The Only Show in Town

Posted by in May's Magazine

Capricious, carouselling and combustible might not seem like flattering terms to brandish when reviewing a band, but for a cartel of this construction (and a fan of my deportment) they’re bloody superlatives.

I’ve seen Emelle a whole fleet of times – we’re talking twenty plus and counting – so it’s with the contention of a well-versed spectator that I say bravo boys – I adore your wily inconsistency! It keeps me on my toes and compliments my somewhat 60s take on live performance. The dependable, well-oiled slickness of many bands delivering the same pruned and polished picnic of songs time-after-time gets a little humdrum. I saunter along, deliver a worthwhile decree and look for something a little more challenging. Meet Emelle, mercurial and mischievous with regular bolts of brilliance and the odd riotous eruption.



Now this is the risk you take when going to see a band as bold and brazen as these guys – and it’s the thrill of the fight that keeps me coming back. I’ve seen them entertaining awe-struck (awe-struck Michael? – Ed) audiences in art galleries; busking on the Royal Mile; invading the first class carriage of the Glasgow to Edinburgh late service; wrapping up poetry evenings; lighting-up darkened Leith boozers; and blazing onto the star-studded catwalks of Proud Galleries in Camden.

They’ve supported everyone from Heavy Metal rockers through to Michelle McManus and have been anointed on all occasions. I caveat the above by noting that at each performance their choruses are inexorably catchy, their lyrics glimmer then linger and the band as a unit are both entertaining and enamouring to watch – even when the music stops – thus even if you witness one of their gnarly cellar-room slots you’re still liable to be blown away. Another tier to this is that their songs keep getting better and better – from Baby to Masques through to the country crisped X.

Zesty thank you notes
Emelle fans too have developed a ‘bit of a reputation’. At the Michelle McManus event I recall Emelle’s followers spilling into the room just as the band started – this timely insurgence of bodies has become a bit of a band ritual. Michelle’s fizzy fans were thereafter shepherded, scattered and in some cases splattered into the corners of the room – with the same clash and clamour macho-men invest into splitting pool balls. Their phenomenally poppy execution of Hometown Blues and Greaseball were certainly disparate to the more Gogol Bordello-eqsue renditions I’d heard in the past but equally as delicious. I have it on good authority that Michelle not only requested a copy of their CD, but also scribed out a zesty thank you note.

The founding Emeller’s are brothers Craig Lithgow (lead vocals and acoustic guitar); Rhys Lithgow (backing vocals and drums); and Owen Morrice (bass). They recorded their inaugural E.P. What Would Our Mother Say (a paean to the mother no longer with them and the link between all three) at Teapot Studios in Fife under the counsel of some of the fine folk behind fellow Fifers The View. It was at this point that fiddler Dave McFarlane was integrated into the band adding a howling dexterity to their already tightly aligned sound.

Craig Finnie (formerly of the band Callel) joined in late 2010 – and not just because of the syllabic similarities of the words – after catching the band’s attention playing alongside, ahem, me in my poet guise, at a Forest Cafe Arts night. He hit the ground running and integrated into the band with mathematical precision – and has in many ways catalysed Craig’s creativity on the guitar.

This is a band that commonly (and successfully) improvises; a band where the odd bum note or awkward silence – post one of the members being overly ‘garrulous’ with their audience – is music to the ears of many. They have a staunch and growing flock of fans and the ability to stop any busy room from moving – whether instantaneously or in glacial creeping movement. Some will feel exhilarated, some trepid, mostly it’s enthused bopping, but yes there’s the odd one or two who’ll whinge (again this is gig dependent); I’ll tell you this though, there ain’t no other band like them in Scotland at the moment. If that’s not enough of a tagline to get you along to their next gig then you’re probably the WHINGER!

Info: Emelle’s (terrific – Ed) CD, What Would our Mother Say, is available from your local record shop – if you’re lucky enough to have one – and the usual web suspects. They gig as regularly as Frankie Boyle swears


13 responses to “The Only Show in Town”

  1. Hey-ho please follow in over 400 people's footsteps and vote for Emelle in the Music Fae Leith initiative –…

    In the meantime catch them at Neu! Reekie! this Friday night – listing as found in the Leither –

  2. Hey-ho please follow in over 400 people's footsteps and vote for Emelle in the Music Fae Leith initiative –…

    In the meantime catch them at Neu! Reekie! this Friday night – listing as found in the Leither –

  3. john borrowman says:

    to listen to their tunes

  4. the informer says:

    t-pot studio is in perthshire and the view are dundonians from dundee.

  5. twsedinburgh says:

    Right-o Ta for that – here's a link to T-pot's facebook for any interested parties –

  6. Macuistean says:

    sounds like a good start, liking the zesty 'thank you' notes. will keep an ear out

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