BOB LESLIE - The Barren Fig
Bob is a singer songwriter from Scotland; born in Edinburgh, now resident in Glasgow, and with some Orcadian ancestry, which is reflected in the material here – 12 original songs from Bob’s ever-expanding collection, written in a folk style.
He has a rich voice, a touch refined in tone, with the mild vibrato that comes with age. As well as singing, he plays guitar, bass and does some “sample editing” here, and he’s supported by three musicians on accordion, fiddle/viola, clarsach and flute. I have to say, I’m not too keen on the recorded quality of the music – it’s well enough played, but it’s got an odd sound, slightly muffled, possibly with a strange reverb.
But there are some good songs, often using Scots or Orkney dialect, with tunes that suit the genre well. Bob writes about things that traditional songs are made of: drovers, his homeland, war, history, mythology. And the mix is peppered with some lighter material and humour too, often with good choruses or refrains, like Nothing Else To Do – songs like this will go down well in folk clubs. Ye’ll Never Find A Souter Doun In Hell is another with a good chorus, a humorous story and some killer lines… It’s arranged more simply with just voice, guitar and bass, and I confess I enjoyed this better.
Another one of my favourites here is I Thowt I Liked Winter. It’s one of two songs not entirely written by Bob; the words are by Orcadian artist, Ingrid Grieve, adapted and put to Bob’s tune. It’s gentle, warm and homely, despite being about the cold winds of winter, and leaves the listener smiling.