Following huge acclaim for his 2015 solo debut VIP: Very Interesting Persons, Scotland’s Findlay Napier again unites superb songwriting, magpie-minded imagination and compellingly vivid vocals on his new album Glasgow. A characteristically wry yet lyrical, offbeat yet heartfelt paean to his adopted home town – marking 20 years since Napier arrived from his Highland birthplace – it features freshly-penned, instantly memorable originals alongside classic and contemporary gems from the city’s rich ballad canon. Continuing their fruitful collaboration on VIP, revered UK songsmith Boo Hewerdine reprises his roles as producer and co-writer.
From modern-day vignettes like opener ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – its bittersweet emotional charge evoking a Caledonian Loudon Wainwright – to the tenderly imagined love-story of ‘The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928’, reminiscent of the late great Michael Marra (whose wonderfully whimsical ‘King Kong’s Visit to Glasgow’ is also covered), the album’s musical map spans shipyards and late-night chippies, wily street veterans and warring football fans, patron saints and musical icons.
Other covers include a terrifically gallus (Scots for ‘bold, mischievous, cheeky’ – ie quintessentially Glaswegian) version of Hamish Imlach’s ‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’; a dreamily ardent rendering of The Blue Nile’s ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’, and a gorgeous new ballad, ‘Marchtown’, by ex-Delgado Emma Pollock.
With accompaniment mostly distilled to artful acoustic guitar, plus occasional piano and Donna Maciocia’s delicate backing vocals, Napier’s remarkable voice – by turns burly, gritty, fierce and forlorn, bitingly acerbic and exquisitely nuanced – is rightfully foregrounded throughout, capturing scenes and characters as potently as the CD cover image by Pulitzer Prize-winning Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon.
Napier’s fast-growing stature as one of the UK’s most distinctively gifted contemporary folk artists builds on his previous band work with Back Of The Moon and The Bar Room Mountaineers, also reflecting his long-time immersion in the vibrant stylistic melting-pot of Glasgow’s world-famous music scene. As promoter of the decade-old Hazy Recollections concert series and founder of the Glasgow Songwriting Festival, he’s been particularly influential in fostering cross-fertilisation between the city’s folk and indie communities. Spring 2017 saw him touring with acclaimed contemporary protest-song showcase Shake the Chains, whose September album release is followed by more dates early next year.
While the sorrow and anger simmering through Glasgow track ‘There’s More To Building Ships’ (originally written for Shake the Chains) highlight Napier’s political leanings, humour is an equally vital element in his work, both recorded and live – as reflected in his recent sideline career as a stand-up comedic. Hence his readiness to embrace not only the oft-disparaged label of folk singer, but also another, likewise timeless role:
“I do love that old-fashioned, all-round idea of an ‘entertainer’,” he says. “But then that’s totally what the best folk singers are; they’ll have you in absolute hysterics, in between punching you in the gut – people like Loudon Wainwright, John Prine, Michael Marra: that’s the absolute pinnacle, as far as I’m concerned.”
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Artist’s website: www.findlaynapier.com
‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ live: