SALT HOUSE – Live at the West End Centre, Aldershot

Salt House
Photograph by Dai Jeffries

Very nobly, I refrained from swapping my ticket for Salt House for one for the burlesque show taking place in the main venue. I’m glad I did. Between the coronavirus and the strippers it was a small but enthusiastic audience that welcomed the band on stage.

They opened with ‘Turn Ye To Me’, the story of a sea monster and a missing baby with Ewan MacPherson playing a very sprauncy Gretch electric 12-string. I was trying to figure out where the soft bass notes were coming from as I couldn’t see an instrument capable of producing them. It wasn’t until the interval that I learned that Ewan has an octave pedal which I reckon makes his playing even more clever.

After ‘Lay Your Dark Low’, with some dazzling finger-picking, they gave us the first track taken from their new album, Huam. ‘William And Elsie’ is derived from a Danish ballad and features pizzicato viola from Lauren MacColl After a lovely version of ‘Old Shoes’ they turned to back to Huam in earnest. ‘The Same Land’ saw Ewan back on the Gretch and that was followed by Emily Dickinson’s words ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ and a minimal take on ‘If I Am Lucky’ before closing the set with ‘Mountain Of Gold’ – my good lady wife really likes that song.

Although I have all their albums this was the first time I’d heard Salt House live and there’s a huge difference between the records and the live performance. There is so much technology between the listener and the musicians with a CD but live, it’s right there in front of you. You can see who is doing what and watch the almost telepathic interplay between the players – Ewan and Lauren in particular in this case – and the only effects are those they can produce themselves.

Where the first set was largely restrained and thoughtful, the second was rather more rousing beginning with Jenny Sturgeon’s ‘Fire Light’, the first single from the album. ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter’ maintained the intensity and I really liked their version of ‘The Road Not Taken’ before ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’ gave us a new twist on an old story. Ewan’s ‘All Shall Be Still’ closed the show with the audience in full voice.

This was only the second gig of the tour so you have plenty of time to see them before they return to Scotland. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘The Road Not Taken’ – live: