Step Into My Parlour: Michelle Burke
Published by Jim Gilchrist
11 Aug 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (music):
Step Into My Parlour: Michelle Burke at Summerhall (Venue 26). Review by Jim Gilchrist

Edinburgh-based Cork singer Michelle Burke launched her bizarrely homely Fringe soirées a couple of years back in the tiny basement of the Royal Oak Pub. She’s now moved into the comparatively palatial precincts of Summerhall’s main auditorium – and the amount of domestic bric-a-brac bedecking all surfaces not occupied by sherry glasses and biscuits has increased exponentially.

Then there’s the knitting, with audience members and even guitarist Jenn Butterworth purling like mad while Burke’s sister Laura assists with dispensing sherries and household tips drawn from their grandparents’ scrapbook (cure for ringworm? Just ask them).

Her excellent band has expanded too, with a core of Highland pianist James Ross, guitarist Butterworth and trombonist John Kenny joined by guests such as flautist and singer Cathal McConnell of the Boys of the Lough and button box player Julian Sutton.

Inspired by the sisters’ memories of childhood gatherings, the show is daft and heart-warming, but also brings the songs – a mixture of Irish vaudeville and traditional – back into their context as domestic entertainment.

Burke is a fine singer and after her opening jaunting-car romance of Eileen O’Grady, ranges through folk songs such as The Cobbler’s Daughter and a particularly lovely version of The Dark-Eyed Gypsy, as well as Tin Pan Alley’s Twilight Time and the contemporary Dublin Diner. There was a perky whistle break from McConnell, while Kenny’s trombone, fitting deftly into the folk line-up, came out with some spectacular interjections, not least during “Aunty Peggy’s party piece”.

As a show, it’s unique. Sing along, just don’t drop any stitches.