Thursday, 19 July 2018

American music legend plays Whatlington Village Hall

Award-winning American acoustic musician and song-writer Doug MacLeod stayed in the tiny East Sussex village of Crowhurst on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This 70-something survivor of child sexual abuse discovered as a young man that music could save his mortal soul and went on to found a one-man musical ministry to heal us all. Doug was staying at Nina’s “Woodside” B&B in Old Forewood Lane before giving an intimate gig in Whatlington Village Hall, the new venue for Mrs Yarrington’s Music Club, the best platform for acoustic music in the south-east of England.

Doug played at Mrs Yarrington’s back in 2016 (click here for my review of that gig). In fact it made such an impression on him that on Tuesday night he went straight back to the same venue (at The Senlac Inn in Battle), sat in the bar, and wondered where his punters might be. He made it to the new venue in time however, bringing much needed relief after the opening act, Song Box Band. While this Brighton pop-folk duo impressed with their in-sync guitar playing, the singer's musings on Mediterranean holidays and other anodyne middle-class preoccupations grated.

When Doug began his song sermons, there was an almost palpable sense of excitement as an audience that was mostly familiar with the man readied themselves to get healed. He did not disappoint. Having heard some of his blues-based gospel before, I had an idea of what to expect, but songs familiar, and ones I had not had the privilege of hearing him sing live before, were equally compelling.

Among the stand-out songs were ‘Who’s Driving This Bus?’, a musical musing on the interests that may lay behind our elected leaders, with a nod to John Lee Hooker in Doug’s phenomenal guitar playing done in his professed “gumbo” style. Another musical acknowledgment was made by Doug when introducing a song that almost stole the show, and whose title went something like “(I Believe That) The Sun is Gonna’ Shine”. It was, said Doug, a song influenced by the celebrated black bluesman (and long-time muse), Tampa Red. You had to fight back the tears when hearing a tale of hoped for redemption that came straight out of Doug’s backstory. It was truly one of the most extraordinary vocal performances I’ve heard in nearly 40 years of attending gigs.

This man is an acknowledged master of his particular art; he just played in a village hall up the road from where I live. His landlady came to the gig and joked that she’ll be putting his sheets on e bay. She hadn’t heard of him before Tuesday but knew that, somehow, she had a star staying in her guest house. If you want to be similarly blessed, make sure you check him out the next time Mrs Yarrington’s puts this huge performer on a tiny stage.


  1. I ❤ Doug. And you're right about his vocal. It seems to have expanded and enriched since seeing him perform 2 years ago. It was moving then. It was profoundly moving this time. I think we should sell up and become Doug superfans and just follow him round and go to all his gigs. Maybe he'll let us be roadies! 😆

  2. PS. Unfair, verging on cruel, about Songbox. Their simpatico guitar work was excellent. You may not like the lyrical content but a personal attack is not very becoming by one who would be first to say it's all about the music. It undermines the review because it seems you are only selectively hearing Doug's message. I guess you;re still having to find somewhere to misplace your anger.

  3. I think Nature Strikes Back has a point and as a consequence I have amended my reference to Song Box Band to reflect the fact that they could play and were indeed sympatico. They have an audience, I have no doubt, and to their credit they, like Doug, write their own songs.

  4. Thanks for the update, and the intervention from Nature Strikes Back. Thanks also for the nod to our guitar playing. We're the first to appreciate not all music is to everyone's taste. I think the world's a richer place for it. I think we can all agree though - Doug Macleod is really something special

    1. Thank you for writing this, and for your admirable response to my acerbic comments.

  5. I hope Doug didn't have the same problem on Friday night - the gig was billed as at The Live Room, Shipley, actually, it was in Slataire! Anyway, the song you're thinking of, Neil, was "The Sun Shine Down My Way" from the "Dubb" album - one of his best. It was a superb show and Doug is as warm and engaging offstage as he is on. I was proud to be part of an audience that was so enthusiastic in his appreciation of him.

  6. Many thanks for your comment Phil. I need to check out the Dubb album! 'Black Night' was a comparable corker on the night I thought. Let's hope The Dubb is keepin' it real and at all the right venues! Best Neil