C Duncan // Live Review

C Duncan shot 2

The Islington – May 26th

Rory Butler never did explain what happened to his left leg, but hinted it may have had something to do with an unfortunate combination of the Great Escape festival, too much alcohol and a flight of stairs. The limb, encumbered by a foot brace, caused Butler to sit uncomfortably on his stool, hindering his ability to reach his beer, but proved no detriment to his excellent set as he opened at The Islington for fellow Glaswegian C Duncan. Possessing a passionate folksome vocal not dissimilar to John Martyn, Butler performed resonant narrative reflections on subjects ranging from boarded-up shops in Glasgow to flirting while serving coffee in an East London deli. The songs were further elevated by Butler’s command of his acoustic guitar; his dexterous Delta feel for the instrument enabled him to pick out sparks of fierce colour as his fingers grappled the fretboard. Don’t go damaging those bones next time you’re drinking, señor.

C Duncan, sporting a midcentury moustache, holding an acoustic and flanked by two possibly sibling musical sidekicks, took up more of the petite Islington’s unreasonably large stage, but still had room to give considerable yardage to a vintage table lamp. The polite trio were here to preview Duncan’s debut album, Architect, which, as it was played and recorded by the man himself in his own bedroom, required certain adaptation in a live setting. This was most notable on the beautiful Manhattan folk of ‘For’, which was given a subtle rhythmic tweak to accommodate two guitars and keys, and whose layered vocal rounds gave way to three-part harmonies and multiform whistling. The classically trained Duncan’s chordal flow took gratifyingly inventive turns and a cover of The Cocteau Twins’ ‘Pearly Dewdrops-Drops’ was a suitably leftfield venture. Although inarguably well-done, it was a version that, like the group’s penchant for demure, Fleet Foxian nu-folk, was to be appreciated rather than fully immersed in. However, Duncan’s gift for haute songcraft and honeyed melody was brilliantly served when set to chipper pop, as on the casually angelic new single ‘Here To There’ or the persistent percussive lilt of ‘Say’. It was during these numbers, when his gentle euphonica was driven by backing beats and enhanced by catchy guitar refrains, that C Duncan’s music genuinely soared, suggesting that solo table lamp may soon be cashed in for a more expansive light show.

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Buy: C Duncan – Architect