FINDLAY NAPIER – Glasgow (Cheerygroove Records, Cheery006)

GlasgowA sense of place is a wondrous, nebulous thing; it’s very personal and can be tricky to evoke meaningfully. Findlay Napier’s homage to his own Glasgow (there must be a clue in the name…) succeeds in bringing alive a sense of the diverse aspects of the city. Snippets of on-location audio in between songs give a vivid impression of walking the streets, eavesdropping on other lives.

Our auditory tour bus sets off from the Necropolis, to a funereal toll of bells, where teen Satanists sweetly fail to summon up demons in ‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’. Hanging out a little while longer in the graveyard, we meet the patron saint of gravediggers in ‘St. Anthony’s Digging A Hole’. These songs, along with the simmering anger of ‘There’s More To Building Ships’ (a stunning song written for the Shake The Chains project, and happily reprised here), are all written by Napier, his solo songwriting characterised by a slight edge, a rumbling abrasive humour.

The songs co-written with the prolific Hewerdine feel somewhat more lyrical, but still have that tart bite of dark humour. The bleak, heartfelt ‘Wire Burners’, a tale of homeless scrap-metal collectors is warmed by a loping blues. A fuzzily nostalgic glow surrounds ‘The Locarno, Sauchiehall St 1928’, offsetting its bittersweet tale of dancehalls and disappointment. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ hints at old school crooners, whilst telling of “unrequited love in a Glasgow chip shop”. It must also be one of the most lushly ornamented songs on an otherwise leanly arranged album. Napier’s vocals and guitar are supplemented only by Hewerdine on guitar/piano and Donna Maciocia’s backing vocals.

Of the sensitively chosen covers, ‘Marchtown’ is a kind of psychogeographic timeslip, whilst the boisterous ‘Glasgow’ celebrates the serious “party town” in all its incarnations. This is continued in the deliberate and proud Scots dialect of ‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ sung in lusty homage to Hamish Imlach. By contrast, a Blue Nile song, ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ expresses a relaxed joyfulness, as does Michael Marra’s deliciously surreal ‘King Kong’s Visit To Glasgow’.

The gorgeous cover art deserves a mention, too. The bubblegum pink of images and typography, the ragamuffin kids and the red sandstone blocks sum up this album’s refusal to sentimentalise its subject, whilst allowing warmth, affection and humour to show through loud and clear.

Su O’Brien

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the FINDLAY NAPIER – Glasgow link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist website: www.findlaynapier.com

‘Young Goths In The Necropolis’ – live:

Findlay Napier announces his new album, Glasgow

Findlay Napier

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.”

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the Findlay Napier – Glasgow link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: www.findlaynapier.com

‘Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice’ live:

Wickham Festival 2017 Interview

Wickham Festival site

Darren Beech caught up with Peter Chegwyn just before the festival and had a chat about what we could expect from Wickham this year.

Many of the UK’s finest traditional singers and musicians appeared at the Wickham Festival near Fareham which took place between Thursday 3rd and Sunday 6th August.

They included Seth Lakeman; Show of Hands; Oysterband: Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band; Kathryn Tickell; The Peatbog Faeries; The Fisherman’s Friends; Lau; Edward II; Boo Hewerdine; The Dhol Foundation; The Spooky Mens Chorale; Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe; Wizz Jones; Talisk; Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party; Les Barker; TradArr plus many more.

Also appearing at Wickham 2017 were the 70s chart-toppers 10cc; top Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall; Festival favourites The Levellers; plus Andy Fairweather-Low & The Low Riders; John Otway; The Selecter plus many more well-known names.

The Wickham Festival was voted the UK’s Best Small Festival at the Live UK Music Awards in 2015 and has also been described as one of Britain’s top boutique and family-friendly festivals by The Guardian newspaper.

The festival featured live music on four stages plus a host of other attractions including storytelling, street theatre, dance displays, childrens entertainers, a digital funfair, laser arena, traditional crafts fayre, exotic foods fayre, real ale & cider festival and a late night festival club.

Festival organiser Peter Chegwyn says it’s “a real coup for a small village festival like Wickham to attract so many top artistes who have performed at major music festivals throughout the world.

“The Wickham Festival is known for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and the high quality of the music on offer. People travel from all over the UK and abroad to attend. This year’s ticket sales are running at a record level and we are confident that our 10th birthday festival at Wickham will be our best yet.”

I couldn’t finish without putting up one of Peters favourite videos from the Gosport and Fareham Easter festival back in 2010 when Alan Burke dedicating “I will go” to the man himself.

Wickham Podcast link: https://www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/gallery/audio/

Festival website: www.wickhamfestival.co.uk

BOO HEWERDINE – Swimming in Mercury (REVEAL072CDX)

Swimming In MercuryBoo Hewerdine’s new album Swimming In Mercury will be released on April 28th and the single ‘Satellite Town’ on April 21st. He has a pedigree which stretches back more than thirty years and is acclaimed as one of the UK’s best songwriters: ‘Patience Of Angels’ was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in 1995; his musical partnerships include Eddi Reader, Brooks Williams (in State of the Union), Chris Difford, Kris Drever; he is in demand as a producer; and he has written music for film and television.

Swimming in Mercury is an album of stories from his younger days, beautifully smooth in its production. On ‘The Year That I Was Born’, he takes us back to 1961 not just with a reminder of historical events (an American in space, building the Berlin Wall, the Beatles in the Cavern) but also with a language that you don’t hear nowadays “you had to count each penny” and ending with “another mouth to feed/…….that was me”.

‘A Letter to my Younger Self’ is classic Hewerdine – a lyric which captures the idea (impossible to achieve and something we’ve probably all wished for) of letting his younger self know what he’s learned as an older person. It has catchy rising lines in the verse and imagery like “On Battersea bridge with a mindful of rain” topped off in a chorus with brass and bop bop bop ba da ba driving the conclusion “After all I’ve been through and I’m still just the same”’ and the hard learned truth “Let somebody love you”.

The title track was written about David Bowie: “You were the ultra violet on our new colour TV” and “So many mothers and fathers said is it a he or a she” – if you saw the performance of ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972 you’ll know how well this takes you back to that evening.

‘The Boy Who Never Cried Wolf’ is another gem. ‘The Voice Behind The Curtain’ is about those who “never got to shine” and could only have been written by a man whose greatest hits is self-effacingly called My Name In The Brackets. ‘American TV’ references California and has Beach Boy harmonies played delicately in the background. ‘My First Band’ sings of “broken strings and cheap guitars” and “on old cassettes I find/ from time to time/ my first band”. These are all songs that recreate that period in the sixties and seventies when, for those of us who weren’t Twiggy or John Lennon et al, our lives were much harder than the backdrop of glamour we saw on the TV.

Swimming In Mercury is an album that repays more, and closer, listening. To give two examples: ‘My First Band’ has a line about the old band meeting up and “we slip into the old routine” – to no more than three seconds of crashing drums and loud lead guitar; ‘Gemini’ didn’t strike me as a stand out track as I listened to the album as a whole but when I had new music on shuffle in the car it came on and blew away the tracks that had been playing previously. It is an album crafted by, as Ian Cripps says on Hewerdine’s website, “a unique talent”.

We may not be able, knowing what we know now, to write that letter to our younger self but this album recreates Hewerdine’s youth with all the skill of his older age. His own summary of Swimming In Mercury is “Time is precious and this is the music that I needed to make”.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the BOO HEWERDINE – Swimming in Mercury link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: http://boohewerdine.net

‘The Year That I Was Born’:

CAROL FIELDHOUSE – Linen (own label CAROLFIELDHOUSE02)

LinenIt’s not usual for an artist to release a debut album in their sixth decade but Carol Fieldhouse has done just that with Linen. Not that she’s a newbie to the business: she’s a specialist in early music and leader of folk trio Cenote but this is her first album as a solo singer-songwriter. It was produced by Boo Hewerdine who seems to be making a habit of finding new talent to nurture.

Carol has an MA in songwriting but even without knowing that you’d label her as a poet. Three of the songs are co-writes and there is one cover. At her best, Carol can raise a smile or a nod of recognition: the superb opener, ‘A Little Piece Of Land’, is about that peaceful place that we all need. “No mobile phones, a broadband ‘no go’” is one of the choruses while the title track, ‘Linen’, is primly suggestive: “I’m wearing linen now, less crisply pressed/But underneath, well who knows” is the closing couplet, and of course it’s about dancing.

For me, Carol’s up-tempo songs are her strongest. ‘Billy Marshall’ is straight out of the folk tradition – the story of a seventeenth century king of the gypsies – and ‘Residue’ could be full of pain were it not so defiant. These things are in the past, she is saying, let them remain so. Linen is very much guitar driven with Hewerdine and Neill MacColl supporting Carol’s playing and MacColl also plays mandolin and it is his decorations that make the record what it is. The exception is the cover with Jim Watson’s solo piano as Carol sings ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. It feels like an odd choice but I’m not a Beatles fan so maybe that’s just me. Like most poetry, Linen will repay the attention you give it.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the CAROL FIELDHOUSE – Linen link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: http://www.carolfieldhousemusic.com/

‘The Wave’ – live with Cenote:

BOO HEWERDINE – BORN (Reveal REVEAL063CDX)

BornRecorded in January, just before his 55th birthday, this five-track EP, limited to just 1000 copies, is something of a family affair in that it features his dad’s old piano and two of the songs are co-writes with his son Ben, who also takes sole credit on the last track. Preceding a new album later this year, it opens in reflective mood with ‘The Year That I Was Born’, opening with an electric pulse and piano before gradually swelling in sound as he recounts the events of 1961, among them the building of the Berlin Wall, the death of Hemingway, the cracking of the genetic code, the emergence of The Beatles, the arrival of Polaris and the trial of Adolph Eichmann in what is, essentially, a song about never knowing how the future will play out.

The first of the father and son tracks, ‘Hometown’ has the same feel, a few simple piano notes backdropping another nostalgic lyric, while the second gets a little livelier on the old fashioned carousel-waltzing ‘Swimming In Mercury’, another memory-based number that, in mentioning both birth and death, seems to be a tribute to both his son and his own father. ‘Bobby Fischer’ recalls seeing the chess legend leave to live in Iceland after being arrested in Japan, ultimately a song about life’s openings and endings, with the EP ending, aptly enough on Ben’s 59-second piano instrumental ‘Farewell’. Very much a walk down memory lane to his early years, it’s very much one of the dedicated fans, serving a possible taster for what lies in store on the new album.

Mike Davies

If you would like to download a copy of the EP or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: http://boohewerdine.net/

‘Hometown’ – video by John Douglas: