Despite my having spent my formative years less than two hundred yards away, I am ashamed to say that until I went to see BetttySoo and Doug Cox I had never set foot inside Kilbarchan’s Old Library. I was vaguely aware that they put on gigs from time to time, but I had no idea as to the standard of the venue or the quality of the acts. I’m delighted to say that I was not disappointed in either respect.

My parents still live in the family home just around the corner from the Old Library, and my father accompanied me to the gig – it was also his first time in the venue, and he was as impressed as I was.

The gig takes place in an upstairs room, which, whilst comfortably spacious, is sufficiently intimate to ensure that there are no barriers between the performer and their audience. Since the venue is unlicensed, it’s a “bring your own bottle” affair which, to me, simply added to the charm.

Live music seems to be flourishing in Kilbarchan – the hall is full to bursting, with an audience in the region of one hundred, many of whom I later learned had attended another concert two days earlier.

When BettySoo and Doug Cox take to the stage, the audience applauds generously and listens attentively as they open with a cracking version of 'Lie to Me', the Jeff Talmadge penned title track from their collaboration. BettySoo backs her superb vocals with some impressive acoustic guitar work, while Cox provides vocal harmonies and plays wonderfully ambling lead lines on dobro.

Prior to seeing the duo live, I had listened extensively to their album, and was blown away by BettySoo’s vocals. I was amazed to find that, if anything, her vocals are even better live than they are on the recording. Cox’s vocals also benefit from the live environment – his singing on 'Be Careful There’s a Baby in the House' is vastly superior to the album version. The blend of the two very different voices works exceptionally well in person, with the pair complementing each other on some difficult harmonies. Technically, both BettySoo and Cox are fantastic musicians, with Cox in particular showcasing his talents on dobro with a solo version of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'.

After ten or so songs, the pair close the first half of their set with the hilarious 'Secrets', a comic tale of domestic dysfunction. The second half continues in very much the same vein as the first: great songs and great performances are very much the order of the evening. The second half closes with a beautifully lilting version of Guy Clark’s 'Dublin Blues', before the pair return for three (yes, three) well-deserved encores.

Performance aside, what sets BettySoo and Doug Cox apart from their contemporaries is their choice of material; covers of Loudon Wainwright, Guy Clark and Butch Hancock sit comfortably alongside a terrific selection of songs by lesser known, but no less talented, songwriters.

After the gig, on the short walk back to my parents’ house, my father and I began planning our next outing to the Old Library. We agreed that we had had a fantastic time, with great music, a great venue and a very welcoming audience. I look forward to returning to the Old Library, and to seeing more of BettySoo and Doug Cox – they truly were fantastic.

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Commenting On: Old Library, Kilbarchan, 22/9/2011 - BettySoo and Doug Cox

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