MICHAEL MARRA – Folksong Club, Croydon 19.04.10

Although I personally hadn’t seen or heard Michael Marra before his name is legend on the folk circuit in Scotland. My first image of Marra crouched over his piano and ironing board stand was like a first encounter with a sleazy back-street pianist in a French bar and in a way I feel he should be witnessed in monochrome – all that’s missing is a glass of whisky in one hand and a fag in the other. That’s not to say his music isn’t colourful…it is. He has a penchant for the word ‘visit’ as in “Doctor John’s visit to Blairgowrie”, “Bob Dylan’s visit to Embra” and the wonderfully eccentric “General Grant’s visit to Dundee”. This is a man who relies on real life to place you in surreal situations. Perhaps it’s his play on words that will remain most vividly in my mind utilising clichés like there was no tomorrow and of course it’s his turn of phrase that kept the audience enthralled from beginning to end. Come to think of it I can’t remember an audience being this respectful to an artist in many years (OK, maybe when I went to see Segovia playing acoustic to a hushed 1,500 seat Fairfield Halls in the 70’s) and respect also to Mike Rothan for his sound mix never allowing the piano to dominate the lyrics. With his French beret (and not a string of onions to be seen) Marra proves that he is not only an eloquent artist who may present a skewed outlook on life by having you laugh one minute and then deep in thought the next (“Happed In Mist”) but he is a unique talent and one that the ‘folk’ music scene should be proud to count as one of their own. For his encore he chose to salute his own musical heroes Hoagie Carmichael & Frank Loesser by using a very amusing story featuring Ed Devereaux (the ranger in “Skippy”) leading up to the 1938 classic “Two Sleepy People”. What a perfect end to a perfect evening and I for one would definitely catch him again on another of his all to rare appearances here in the South.

PETE FYFE

Artist website: www.musical1.com/Michael_Marra

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