Adrian’s fourth solo album (one of them is live), Anarchy And Love, began with the death of his father some four years ago. In a brief sleeve note he says that his father left many things behind and on the record are “some of the songs he left in me”. Happily for all of us this is not an album filled with grief but one that radiates optimism. Sure, the road isn’t always an easy one. The title track comes from Adrian’s time in Athens during the protests in 2012. Amongst the chaos he saw a small, but encouraging, seed of hope. You can call it a protest song, but its targets are not necessarily the obvious ones and the protest continues with ‘Dying Of Democracy’.
If Adrian wanted an uplifting start for the album he couldn’t have chosen better than ‘Rocket To The Moon’ in which the Scottish exodus to the New World “made this nation great”. It’s impossible to imagine the feelings of despair felt by the people setting out into the unknown but they did OK. Of course, the Macdonald brothers hadn’t heard of Donald Trump back then. The final song is another cover, Robert Burns’ ‘A Man’s A Man’, which encapsulates the same idea on a personal level – “The honest man though oh so poor is king of men for all that”.
Adrian is lauded as an acoustic guitar master and there are three solo instrumentals here but he’s now expanded his repertoire to include electric guitar. In the modern fashion, Anarchy And Love was recorded with musicians in several locations, notably Sardinia, Scotland and Canada where he’s developed quite a following in recent years and something has rubbed off on him. It took four or five tracks for me to work out what I was hearing in the back of my mind. It shouldn’t have taken so long since Adrian has cited Bruce Cockburn as one of his inspirations but sometimes he really channels the man.
Adrian is, to quote Burns, a “man of independent mind” and, while there is a bit of Bruce in ‘The Benderloch Stone’ for example, the ideas and the words are definitely Adrian’s. This is another excellent album from a writer and performer who really should be much better known.
The spring of 2014 saw the release of the third Adrian Nation album entitled Live At Crossroads which was recorded during his 2013 tour of the Netherlands. Toward the end of 2014 that album was picked up by Andy Donnelly of the CKUA Radio Network in Alberta, Canada and he immediately began playing tracks from the album on his hugely popular weekly show. Other presenters at the station were soon following suit and Adrian’s name quickly spread around the province. This led to the idea of putting together a tour of Alberta and such was the appetite for his music that November 2015 saw Adrian perform 17 shows in eighteen days from Edmonton down to Calgary, from Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan border across to Canmore and Jasper in the Rocky Mountains. The success of this tour led to bookings at major roots and folk music festivals in the summer of 2016 in both Alberta and British Columbia and Adrian will return again this autumn for a further five week tour.
With ongoing tours in the UK and Europe as well as featuring on SkyArts series Guitar Star, it has been a busy and fruitful few years since that last album but the songs for the next began to come through and in early 2017 Adrian headed out to Sardinia with Chris West, producer of his second studio album Fall Or Fly, to Lake Studio to begin work on a new record.
The result is Anarchy And Love. An album which is instantly recognizable as being Adrian Nation yet it also displays not necessarily a change of direction but certainly a divergence of styles. For the first time Adrian has written and recorded songs on electric guitar yet with his clearly unique acoustic style, resulting in a new dynamic and a fresh exciting flavour. Guests on the album include additional guitar from Joel Schwartz (Birds of Chicago) who Adrian met and performed with in Canada last summer, as he did with Gino Mirizio (Pavlo) who plays drums on four tracks of the album. There is also a strong Scottish ingredient evident by a cover of Runrig’s ‘Rocket To The Moon’, a song that speaks of the migration of pioneering Scots to Canada, as well as ‘The Benderloch Stone’, an original song written on the shores of the tiny west coast Scottish village. So it was fitting for this track that fiddle was to be provided by Hannah Fisher (Roddy Woomble, Idlewild, Dougie Maclean).
With contributions also from Jonathan Potts on fiddle and Brad Lang (Barbara Dickson, ABC) on bass, both of whom have performed on Adrian’s previous two studio albums, as well as producer Chris West providing some more bass and piano, Anarchy and Love is very much about a group of fine musicians coming around the main focus of a solo performer and doing so with sensitivity and creativity.
Anarchy And Love is a blend of both politically charged protest, rolling road songs, high energy instrumentals as well as a moving tribute to the life of his father who passed away just before the release of the previous album and as Adrian explains in the sleeve notes, some of these songs are “the songs he left in me”, for a long time a strong contender for the title of the album.
Guitarist, singer, writer of songs, are just some of things that go to make up the man Adrian Nation. Guitar builder, rugby player, carpenter, martial artist, climber, the list goes on and is reflected in his musical catalogue. Here is an artist who can’t sit at home waiting for imagination to create the songs, rather he goes and finds the places in life where songs can be found. 2014 will see Adrian release his first ever live recording and after a special night in the Netherlands opening the Crossroads Sessions it was decided to release this superb album. Who better to describe how the album came about than Adrian himself.
A talented, committed musician in his youth, Adrian Nation described his first compositions as “the ramblings of a searching teenager”. He may ramble less these days, but his search continues, and he has evolved into one of the most insightful and incisive songwriters of his generation. Influenced at an early age by the genius of Bob Dylan and the melodic fluidity of Mark Knopfler’s haunting guitar, Adrian’s teenage eyes and ears were truly opened when the late Isaac Guillory “played the guitar like I had never seen.” Reflecting on this experience Adrian says, “Suddenly the acoustic guitar was a much bigger instrument than I ever thought it could be. My mind was set.” In 2003 Adrian released his first solo work, the critically acclaimed SOWING SEEDS, a collection of ten self-composed songs packaged with beautiful artwork. Would Adrian fall prey to the ‘difficult second album syndrome’ certainly not, an ambitious work by any standards, Adrian has enlisted Chris West to produce the follow-up FALL OR FLY. Chris’s recent credits include Richard Ashcroft’s platinum-selling KEYS TO THE WORLD. Referring to the project Chris West said, “It’s not often you discover an artist that has the three S’s for success: Songs, Singing and Serious Musicianship. Once you let yourself be charmed by his music, you are hooked.” The sheer quality of the contributors speaks volumes: Gerry Conway on drums (Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens and Fairport Convention), bassist Brad Lang (Ray Charles, Robbie Williams, Elkie Brooks, Barbara Dickson amongst many), guitarist Colin Linden (celebrated producer of Bruce Cockburn, in-demand Nashville based session player) and Troy Donockley who supplies low whistles & Uillean Pipes (internationally renowned player with Midge Ure, Barbara Dickson and Status Quo). Amongst those fortunate enough to hear the album during production, Mike Paxman (Judie Tzuke’s writing partner and Status Quo producer) exudes “As soon as you hear the first few bars of ‘Don’t Turn Away’ you are aware that you are in the company of a great songwriter.” and when speaking of Song To Maria Mike Paxman goes further to point out: “For me, the beautiful and evocative ‘Song To Maria’ is one of the best songs I’ve heard in years.” The Other Side Of The Night (Song To Maria) is a true highlight on the album and along with Brightest Star are two of the most emotional songs I have heard in a long, long time, highlighting the true art of the songwriter to perfectly capture the moment. Pivotal to all of this however, is the sublime guitar and voice of Adrian Nation. He is the central pillar around which these performances sit, and the songs are the very foundations upon which the superb FALL OR FLY stands. Adrian Nation is constantly on the road performing his heartfelt songs at clubs and festivals the length and breadth of the British Isles as well as the rest of Europe, in fact he has just returned from playing the second of two 2010 tours of Greece.
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