Of the rock and blues acts at this year's festival, the undoubted highlight is the Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (August 30, Playhouse), who will appear solo at piano. Originally part of the Yellow Magic Orchestra and now a renowned writer of film scores (with an Academy Award for The Last Emperor) Sakamoto's live performances have been few and far between. He will perform a selection of his works, the appearance tying in with the release of his debut Elektra album Sweet Revenge, where he collaborates with Roddy Frame, Paul Alexander and Holly Johnson. How these, and some of Sakamoto's grand past efforts will translate to piano should prove fascinating listening.
The furiously eclectic Mouthmusic (August 27, La Belle Angele) are a tough one to pin down, a world music for all the world, if you please. They're plugging a new album, having previously earned praise from the popular music press on both sides of the Atlantic. Similarly, Toronto's Moxy Fruvous (August 17-23, Fringe Club, Teviot Row) are oddballs of sorts, taking in rap, folk, politics and shouting in a capella stylee, having been named originally after two pigs. Oink. Capercaillie (September 1, Playhouse) much-recorded Scots and hugely popular purveyors of impassioned Celtic fusion are bound to be a massive attraction. The word is book early...that's two words. For a more foot stomping Celtic feel, try Khartoum Heroes (August 16-19, Fringe Club, Teviot Row). A couple of other original Scots acts probably worth highlighting are Bo'Weevil (August 24, Fringe Club) a blues and country influenced band, and Fjaere (August 31- September 2, Fringe Club) a female singer with a heavy artillery entourage. Ooh-er.
As an international event though, the festival encourages acts from foreign shores, and June Frost (August 17-19, 24-26, 31-September 2, The Subway, Cowgate) fit the bill perfectly. This rock band hail variously from New Zealand, France, Australia and Germany and may confuse less cosmopolitan members of the audience. Kenny Young and The Eggplants (August 22-28, Acoustic Music Centre, Chambers Street) are from Brooklyn, a guitar, bass and bongos line-up with a surreal edge and piles of plaudits to their credit. Rheostatics (August 24-27, Fringe Club, Teviot Row) are an intelligent Canadian ensemble (didn't your mother tell you to look out for those) with album releases under their belts and a similar amount of press hysteria in their favour.
One tried and tested favourite is Jools Holland and His Big Band (August 19-28, Queen's Hall). Jools takes time off from his busy TV and outdoor festival schedule this summer, not only to boogie-woogie, but also to host a Jools Holland Masterclass (August 16- 18, Assembly Rooms), where assisted by drummer Gilson Lavis, he will field questions from the audience and see what happens. Hmm ... Probably even older than Jools is John Otway (August 12-23, Gilded Balloon Theatre), a true legend in his own mind.
You might want to try The Pearlfishers (August 28- 29, Fringe Club, Teviot Row), melodic arrangements and narrative songs from press darlings whose debut album Za Za's Garden was released last year. Or something totally different again, the self-explanatory Gods of Glam (August 17, 25, 31, Platform One Live) or at the same venue, nostalgia for earlier decades from Red Hot and Blue (August 22, 28), The Hollywood Rockets (August 29), Bluefinger (August 24) and soul covers from Lights Out By Nine (August 24). In fact, hang around there for long enough and you'll probably forget what year it was when you came in.
FRINGE MUSIC TOP FIVE
Ryuichi Sakamoto (Playhouse, August 31) Oscar-winning Japanese electronic virtuoso in a rarely-heard, unplugged setting. His only UK date on this visit.
Mouthmusic (La Belle Angele, August 27) Hugely eclectic, distinctly unclassifiable group. Multi- faceted line-up with indigenous percussive streak.
Moxy Fruvous (Fringe Club, August 17-23) Frantic rap and folk-influenced, semi-acapella combo with a pig fixation and a sharp political edge to boot.
Jools Holland and His Big Band (Queen's Hall, August 19-28) The Later With... presenter and occasional Squeeze man's first love: Boogie-woogie piano. The Fats Domino of Deptford.
Capercaillie (Playhouse, September 1) Massively popular Celtic folk outfit who drew on various traditions to create a bombastic, impasioned brew.