Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Dirty Beggars

Backstage at The Green Hotel, Kinross 

April 3rd 2015 

A collection of young Scots from (I believe, Peebles in the Scottish Borders) would appear at first glance to be an unlikely bunch to be peddling American bluegrass, were it not for the fact it is generally accepted that this form of music has its roots in the traditional Celtic songs brought to America by the original Irish and Scots immigrants all those years ago.  That it should be finding its way home is less surprising than the fact these lads, under the title of The Dirty Beggars, have actually been taking the stuff back across the water to the US with no small degree of acclaim. 

The Dirty Beggars consist Pedro Cameron (fiddle), Stuart Printie (upright double bass), brothers Fin and Pete Begbie who play mandolin/harmonica and banjo respectively, plus their improbably handsome cousin Kieran Begbie who handles most of the lead vocals.  I suppose if they achieve nothing else The Dirty Beggars can take pride in reclaiming the surname Begbie from the scary place Irvine Welsh took it to.
The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015

The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015

The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015

The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015
The band’s set (a whopping 28 songs) this evening , whilst showcasing a collection of frantic 100mph hoedown-type dance tunes also featured a collection of at times heart-rendingly beautiful compositions – a fair few of which, it has to be said, appeared to feature someone shooting someone else. 

The show was perhaps around 50:50 originals and covers – the latter from such US-based bluegrass heavyweights as Trampled by Turtles, Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show, although tunes diverse as The Band’s The Weight, Jackson Brown’s These Days  and Britney Spears’ Toxic were treated to a unique Beggars’ treatment.  Only the Trampled by Turtles' Bloodshot Eyes failed to hit the mark here, the boys’ generally sumptuous harmonies not quite nailing it this particular evening. I felt.    

That’s the band’s own compositions do not sound even remotely out of place within this exalted company show the lads' (primarily Pedro and Kieran) to be honing their song writing skills admirably.   Unforgiven which opened the set sounds like some fifty-year old standard, whilst Kieran’s Bury the Past boasts an uncomfortably perceptive lyric to be coming from the pen of such a youthful individual. 

Whilst not to understate the considerable musical contributions made by each of the other members of the band, it was Pedro Cameron’s fiddling which elevated proceedings for me - not just his breathtaking solo blowout, but his subtle layering onto a number of the more introspective pieces. 
He at times put me in mind of Jean-Paul Crocker on these first two Cockney Rebel albums, back in the early seventies.  An observation which would appear utterly bizarre were it not for the fact the Rebel violinist has since reverted to being plain old John Crocker, and can occasionally be found out and about with his own bluegrass band The Crocker Brothers.  The thread runs deep and unbroken.

There were perhaps an hundred or so folks in the Green Hotel this evening, but we were very much divided into two camps.  We wrinklies made up perhaps two thirds of the audience and we generally sat politely luxuriating in the music.  But the remainder (the under thirties, mostly) stood at the back incessantly yakking throughout; clearly regarding The Dirty Beggars' efforts as naught but a backdrop to the real entertainment on show: their own inane chatter.  Even the more decibel-rich DB songs did not deter them, for the clowns just took to bellowing at each other. 

I asked Kieran after the gig, if up on stage he could hear the persistent thrum of chatter through the show, and how it made him feel.  He, elegantly and rather diplomatically, shrugged and asserted yes the band were aware of it, but had become used to it, and in fact tended to perform to a rather more raucous audience than the sedate Green Hotel regulars.  I told him I thought the behaviour just “bad fucking manners”.  Which indeed it was, in my opinion.

Stuart Printie & Kieran Begbie of The Dirty Beggars
The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015
If the band were utterly slick and professional on stage their merchandising stall was endearingly rather less so.  Whilst I assume much of the wheeling and dealing would have been done during the interval, I and around half a dozen other folks waited at the unattended stall after the gig to make a few purchases. 
After five or so minutes a rather flustered Pedro Cameron arrived grinning apologetically, and proceeded to haul from the floor a single large holdall into which he began vigorously rummaging through the T-shirts, CDs and who knew what else that was crammed within - but no copies of the Bite The Bullet album could be found.  He just shrugged sheepishly and informed the queue, “Yir oot o' luck, I'm afraid”.  

Which made me ponder just how these guys do in fact make enough money to live on, for the door takings this evening at a tenner a head could barely have reached £1000.  I came to the conclusion either they have independent means, or must also hold down 9-5 jobs.

The problem The Dirty Beggars face, I suppose, is that bluegrass (or Americana as it is being branded these days) is just never going to be mainstream in the UK.  The band could I suppose, consider decamping across the Atlantic where this genre of music is big, but where they would be naught but a very small (if talented) fish in a very large pond. 
Or they may find themselves compelled to follow the Runrig route of sanitising their sound for the mindless masses - something Manran, it could be argued, are already in the process of doing.  Here’s hoping neither occurs. 

But for the present, I would strongly advise folks to get along to see The Dirty Beggars should they pitch up in a town anywhere near you  – for it will assuredly be the most fun you will have with your clothes on. 

Fin Begbie

Kieran Begbie

The Dirty Beggars - Kinross April 2015


When The Cockerel Crows
Raise a Ruckus
Bury The Past
Homecoming Day
Too Tired To Work Down That Farm Today
Louisiana Saturday Night
Let The Band Play
These Days
Tell It To Me
Underneath The Sky


Southern Girl
Come Away With Me
Solo fiddle medley
Old Black Bottle
I’m All Prayed Up
I’m Coming Home
Whisky In My Whisky
Bite The Bullet
Bloodshot Eyes
Wagon Wheel
Hey, Hey

The Weight


1 comment:

  1. Extensive set - love the song you posted on TIMJ, so I'll definitely try to catch 'em next time round.
    Completely agree with you on the “bad fucking manners” chatting crowd. Unacceptable