The Cheap Part of Town, debut release from Edinburgh-based Louis Rive, is a collection of characters from Barcelona’s bars and Cider Al is the story of one of Edinburgh’s well known karaoke drunks.
Louis spoke with The Fountain about Edinburgh’s music scene and the new album.
TF: A debut album, how exciting, what can we expect from that?
My debut album, The Cheap Part of Town, is musical storytelling. The folk tradition in Scotland, guys like Hamish Imlach, Michael Marra, Matt McGinn et al were storytellers as well as musicians, and this album follows in this fantastic tradition we have here. Now, to mankind’s great institution, the pub, the beautiful boozer! The pub is like a magnifying glass on human existence. Having spent a lot of time on both sides of a bar, I started writing songs about the characters that made up this rich patchwork of personality. For example, Cider Al was an old fella that used to sing karaoke around Tollcross about ten years ago. The boy was constantly hammered, belting out Common People by Pulp several times a night. The crowd would all bay his name, willing him to sing again, stoking him with free whiskey until he finally staggered out into the freezing night, loyally to reappear the following week. Then one day, he never came back. We will never know what happened to him, but the song keeps the tale alive. These are the kind of stories worth remembering.
TF: And are you promoting this with a tour, can we expect you in Scotland anytime soon?
There will be a tour yes, though in the near future I am supporting the legendary Larry Kaplan on the 27th of November at Leith Folk Club. In the Spring and Summer I plan to take my tunes around small pubs and clubs around Scotland and the UK. Watch this space for dates. In the meantime I am playing a lot in Barcelona, where I am based at the moment, so if you end up here for whatever reason, stag-party or modernist art tour, drop me a line and I’ll let you know where I am on.
TF: And you are actually from Edinburgh, which has a thriving music scene, often underrated, how has it affected and supported you?
I grew up in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh has always been ‘home’ to me. The scene in Edinburgh is grand and folk music is unavoidable. Playing sessions in the Royal Oak or Sandy Bell’s were, and still continue to be, a fantastic way of learning songs and getting into a flourishing scene. Like all of Scotland, storytelling is a massive part of the musical picture, something that goes back eons. However, the fact that Edinburgh’s concerts are usually held in small venues, reduces the gap between artist and audience, making the experience much more immersive, which is what you want as a storyteller. Plus, people like a drink around here, that always helps grease the axels a wee bit.
TF: What has been your favourite gig to date, do you have one?
I played a great venue here in Barcelona, La Sonora de Gracia, as near to spit and sawdust as Spanish bars get. No food, if you want a pint you get up and get it, bring your own dry-salted if you want. No nonsense whatsoever, people go there to listen to music. It’s small and you are basically sitting with the crowd, plying your trade, showing your wares. If they don’t like it, there’s zero pretention, they just leave. It is the perfect place for the type of songs I write and the stories they tell.