, a delicious concoction that has me sold in seconds (£14.95). Served also with buttered spinach and a roasted red pepper mash that one could only dream of recreating, it is suffice to say I am happy. My friend goes for the chef's special of pan-roasted loin of new season Borders lamb; brilliantly pink slices are fanned out on the plate with a delish pea puree, crushed new potatoes, black olive tapenade and a wild garlic and leek crust to match the flavours enriching the potatoes (£17.50). A table full of top notch flavours and just enough food to satisfy without negating the possibility of pudding!

The desserts deserve their very own page of recognition but this will have to do: one bite into the fondant exposes a molten lava of dark chocolate bewildering enough without a fresh mandarin sorbet at its side. Moving on, a banana and honeycomb iced parfait is also unstoppable, a great combination seldom seen, served with a caramelised cone of just-made raspberry cream and summer fruits that are tart from marinating in their own juices. (Both £5.50)

The New Bell is the reason that we want to dine out. Why kid yourself in your own kitchen when you can leave yourself in the hands of professionals?

The New Bell
233 Causewayside
0131 668 2868

Sun–Thu 5.30–9pm
Fri,Sat 5.30–10pm
Sun 12.30–2pm
Also published in Bite Magazine, June 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: My Girls by Animal Collective

Despite what these awesome guys think, this song rocks. Think opening track on a playlist made for Friday mornings. I know it's just too easy to give this album (Merriweather Post Pavilion) credit considering the rapturous reception it has received from the press but sometimes we know what we're talkin' about, people. Oh, and don't forget to also click on link above to behold the 'awesome guys.'

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Seaside splendour
May 2009

On entrance this establishment can be deceiving. The front bit is the pub, (Teuchters Landing), a newly refurbished one full of energy and punters enjoying libations by the shore this Saturday evening. The friendly face behind the bar recognises my look of disorientation and directs me down a corridor to a quieter portion of the building which occupies A Room in Leith. A stunning locale for a restaurant, it is entirely windowed so every diner can enjoy a peaceful experience by the water. It is here that my friend and I forget where we are over the course of the next hour or so, as if we've been transported to a totally different seaside city.

The lofty impression the atmosphere leaves us is only heightened while we pore over the menu, which changes every six weeks or so. Every choice is innovative with ideas as fresh as the ingredients, which have a clear focus on Scotland. My friend eventually decides on baked portobello mushrooms topped with roasted garlic butter and Mull cheddar, encrusted in pistachios and garnished with a pickled red onion relish (£5.25). The flavours here merge from every direction while the dish remains delicate. We also share a terrine made of confit duck and hamhock that is unbelievably light, considering the ingredients, and seems the perfect spring starter with the accompaniments of celeriac remoulade and Arran mustard dressing (£5.45).

Pleased with the appearance of roasted wood pigeon breast on this menu, my friend has this as her main and it is served a beautiful shade of red with very crispy haggis fritters, truffled thyme mash and a Hawthorn berry glaze (£16.25). The meat melts in the mouth as it is more than just tender, it simply dissolves with every bite and couldn't be better complemented with the glimmer of truffle in the potatoes. My sea bream fillet is crisp, expertly seared and served over a lush chowder of king prawns, rocket and butternut squash with citrus brioche croutons (£15.25).

For pudding, we share a warm tart of rhubarb, orange and almonds finished with an amaretto custard (£5.25). Yet another moment when we experience every glorious flavour at once, layered and baked to enviable perfection.

Chef David Hand certainly has two new fans who are already intensely curious of the menu's next transformation. See you again in six weeks!

Also published here in Bite Magazine

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Garden Cafe at the Dome

Hidden Charm
May 2009

We, as dwellers of this fine city on the sea, cannot deny that when our old friend, the sun, decides to show its face occasionally, we chase and we celebrate it. Today, not only has my favourite acquaintance made itself known, but it is actually warm. This is, in my eyes, the first (and possibly the only) day of Spring so it is fortunate I've planned to lunch in the outdoor Garden Café situated at the Dome's back door.

With the entrance just off Rose Street, shoppers, lunch-breakers and sun-seekers occupy the sweet garden furniture interspersed with potted flowers, plants and trees. Accordion music plays and baskets of lemons, oranges and limes hang from the outer walls of The Dome. In this storybook scene I am armed with a book, a pair of sunglasses and a glass of that immortal springtime nectar - pinot grigio (delle Venezie £4.50).

The abundant and attentive staff swiftly bring a starter of chicken liver parfait (4.50). It is too much food for me personally but it is delicious. The texture is almost like mousse with the flavour flirting with richness but never overpowering. It spreads easily onto some tasty Scottish oatcakes, though the red onion chutney that accompanies isn't as exciting as I had hoped.
A salad is definitely in order on this sunny afternoon so I try a new addition to their menu - the warm and spicy Mexican chicken salad (£12.00). I am brought a seemingly endless bowl of marinated chicken breast over lettuce with guacamole, sour cream and jalapenos. It is simple yet something I've not had before and very refreshing. Again, a lot of food, however a lot of very good food!

Dessert is considered but I couldn't dare! The temptations include a lemon tart with white chocolate sauce, The Dome Scottish cranachan, The Dome apple pie with vanilla ice cream, Scottish cheeses and a selection of Italian ice creams and sorbets (£4.50-£7.50) - all great reasons to return soon while there's still a chance they will cool us off from that fickle sun.

Also published here in Bite Magazine.

Friday, 15 May 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Beautiful Bride by The Handsome Family

Thank you Dave Cameron, my dear sweet fellow banjo/bluegrass-lovin' friend, for sharing this video with me during the final days of the Napier era! This music has stuck with me!

INTERVIEW: The Handsome Family

The Handsome Family, a husband and wife duo living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, do folk-country-bluegrass with the sweetness of Cash and Carter and the imagery that only the experiences of time, travel and troubles and can so delicately induce. She, a fiction writer from New York, has been writing sublimely somber stories for Brett's baritone delivery since their debut almost 15 years ago. With a recent release, Honey Moon, comprised of ballads that tell us of June bugs, a winding corn maze and that 'love is like a white moth sipping tears from sleeping birds,' the couple return now to Scotland to share sensitivities as deep as their catalogue. Meet one-half of the family, Rennie Sparks.

Where are you two from and do these places affect your musical imaginations?
Brett’s from Texas and I’m from NY. I grew up in a rural part of Long Island. Lots of vines and noises in the night. We have so many influences it's hard to know where songs come from in the end. We like old songs.

What kind of records have you enjoyed lately?
Lately we’ve been listening to a lot of The Platters and The Mills Brothers. They are so romantic and evocative yet so formal. We also love Alfred Deller.

Have you been to Scotland before?
Yes, many times. Last time we drove around the Highlands listening to Ivor Cutler. Delightful, scary, gorgeous. I saw a fox running down the street late at night in Edinburgh. That was pretty amazing. We don’t have a lot of foxes. We do have road runners though.

What's on the cards for this year?
Lots of touring.

The Handsome Family play The Americana Festival in Glasgow at The Tron on May 17.

Also published here in The List

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Devil Song by Sparrow and the Workshop

Read all about the splendour that is Sparrow here

ALBUM REVIEW: Bob Log III | My Shit is Perfect **

Supposedly based in both Arizona and Australia, Bob Log III is a one man band anomaly who gets his kicks through frenzied slide-guitar blues that deviates severely from tradition and is, as one might deduce from his fourth album’s title, totally foul. My Shit is Perfect vibrates with tiresome techno beats which rob it of any sensible songs while most of the words Bob muffles or seemingly raps are utterly indecipherable. ‘Shake a Little, Wiggle It and Jiggle It Too’ might be redeeming in the context of a drunken hoedown and y’all can save ‘Shinkansen The!’ for that demented hillbilly rave you’ve been meaning to throw.

Also here in The List

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

INTERVIEW: Sparrow and the Workshop

Next band to ruffle your feathers the right way is here. Sparrow and the Workshop, originally from 'all over the place', joined their folk-friendly forces over a year ago, set up shop in Glasgow and have been-a soaring ever since. Making music with a helpin' of yonder that is both haunting and angelic, Sparrow combine blissful boy-girl vocals with a french violin, slide-guitar, bass and stripped-down drum kit. The result is downright brilliant, with songs about the devil, broken homes, foes, jealousy, crimes of love and gun-packin' delivered profoundly by a trio of old souls. The List caught up with Jill O'Sullivan, Nick Packer and Gregor Donaldson to discuss the local music scenario, a poor little sparrow and Summer Wine.

Howdy. So where is everyone from and how did you find each other?

Jill: Gregor is from Scotland, near Edinburgh, and has lived in Glasgow most of his adult life (he went to Glasgow School of Art and then started a pretty awesome cafe/catering company in this fine city). Nick was raised on a farm in South Wales but lived in London for most of his adult life (also went to the city for art school and then worked there), and I was born in Belfast but raised in Chicago and spent most of my adult life in North America, until I moved to London a couple of years back to do a postgraduate degree in something I can't remember very well, like most of my studious pursuits, under the false impression (self-imposed) that London was an affordable city to live in and that I liked to study...oops...

Nick: Jill and I actually met in Clapton, London - on a road dubbed 'Murder Mile' ... I lived in a place that was the only standing building on the street, and Jill lived in a grotty highrise that got featured in the Guardian's 'worst places to live 2008...' Anyhows, we both were very bored of London and workin' like a dog and its whole who-ha.. so we moved up to Glasgow in search of a bit more action in our lives, moving into Gregor's apartment, luckily and totally by chance. He had drums, (and turned out to be one of the best drummers around), some cool records, Jill had some songs and I had a guitar. Bingo.

Sparrow and the Workshop is an ace name, and it really does work well with your kind of music. Can you explain that? I can't. It just does.

Gregor: We had a really depressing name (Dead Sparrow) and shit drums, so we removed the word 'dead' from the name and added the word 'workshop' in the vain hope that one day a rich benefactor would replace the shit drums with a shiny set of 'Drum Workshop' Drums, which in my opinion, are by far the best drums you can get.

J: Hmmmm, apparently there's a place in the States called Sparrow Guitars, it seems...But in all seriousness, the Sparrow part of the name derives from a song about a dead sparrow (one of my first attempts at songwriting) that my dad shot down with a BB gun as a kid, and then he felt really bad about it when he saw its mangled little wings lying still on the ground. It was my grandfather's fault because he kept goldfinches for their lovely songs and said sparrows were good for nothing. This story really stuck with me, you know? Poor little sparrow, and poor dad, and poor stubborn, mixed up old grandad. Who's to blame, really?! And what's the lesson to be learned? The story seemed surreal, like a fable you'd hear as a kid...except the sparrow didn't talk, of course. I think.

Who writes the songs? Favourite songwriters?

J: I guess I come up with most of the melodies and the chords, but it's not a case of, "okay, here's a song, now you play this and you play that". Usually, I come in with bits and pieces and then we construct the song over time as a group, and Nick and Gregor play whatever they think works and we cut and paste and add, embellish or contract when necessary. There's a lot of talking about what might work and trying out different things and, incidentally, prog rock doodling that inevitably gets cut out but entertains us in the meantime. In terms of favourite songwriters of all time, wow....well, I'll say the man in black, Johnny Cash. He has powerful lyrics.

G: I think Joanna Newsom is good.

N: Brian Wilson. I'm a fan of procrastination.

You've sprung up at a very exciting time around here with Scotland dishing out sweet new talent like yourselves left and right. How has that helped you along?

J: Well thank you very much, that's kind of you. People like Vic Galloway and SongByToad really helped us meet a lot of other musicians around Scotland, in fact. They've been incredibly supportive of us and we've found that there is a great community of sharing and support amongst all the bands. I think we've been lucky because we get on well with bands from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the promoters in both cities are really enthusiastic about putting on nights, like Trampoline, Limbo and This is Music in Edinburgh, and Halt Bar Hijack, Cry Parrot, Nuts and Seeds, Splendid Dead Collective and the Concrete Campfire in there are always loads of gigs to play!

G: Yeah, in the past year, we've played with loads of bands that are starting to prick people's ears and we are fortunate enough to be going on tour with Broken Records in June. We're looking forward to it.

Anyone who made it to your 'wedding set' at the Limbo Live album launch knows you do a damn fine Summer Wine cover. Okay so what's your favourite boy/girl duet ever?

J: Limbo was great fun, actually, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was an 8-year-old dream of mine to be Tiffany onstage, and I didn't manage to feather my bangs {or 'fringe' for the unhip to North American-speak} but I donned a side ponytail so it was worthwhile.

G: In terms of duets, when we started out as a band, me and Jill did a cover of Green Pastures (Emmylou and Willie Nelson) for an acoustic gig, and it affected how we did songs because doing that made us realise how powerful the harmonies were and how well they worked.

J: Nick had been prattling on about electrical wires (incidentally, he's made his own bass and guitar in one which we call the Basstar'd) and also Lee Hazlewood's incredible song with Nancy Sinatra so when the Limbo gig came up, we knew we had to do Summer Wine.

N: I don't ever talk about electrical wires and all I did was swap a string!! But, my favourite boy/girl duet is 'I had the time of my Life' by Jennifer Warns and Bill Medley.

J: Ha, Nick, I didn't even know you had seen Dirty Dancing out in the country. I'm gonna say 'Jackson' - by Johnny Cash and June Carter

G: 'We've got tonight' by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton - This is the superior version of a song that was originally sung by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton, these royals of country have sung together for decades...

N: I like the bit where Dolly Sings...'who needs Sheena Easton..'

Sparrow and the Workshop play Captain's Rest, Glasgow with Mitchell Museum on May 14; Flying Duck Kitchen, Glasgow with Broken Records on May 30; King Tuts, Glasgow with Broken Records on June 3; at Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh on Juy 10

Also here in The List

SONG OF THE DAY: Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa by Dusty Springfield

Love this song. 'What can...I do?'




This was the extent of my knowledge on cupping when I walked into the Shivago Thai Clinic three days ago. A warmest welcome was reassuring as the staff explained this tradition they're obviously passionate about. Although the therapy originates in China, their method is one that Thailand has adapted which can combine other therapies alongside it including herbal compresses. I'm told that farther east, cupping is practised as frequently as haircuts, and that swallowing painkillers would never be considered in the place of this alternative therapy.

So what is it? Cupping involves heating glass cups with a flame which, once on the skin, creates a vacuum. (Plastic cups are used as well) The blood underneath rushes to this concentrated spot, and the more stagnant the blood, the redder the skin will get. Why do this to yourself? Mainly to relieve pain, which can build when your energy, blood and fluids stagnate and block circulation. Cupping works to remove blood and energy stagnation Although I'm wary of fire, my trustworthy therapist, Kei Ngu, put my worries at ease, literally. My skin went red instantly, which means I'm stagnant as well as, I am told, that I am full of worry. (Correct!) Careful not to leave the cups on for too long as per my redness, Kei also used the actual cup to massage. He then moved the heated cup across my back and demonstrated 'flash cupping,' a juggling act of quickly lighting the cups, applying, removing, repeat, with the swiftness.

It's a bewildering experience and an effective one. I'm at ease, especially when handed a cup of herbal tea and urged to relax some more. To add to the unique experience, Kei sends me away with a batch of herbs I watch him handpick out of many different jars so that I would continue my treatment at home, in an herbal bath.My next treatment is in three weeks, on my birthday, if that's any indication of the worthwhile time to be had at Shivago Thai Clinic.

Prices start at £15 for 15 minutes.

Shivago Thai Clinic Buddafield 25 Blackfriars Street Edinburgh EH1 1NB 07878 256 174
Also in Bite Life section of the June 2009 issue of Bite magazine

Saturday, 9 May 2009

INTERVIEW: Cancel the Astronauts

Cancel the Astronauts are Edinburgh-based indie poppers who admittedly owe a lot to the surge of all the great things happening in Scotland with like-minded bands, club nights and local fans who love a good tune. Members Matt and Kiernan spoke with The List about how all of these things have helped them evolve into musicians who are graciously getting ahead of the game.

You're based in Edinburgh, yes?
Matt: Yes, although three of us are from Kilmarnock, one of us is from Nottingham and another is from Fife.

So how did CTA come to be?
Matt: Me and Kieran have been in 'bands' for years. I say 'bands' because we never actually had a drummer and never did any gigs. We only ever wrote songs, played Oasis b-sides and drank lots of beer. When we eventually did get a drummer, about five years ago, he stole our drums and stopped answering his phone. Then, about two years ago, we got a drummer who wasn't a thief, and, as such, we were able to do actual gigs. That's not the drummer we've got now mind you. Now we have Chris, who may or may not turn out to be a thief. We met Neil through a friend, and Michael went to school with me and Kieran. He was also our flatmate and had a synth, so he became our synthist. Can you pass the water?

Kieran: Other embarrassing-in-retrospect Britpop bands are available.

And the name?
Matt: We had lots of rubbish names, and Cancel the Astronauts seemed to be the least rubbish. We intended to change it when we thought of something better, but by then we had written it down on MySpace and it was too late. Kieran keeps saying that he will write a blog post about all our rejected names which he should do. Will someone please pass the water?

Kieran: Oh yeah. I had a wee list of the rejects. Tits McGhee and The Phenomenal Bastards! They seemed funny at the time. I think we’ve forgotten most of them, thankfully, but I do remember we only settled on the name at the very last minute, after many months of everyone appending their sentences with ‘now that’s a good band name’. It’s from precisely that sort of tedium and desperation that a name as preposterous as Cancel The Astronauts is borne. I’d like to publicly state that I’ve got nothing against astronauts.

Caught you at the Limbo Live album launch. How has efforts like this in the thriving Edinburgh music scene helped your reception?
Matt: The scene in Edinburgh is indeed thriving, and Limbo is a particularly good example of that. Dave and Andy do a great job booking quality acts (such as Cancel the Astronauts) every week. Top marks to them. We have been quite lucky in that we get to play a lot of respected nights like Limbo, Trampoline at the Wee Red bar (run by the wonderful Euan from the Kays Lavelle) and Gentle Invasion (which the magnificent Bart Owl is kindly letting us play later in the month). It's great that Edinburgh isn't seen as just a city full of (very good) folk or anti-folk acts. Bands like us (I mean indie-pop stuff), such as Come On Gang!, Kid Kanaveral and The Curators to name just a few, are well supported by the Edinburgh scene. Nights like Limbo, Trampoline and Gentle Invasion are also well respected outside of Edinburgh which is great for the bands that get to play them. At the same time bloggers like Song By Toad and Seventeen Seconds (who are labels now too) are doing a wonderful job of promoting music in and from Edinburgh. So well done Edinburgh. Keep giving us gigs. Why is no one passing me the water?

Kieran: Because it’s the internet?

What kind of songs by other artists makes you want to run to each other and make music?
Matt: Frightened Rabbit and Meursault are doing that for me at the moment. They are both so good though, that rather than making me want to make music, they sort of make me want to never write another song again, because what's the point when other people do it so much better!?! Ahh, the sexy angst of the tortured, yet handsome, under-appreciated artist. I am a massive Pulp and Smiths fan too. Different Class and Strangeways Here We Come make me want to write better songs, which we all agree I probably need to.

Kieran: The best thing in the world right now is the Sky Larkin album. It is properly ace. Other best things in the world include De Rosa, Sholi and the Errors album, which came out ages ago, but still.

What has been your most endearing musical comparison?
Matt: People have said we sound like a cross between The Hoosiers and Scouting For Girls, while others have said we are more like a mix of Pulp and The Cure. I think I prefer the last comparison.

Kieran: We got compared to Keane the other week. Sob. Someone once said we were pop, but kind of creepy. Creepy pop, then. I’m all for it.

What can we expect to see from you in 2009/what upcoming events are you excited about?
Matt: We have just released our debut EP 'I Am The President of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)' which you can buy on cd from us at gigs and hopefully on PayPal or as download on iTunes etc. So far, it has been widely ignored! We have plans to release another badly received EP in October time. We are at least thinking about an album. In the meantime we are trying to balance gigging, song-writing and indulgent blogging, all of which you can find out about at, readers!

Kieran: And we’re playing Sick Kids Sunday on Sunday with a whole raft of brilliant bands, so that should be good. Assuming my work have remembered to give me the day off, otherwise I could end up playing a gig on my lunch hour. Rock. And. Roll.

Cancel the Astronauts play with Come on Gang!, Kid Canaveral and Jesus H Foxx in Edinburgh at GRV on May 10; and with The Gentle Invasion with Moustache of Insanity and Conquering Animal Sound in Edinburgh at Henry's Cellar Bar on May 30.

Also published here in The List