Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns
THERE was more than a slight suspicion that blues mama Meschiya Lake and her able support, The Little Big Horns, were used to playing to a more raucous crowd than the midweek audience at Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre.
This was, after all, music that had flourished in the Prohibition flaunting speakeasies of Chicago, New York and especially the band’s home city of New Orleans, delivered with sass to spare by former circus performer Ms Lake.
"This is my favourite love song," she informed her Highland audience before launching into the macabre lyric "I don’t want no sympathy ’cause I done cut my good man’s throat" as she belted out Bessie Smith’s "Send me to the ‘Lectric Chair."
Clearly this was not to be a night for delicate sensibilities, just a night for stomping rootsy jazz.
These comprised both Lake originals and songs drawn from the early 20th century — songs she refers to as "classics" rather than "covers" and part of a healthy living tradition.
Ensuring it stays lively were The Little Big Horns, Ben Polcer on trumpet, Jason Jurzak on sousaphone, Russell Welch on guitar and Mike Voelker on drums, each deservedly getting bursts of applause when the music allowed them to properly showcase their talents — and the Inverness audience had got over their shyness.
Then there was the additional weapon in the band’s armoury, the Lindy Hop dancers.
The Lindy Hop was born in the jazz clubs of 1920s Harlem and proved this was music not just to swig bootleg liquor to.
Champion dancers Amy Johnson and Chance Bushman — a guy who not only dresses like one of the nattier characters from the pulp magazines, but has a name to match — jitterbugged and jived along the side of the stage and even up and down a set of steps brought along for the purpose. And even if they distracted a little from what the musicians were doing, not even the players could have begrudged them that.
Maybe the still relatively new OneTouch was not quite sleazy enough to re-create that slightly dangerous night Prohibition vibe, but Lake and company made up for that by bringing along their own atmosphere and for at least a couple of hours Inverness felt like a northern outpost of Bourbon Street.