Live review: Bear Bones at the 13th Note, 19/5/11

From Islay to Glasgow a one-night melody ticket to thrill your ears, Bear Bones are very clearly lyrically driven and their audience obviously tuned into the melodic depth of sound from seven musicians performing great arrangements. The strings slice into beats and the bells ring in the choruses.


Sophie Robinson on vocals and bells gives bright twinkles and haunting tones taking the tunes beyond many contemporary folk sounds. There are delicate intros and deft touches throughout but powerful ramped up endings leave you wanting for nothing, well nothing more than another number.

When ‘Give Me My Teeth’ issues forth as the first number it is clear the sound set up has changed to allow the vocal and quieter instruments to get through to the audience. Ben Harrison brings Hebridean island charm to Glasgow and fashions it into poignant lyrics. With accordion, bells, banjo, strings, drums and voices Bear Bones give far more than the backing for those lyrics. With Ben upfront centre stage he is the main focus, but around that point the music flows and his voice eddies through the wonderful waves of Bear Bones.

Bear Bones are rooted in folk traditions and as the name suggests they display their roots and open up some of their songs with just vocals, or a couple of instruments with later layering bringing in the whole band. By making some songs in this incremental style it appears that you can watch the musical flesh being built on the Bear Bones.

‘Diving Bell’ sets the crowd alight with bright love affirming lyrics. Andy McMillan plays most parts of the drum using rims and sticks to mark tempo and introduce verve to the songs. Bear Bones can hold a pretty tune, make a gentle harmony and lull you into your safe space before biting you with an incisive lyric, comparisons with Belle & Sebastian are reasonable.

From superb strings to Richy Carey’s accordion the mood travels between concert and ceilidh hall. Great rhythms keep everyone moving along with the lyrics as the whole room sways to each successive number.

The songs build up as more players join in until the crescendo falls on the crowd eagerly answering back with applause. The live performance here gives off a well-practiced air of musical crafting designed to pluck your heartstrings. A great finale of ‘Oil & Lacquer’ builds up longer and louder until the bells ring around the room issuing a fine return call to bring you back for the next concert.

Words/photos: PHH Sykes.

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