A small intimate audience, around 40-50, packed cosily into the basement on Thursday evening to watch York-based singer-songwriter David Ward Maclean (and friends).
I first came across David one busy weekend afternoon as I fought my way through endless streams of shoppers, tourists and average-sounding buskers where outside the Minster stood a middle-aged bearded man with a guitar in his hand. Thinking he was another averagely good busker I carried on…and then stopped as David’s voice broke through the mêlée.
Since then I’ve accidentally and then intentionally stumbled across his various gigs in the city and nearby festivals as he has become one of the best-known musicians and seemingly most respected amongst his peers.
The gig started as one would expect to those familiar with his work; his soft voice and melancholic, biting and occasionally amusing lyrics pervaded the small space and perfectly complimented the ambient lighting and flickering candles.
In between songs made up of tracks from his first album Acts of Faith, Mr Maclean tunes his guitar, rambles and swears his way through the interludes in a style that he seems to have made his own whether intentional or not. One may be inclined upon viewing this to believe his assertions that he’ll probably bugger up the next song, until he finally strikes the first chord when the quality shines through once more.
The second session started very differently to the first with the singer-songwriter being joined on stage by a group of known and lesser-known local musicians, going by the slightly leftfield collective name of the York Mariachi Scratch Band, with an assortment of acoustic guitars, drums, double bass and a hand-drum.
This was the first time that DWM had performed songs from his second album The Wreckers with a live backing band, but the lack of practice did not show through as me and the crowd slowly began to tap our feet appreciatively to the now more up-tempo ‘rocky’ numbers which for me was a newly discovered side to the singer, with a particular highlight for me being his first-time attempt at a song titled ‘Sometimes’.
Paradoxically the solo and self-styled street musician really seemed to come alive when joined with others, on a stage, where his energy really seemed to flow through to the crowd whose applause made way for more raucous appreciation.
The night was rounded off by DWM crossing over into another more bluesy musical genre with a fluidity that belies the infancy of this new live venture, and will undoubtedly have left the audience wanting more.
DWM says his music is inspired by the streets of York on which he performs which is shown by the numerous references to streets such as Petergate in the beautiful song ‘Virginie’, as well as Micklegate and St Martin’s Lane in others.
Cycling home that evening through the familiar beauty and grime and the quiet and occasionally boisterous rain-drenched streets, I felt that somehow he reflects the soul of the city in which he has called home. It’s just a shame the talented Scot isn’t from York otherwise we could claim him as our own.
We should however be thankful that he decided to move here, and hope he will stay.