Music review: Justin Currie, Union Chapel, London


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The Independent Culture

Given the banalities and blandishments expressed by many of the current crop of so-called singer-songwriters who rely on a coterie of collaborators, it's refreshing to listen to Justin Currie, currently touring Lower Reaches, his third solo album since Del Amitri went on a hiatus that will end in January.

Currie is so in tune with his muse that he starts with the self-deprecating ''Every Song's The Same'', but proceeds to deliver on the promise of its “Let me teach you how to write a song” opening line and gives a masterclass in songwriting that is all his own work.

Dressed in black and still sporting his trademark sideburns, the 40-something Glaswegian may joke about his limitations, and continues with the still relevant Del Amitri mid-nineties classic ''Food For Songs'', yet he actually draws from a wide range of themes for inspiration.

He's always been a provocateur and a playful critic of consumerism as well as a wistful chronicler of the minutiae of everyday life and the fallacies and failings of men. The plangent Del Amitri hit ''Always The Last To Know'' is received rapturously by the fanatical audience, but the well-observed ''Half Of Me'' and ''I Hate Myself For Loving You'' from the new album are just as effective. In this acoustic setting, as he switches effortlessly from acoustic guitar to electric piano, with only the sterling support of superlative Scots sideman Stuart Nisbet, especially excellent on lap steel guitar, Currie's way with words and melody as well as his fine voice shine through.

He can't help making fun of his keening delivery in ''Falsetto'' – “you like to sing falsetto which real men shouldn't do” is another oh so quotable line – but repeatedly hits an emotional and lyrical bullseye. Another strum through the Del Amitri repertoire for ''Driving With The Brakes On'', ''Move Away Jimmy Blue'' and ''Tell Her This'' tugs at the hearstrings and offers a potent reminder of his ability to connect with the everyman. He even throws in an impromptu ''This Side Of The Morning'' to please a good-natured heckler.

The Utah backdrop hints at Americana but Currie remains adept at examining the reality of rainy Britain. The centrepiece of the encore, the diatribe ''No, Surrender'', channels both Bob Dylan and Mike Scott of the Waterboys which is some feat. Currie may swear in church, but as he wanders off mike and leads the congregation into the we've all been there before sentiment of Del Amitri's ''Be My Downfall'', it's obvious that he is carrying the family tradition, since his father was a conductor and chorus master. Here's hoping the return of Del Amitri will prove just as special.

Justin Currie tours until 20 September 2013